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No One Told Me I was “Sick Enough” to Get Help

The validity of an eating disorder shouldn't be defined by visible weight loss.

Written by Amanda

No One Told Me I was “Sick Enough” to Get Help

01 Eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes. There is no one way to "have" an ED.

02 How we talk about food and our bodies as a society matters. These messages are internalized, and shape our relationships with food and ourselves.

03 Recovery is possible and it’s for everyone.

Growing up, I was surrounded by people who loved me.

I am the youngest sibling of six and when I was born my mother even said that I was the luckiest one because I came into the world with more people who loved me. This was true. I had a loving family and can't complain about my early childhood.

However, when I turned eleven, our family moved for the first time in my life. We went from living in a very small town in the Midwest to the East Coast. As you can imagine, this was a difficult time in my young life. I had to leave everything that I was familiar with behind: friends, family, school, my childhood home. It was the first time I experienced culture shock and felt out of place. It was the first time I remember feeling self-conscious and insecure in my environment. I had an accent and talked slower than the other kids. I didn't know any of the name brand clothes they were wearing and I started to notice things like my body and weight.

I started to compare my body to others and realized that I was one of the "bigger ones." From a young age, we are taught that there's a wrong way to have a body. My entire life I watched my poor mother go through extreme dieting. I watched her bash her own body. I started to hate mine around that time. Everyone around me seemed to agree that I needed to lose weight and change, so I started religiously counting calories and working out. Finally, I started to lose the weight.

At first, it felt amazing! I got high off seeing the number on the scale drop. Vice versa, if the number went up, I felt terrible.

From a young age, we are taught that there's a wrong way to have a body.

I lost a tremendous amount of weight over the summer. By the time I went back to school for the 7th grade, everyone noticed. I had teachers, family, and friends compliment the weight loss. This fueled a life threatening eating disorder that I still struggle with today.

I was in denial about my eating disorder for the first few years. As I was never "skinny" enough to have a problem. Learning about eating disorders in school, educators like to only portray an emaciated white girl. Oftentimes, only anorexia and bulimia are taught to students as well. The curriculum doesn’t teach about other eating disorders like EDNOS, ARFRID, and binge eating.

I never thought that I was "sick enough" to get help because even my lowest weight didn't seem to be low enough to really have such a destructive relationship with food, right? Wrong.

My body started to suffer from the constant cycles of restricting, purging, and excessive exercise. I would pass out frequently, avoid social events, think about food constantly, bleed and bloat. I lost my period for a year. It wasn't until I was three years deep into my eating disorder that I reached a breaking point.

I had one of the worst depressive episodes of my life freshmen year of high school and I started to self harm as a result.

I was actually trying to stop my eating disorder behaviors on my own and eat like a "normal" person. However, the guilt of eating was too much and I started to self harm as a way to punish myself for eating and "losing" control. At that point, I realized this was not normal and I needed help. I ended up talking to a guidance counselor at school who then referred me to a treatment center where I began my journey to recovery. I've been on the road to recovery for the last six years.

Although I wish someone had told me sooner that I was "sick enough" to get the help I needed, I've learned so much about myself from this journey. I learned that eating disorders come in all shapes and sizes, that it's not actually about the food, and I’ve learned how we talk about food and our bodies MATTERS.

Demonizing and labeling foods promote feelings of guilt and shame. Most importantly, if you are struggling, you are sick enough to get help. Recovery is possible. But recovery isn't linear. In fact, relapses are normal because it takes time to re-wire your brain. At the end of the day, I would take a bad day in recovery over another day with my eating disorder. I hope you can too.

About the author

My name is Amanda. I’m twenty one years old and very passionate about mental health and art. I aspire to be an art therapist one day and help children dealing with trauma. I have had a long journey with my own mental health and my journey still continues, as recovery doesn’t have an off day. I feel like my story needs to be shared with the world and I feel like many will resonate with what I have to say on this topic. My hope is that by sharing my story someone will take the courage to get help too.

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