This week marks National Eating Disorders Association Awareness Week. I thought this would be the perfect time to share with you all an article I wrote that was first published by 1N5 to end the stigma of mental illness.
The theme for this year is “Let’s Talk About It!” Please contact NEDA for a 3 minute screening if you or a loved one is struggling with food, and or body image issues. Keep in mind you don’t have to “LOOK SICK” to be sick with a life threatening eating disorder.
Eating disorders suck; They suck the life out of you and suck you right out of your life. Sometimes my eating disorder sips a moment here or a moment there, but other times it gulps up an entire day, gorges on the week, or devours months at a time. I may, like many of us in recovery from anorexia “look” recovered on the outside, but at times I feel sicker than ever on the inside as I fight for the desire to stay in this battle for my life. And it is a battle as eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and a significantly higher chance of dying from suicide compared to their peers.
To paraphrase Dr. Cynthia Bulik as she debunked 9 myths surrounding eating disorders; “eating disorders are an illness and not a choice. Once a person with the genetic predisposition or anomalous biology starts on the first diet, it sends them down an eating disordered path they never intended. So, while it is an illness and not a choice, those of us who suffer from this mental illness must somehow make the choice to recover. Battling this, coupled with the ensuing anxiety and depression is exhausting! I am exhausted most of the time, although I appear high functioning.
Recovery and or living with a mental illness often takes me out of fully engaging in relationships. These relationships are the very thing that I believe God intended to fuel my body, mind and spirit. I am either so engaged with my illness or exhausted from battling it, that I miss out on what he intended to fuel my existence. Genesis 2:18 “Then the LORD GOD said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (NLT). Anorexia is lonely and isolating even in a room full of people.
I am frustrated by the subtle whisper of the eating disorder that causes me to stop what I am doing and turn towards it. A whisper that is so loud, I am convinced that others can hear its call as it pulls my attention away from the relationships I need and desire to fuel my very existence. My mind follows the whisper as it beckons me to pay attention to the eating disorder and not you the person or people right in front of me. A social meal, or celebration (Like my granddaughter’s “Gottcha Day”) for me always incudes the uninvited guest of anorexia.
The whisper calls me to think or over think the food on my plate. It reminds me that I haven’t exercised today and induces panic in me as I realize I may or may not fit a workout in to obliterates some of the calories of the food on my plate. It asks me to ponder “do I look fat in this?” And just like that, I am no longer engaged with you, the meal or the celebration, but my illness.
You see how eating disorders suck! They suck the life out of you and you out of your life.
With treatment, I am learning to reconcile how abundant joy and deep sorrow can coexist in the same time and space of my day. I can feel love so deep that it pops like the bubbles of a rolling boil, and loathing, disgust and shame and bearing the burden of the eating disorder that I want to die. It is all real, I am real.
I often beat myself up letting an eating disorder back into my life after 20 years of recovery. Forgetting that this is a relentless illness, I feel self-absorbed, and a great deal of shame peppered in amongst the anger, regret, and sadness. Then I remember how far I have come. I no longer hate myself, but I hate It! God Speaks above the whisper Psalm 34:5 “Those of us who look him are radiant; their faces never covered with shame.” (NIV)
I am Lisabeth Kaeser and I am 1n5.