When I made my plans and resolutions for 2018, they did not include developing an eating disorder at the age of 32.
I had always assumed that eating disorders in adults were leftover demons of adolescence. I never thought about them developing in adulthood. I also believed that it was only an eating disorder if it was related to body image. As a teenager I purged for about six months because I had a serious crush and felt that I was invisible at my weight. I stopped out of despair of ever making my crush find me attractive. There were no long term side effects, I wasn't a binge eater. I never considered it an eating disorder, but I kept it a secret just the same.
I believed that there were only two types of eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, neither of which fit what I was going through. A quick Google search directed me to the National Eating Disorders Association, where their website lists TEN.
How did this happen? It started when my uncle died January 2nd. His death was so unexpected, it threw me into shock. I wasn't hungry, and the mere thought of food made me gag. I stopped eating. Not in and of itself a negative thing, grief does take its toll. Only it wasn't a phase. I stopped eating-- and I couldn't seem to start again.
Since January, it's been an arduous process to get from not eating to mostly eating. Most of the time, no foods sound appealing, my stomach rumbles, but my appetite is AWOL. I have to force myself to eat every time, every bite. I can't put my fork down when I'm eating because once I do, I stop eating. I can't eat three meals a day. On a good day, I manage two or three snacks and a small meal. If I eat a full size meal, I can't eat anything else that day. If I eat two regular meals, even eight hours apart, I feel so sick I need to lie down. I regret eating every time. I don't cook because I don't want to eat. Food sounds good in abstract, inedible in practice.
I haven't consulted my doctor about it, because I am not suffering physically from it (I've lost weight, but that's a good thing). I am relatively healthy. What is my doctor going to do? Refer me to a dietician? I have Google and I am afraid if I try to follow a specific diet, to further restrict what I eat, I will end up eating even less. I'm not interested in making it even harder to eat than it already is. I'll just continue to be conscientious about my food choices (choose veggies instead of fries, water instead of soda). I'm managing my eating. My disorder is under control.
Once I accepted that this wasn't a phase and was actually an eating disorder, then came the question of what do I do with it? I'm hesitant about people knowing, because I don't want to hear "you don't *look* like you have an eating disorder". But I also want to bring more awareness to eating disorders and get better help for those who need it. Even though I can (mostly) manage to eat, support is still huge. I am so grateful for the small number of people I can reach out to say eating sucks and know that I am heard. Nowadays everything is accompanied with a stigmatism. We need to change that. This year has been a learning experience for me and now that I can truly empathize with those who have an eating disorder, I am going to find a way to support this community that I find myself a part of. Whether it's simply by a financial donation or a way to volunteer, I will be involved. Anyone can have an eating disorder. And everyone can have compassion.