National Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2012 is this week. This year’s theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody.”
That means that you most likely know somebody with an eating disorder.
The Many Faces of Eating Disorders
I remember when I was first diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I tried to keep it hidden, ashamed that I had an eating disorder and sure that no one else that I knew had one.
I was very wrong.
As I started to become more open about my struggles with anorexia, I discovered that many people that I know in fact either have an eating disorder or knows someone with an eating disorder.
I mentioned it at church, and one woman said her daughter struggled with anorexia. I said something at work and two people told me that they have been struggling with binge eating for years. I wrote a short column about my struggles with anorexia for the newspaper where I was a reporter, and received several calls from people who either had an eating disorder or knew someone with an eating disorder.
The stigma that I perceived about eating disorders was largely in my mind. And yet…
The Need for Awareness
The majority of people are understanding and non-judgmental about eating disorders.
Then there is the rest of the world.
The need for awareness stems from the fact that there are many fallacies and half-truths about eating disorders that are bandied about and disguised as truth. Myths such as eating disorders only strike women/whites/teenagers. Or myths that eating disorders are the sole province of the upper middle classes and the wealthy.
Another dangerous myth about eating disorders is that these illnesses are not real illness at all, but instead just stem from dieting gone amok.
Self-hatred and Eating Disorders
I am a voracious horder of all things, including computer notes chronicling my twin obsessions about weight and calories. It depresses me to relive how I used to beat myself up because I was one-half pound heavier than the day before or I broke down and actually ate something more substantial than a few grains of rice for dinner. It hurts me to re-read that I called myself a “fat pig” or “a whale” when I started taking up the amount of space that a grown woman should occupy.
But I am glad that I’ve kept these notes, if only to remind myself of the pervasive self-hatred that fueled my descent into anorexia.
NEDA Week and What Recovery Means To Me
After several relapses and many wrong turns, finally I am committed to recovery.
What does recovery mean to me? Many things. First and foremost, freedom from the unrelenting tyranny of numbers. I am more than a number on the scale or on a tag of clothing. It also means freedom from the eating disorder thoughts constantly hammering at me that I don’t deserve to eat/drink/breathe/live. I have heard from some people who consider themselves recovered that complete freedom from the eating disorder voice is not possible, but I chose not to believe that.
Instead, I chose to ascribe to this NEDA Week theme: “Every Body is Beautiful.” Accepting that about myself is the real meaning of NEDA Week.