My eating disorder has had a hold on me for the last three years of my life. It occupies my thoughts from the time I wake up to when I fall asleep. It has caused rifts in friendships and relationships. It has sent me to urgent care repeatedly. And I wish I could say that I’m the only one who’s going through this, but I’m not. In fact, 9% of Americans will have an eating disorder at some point in their life.
Whether you know it or not, you will come into contact with someone who has been affected by an eating disorder every day of your life. It could be the teenage boy bagging your groceries or the cute girl who sits to the left of you in your chemistry lecture. Or maybe it’s you, and if it is, I’m sorry that you’re going through this or that you’ve gone through it before.
Eating disorders are not glamorous, even though the media often portrays them that way. They aren’t the solution to becoming thin- they’re a way of slowly killing yourself. Next to opioid overdose, eating disorders are the second most deadly mental illness.
Every 52 minutes, somebody dies from their eating disorder. Now, knowing this, why do I still engage in these detrimental behaviors? Why do I continue to do things that I know will hurt me in the long run? Well, to put it bluntly, my brain has become so used to this way of life, that it feels almost impossible to stop.
Like depression, you can’t just snap your fingers and suddenly become someone who has a healthy relationship with food. And eating disorders often go hand in hand with other mental disorders, making it difficult to deal with the eating disorder in particular. It takes time, therapy, and compassion. And that’s why I’m working on it, day by day.
I know too many people that struggle with eating disorders; whether this means they don’t eat, they binge eat, they binge and purge, or they have a mix of everything, these behaviors are all dangerous. Anorexics can stop menstruating, pass out, and in severe cases, die of malnutrition. Bulimia can cause extreme dehydration, tooth enamel erosion and, rarely, cause stomach rupture, which can lead to death.
So, it’s not a joke.
Eating disorders don’t necessarily lead to weight loss, either. My weight has gone up and down ridiculously and I am nowhere near thin. It has also caused me to pass out, have extreme dental pain, and I’ve even ripped up my throat to the point that there was blood in my vomit.
Thankfully, I’m getting better. But it’s a slow process.
I know for many others with these disorders, the pandemic has not helped in any way. The stress of COVID-19 and being stuck inside often can cause binges, or lead others to refrain from eating.
In my experience, the best way to cope with an eating disorder during these times is to actively try to get better, whether that means getting a therapist that specializes in eating disorders, writing in a journal, or contacting the National Eating Disorders Helpline (800-931-2237). I know that it’s really hard to get help, but remember that even doing something that seems small and insignificant is a step in the right direction.