I have something to tell you

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed.

Since I've been writing a lot and connecting with others about self esteem and body image issues, down that same path is the world of eating disorders. I wrote a post where I said I've never been diagnosed with an eating disorder because at my lowest weight I was 117 pounds. I've had behaviors of someone with an eating disorder sufferer, including excessive exercise, purging, starving myself, very low self esteem, obsessing about calories, etc. But an eating disorder, NO, not me!!! Then I read about EDNOS; also known as Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified.

Oh shit.

I'm not really one to get hung up on labels. After I was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder in 2003, I was deeply frustrated at this diagnosis and hated it. I was angry and embarrassed. Then I got over it and figured out it's not my identity. But every time I would tell someone or write that I never had an eating disorder, but could relate with those who had, there was a nagging whisper in my head that said... "liar".

We see on TV and news articles and in movies the severe sufferers of eating disorders. Skeletal, emaciated (usually) women who are near death. Or girls with bulimia or anorexia that have been hospitalized. I know some women who have been hospitalized or have been through treatment and always thought, "Wow, I'm SO glad I was never that girl". I was careful to never claim to have an eating disorder because I have seen the long term suffering people and I didn't feel that mine was ever long term. So I felt like I was almost disrespecting those that had really, really suffered. But there is a reason I get emotional when I see certain videos about eating disorders (like this short one). I do consider myself lucky in that when I was at my lowest point I recognized it and stopped the behaviors on my own. I think it began to happen when I picked myself up and started to heal from my divorce. But I have to admit to myself and to others that just because I was never hospitalized, or suffered major health consequences, or had to enter treatment does not discount the fact that I hid an eating disorder from everyone, including myself.

The reason I'm writing this post is not for a big confession, or to say "wah for me", but to speak for all the women (and men) like myself that may have EDNOS, or disordered eating/fitness (which I think is the same thing). It's everywhere. It's much more prevalent than I ever thought. Obsessing about calories, food, diets or working out is not okay. Having an intense fear of being overweight is not okay. Comparing ourselves to ridiculously thin models is not okay. Neither is talking negatively about our bodies. It sucks the life out of us and robs us of our uniqueness. It perpetuates the cycle of low self esteem and stops us from living the life we deserve and are waiting to live. I'm not saying let's all burn our bras together and start living this blissful, happy life because I know first hand it's not that easy. But if nothing else, let's recognize it. If you are a man reading this, try being compassionate and be comfortable having a conversation with someone you care about concerning this. If you are a woman who has behaviors of an eating disorder, first and foremost, please get help, but if you can relate on my level know that you aren't alone, you're not crazy but that there is hope. I've said this before: Our worth is not measured by the number on the scale. Or by the size of our jeans or even our boobs for that matter. Or how many miles on the treadmill we clock or how many crunches we do.

I'm still trying to figure it all out...sometimes I slip and the old me slides up next to the new me, trying to take my hand and lead me down the wrong path again. But luckily, I am strong enough to recognize her and firmly tell her no.

Photo courtesy of meredith_farmer


karen pery said...

Andrea - once again, I am struck by your courage and honesty. I know that somewhere out there (wherever "there" might be), someone is reading your story, recognizing herself, and finding hope.