12 Things I Wish My Friends & Family Understood About My Eating Disorder

Eating disorders are so incredibly complicated and are heavily misunderstood in our society. Even after living with and fighting my eating disorder for over 2 years, I still don’t understand all of the complexities of the disease, and neither do my friends and family. Sometimes the battle of recovery can become even more difficult when I feel misunderstood and unheard among those who love me most, because it prolongs the illusion that I’m alone in this fight. This list of 12 things I wish that my loved ones understood about my eating disorder isn’t all-inclusive. It doesn’t include everything, but it is where I’ve felt the most disconnect.

  1. The topic: I don’t want you to talk about my eating disorder as if it is a forbidden thing to bring up. Yes, please use common sense about the times and places you do bring it up and please do not ever criticize me for having the eating disorder. But the more you treat it as an unmentionable thing, the more I feel inclined to hide it, which inevitably leads me further into the disorder. Please just be real and upfront with me.
  2.   The food-talk: Since I already think about food for most of my day, I honestly don’t really ever want to talk about food with you. We can talk about pretty much whatever else you want to talk about. Also, as harsh as it might sound, I really don’t want to talk about your diet, weight loss, weight gain, or just weight in general. It gives me a wave of anxiety and guilt/shame and it makes me want to distance myself from the conversation. Please try to understand me.
  3. The cure: I can’t “just eat”, and cure myself. While eating will help with the physical symptoms, I am going to have to spend hours and hours of work on my mental health. The pressure of “just eating” doesn’t work. If you try to shove food at me and beg me to eat, I promise it’s only making it worse. Food is not just food for me, it is a terrifying monster that I have to conquer on my own time. Please do not pressure me.
  4. The struggle: Fighting my eating disorder has been the hardest thing I have ever done and likely will ever do in my life. Recovery requires so much energy, determination, motivation, and support, which is not always easy to find. Simply eating a regular meal or snacking on some chips is an incredibly difficult feat. I do ask that if you see that I am eating a normal amount or am snacking more than usual, PLEASE don’t stare, PLEASE don’t judge me, and PLEASE don’t point out how much I’m eating. Because as soon as I sense a hint of judgement, I will head straight to the bathroom and purge any evidence of eating.
  5. The time: Recovery is going to take time. LOTS of time. I’m having to basically reprogram the way my brain thinks about my body, food, and society’s views. I have to be selfish right now and take time to heal. There is no timeline, no roadmap for recovery, it’s simply just one step at a time. Just know that I am trying to get better. I really am. I don’t enjoy having this disorder, and I would never choose to have it. Please, I beg you, be patient with me.
  6. The distress: With eating disorder comes irritability, anxiety, and mood swings. There will be times where I will lash out over the tiniest of comments or freak out about seemingly nothing. There will be times where I am withdrawn and silent and I refuse to tell you what’s going through my mind (although you could probably guess). Please don’t take offense to this. Please understand that ED is feeding me lies that are causing me to act so irrational. Help me block these lies out. Help distract my mind from the negativity ED is covering my thoughts with. Please fight this with me.
  7. The voice: Yes, I do have another voice in my head that I’ve named “ED”. He is always always always trying to control the way that I live, think, and act. Over the years our voices have meshed together, and sometimes it is hard to differentiate my voice from his. Please help me.
  8. The feelings: Sometimes I can’t find a reason as to why I feel the way I do. I understand there is usually a trigger, but sometimes even I don’t know what it is. Unfortunately ED didn’t bring an information phamplet with him about what triggers him.
  9. The lies: Yep, I’m going to lie to you at times. I will absolutely lie and tell you that everything is fine physically, mentally, and emotionally. Not because I’m trying to betray you or hurt you. It’s actually the complete opposite. I am hiding what I personally see as my failures from you so that I don’t have to hurt you further than I already probably have. Please understand I don’t mean to cause you pain. Please forgive me.
  10. The self-love: Yes, I truly believe you love me and care about me, but to be brutally honest, that isn’t always going to be enough to keep me motivated to make the change we all know I need. I appreciate all of the love and support you show, but I also need to learn to love myself and not depend only on the love others’ have for me.
  11. The social: This one is a big one. Of course I want to hang out with you/y’all, but I don’t always want to hang out with you and food. I know sharing a meal and getting together around a table is part of our culture of community, but sometimes I just need a break. That’s why I say no to a lot of food-related outings so often. Many times I cancel last minute due to the social anxiety ED fills me with. Let’s try to plan a hangout now and then that doesn’t involve food. I want to see y’all and spend time with y’all… but I also want to be able to fully enjoy myself while doing so.
  12. The reality: All in all, eating disorders are soooo much more than about the food. I know it varies from person to person, but for me its about the way I’ve never felt like I was enough and somehow some part of my brain thought that dropping a size or six would help me like myself more. I have made a little bit of progress, but it will take me awhile to accept that this is not true and to begin to see that I am enough, just as I am (and just as my tattoo says).

2 thoughts on “12 Things I Wish My Friends & Family Understood About My Eating Disorder

  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I really appreciate your tips. I hope you know I love you and am so proud of you. Always know I have your back and will always be here for you.

    Liked by 1 person

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