This picture attached is of me at my sixteenth birthday, It is one of the closest insights to my eating disorder ever documented in picture. I stumbled across it while wanting to start this blog post. The gnawing and terrifying feeling I get when going through pictures of my youth haunt me, there is feelings of sadness, loss, frustration, desperation even longing. As my mind puzzles looks over these photos how could I have not seen just how wonderful I was. Could I have avoided the ugliness I went through. Could I have stayed “thin”. So many questions with my mind gaining reference through my current body positive woman glasses, my eating disorder brain and my memories. It is a messy place remembering, it is a dark place the past. Most pictures of my teens tell the story of a beautiful young girl, always smiling and having fun. This picture doesn’t though. This picture a quick glimpse into how truly tortured I was.
This picture is me 16, clutching my belly almost in tears. Holding in yet to breathe out a frustrated sigh. The theme was ‘Alice and Wonderland’, I had 30+ peers turning up for an elaborate themed sleepover birthday, decorations everywhere and my mother even dressed as the White Rabbit. I was 16 having a birthday party most teens would dream of, the level me and my family had gone to celebrate my birthday was wonderfully extravagant.
A picture of a normal teenage girl, except I wasn’t. 12 – 19 I suffered heavily with self harm, over exercising and an eating disorder as deadly as any you have seen. Yet I was never thin, emaciated or skinny. Sure I verged on normal – over weight, god I look back on these pictures how different my teenage body to my now woman hood one. How yes even now through my fat positive and body loving glasses, a hint of envy still glazes over my mind. That envy is the work of the bitch of an eating disorder lingering in dusty corners of my mind – still 5 years from when I first really sought treatment.
I look quickly at these photos and file them away, remind myself of the happiness I have in my life and try to quickly remind myself of the hell I was in then. See that hell I called home, was an undiagnosed and deadly silent eating disorder. It was paraded and marched about within the health and fitness world. It was a teenage girl being “healthy” but it wasn’t.
See millions of people world wide suffer from eating disorders and while the world easily associates the word eating disorder with those who are skeletal white teens relentless in their pursuit of ‘thin’ very little is known within general society of what all eating disorders look like. Me a teen bright, bubbly and who has been chubby – fat their whole life has been consistently treated as if her eating disorder is second class.
While no matter how much I exercised, how much I purged, how much I starved or worked out and most importantly how trapped, isolated and hurting mentally – I did not qualify as someone who needed or deserved help. I did though.
Something not a lot of people know is suicide is the highest cause of death for someone who is suffering with an eating disorder. I could of very easily been a person who took their life to end their mental suffering. Thankfully I didn’t. Though when I realise just how little was done when I did reach for help I’m left with an extreme passion to create more awareness of eating disorders of all types and sizes.
I was in a hell I would never wish upon anyone, a place of little light and at just 14 a person who believed she wasn’t worth a single thing. Eating Disorders are so much more than weight, size, body image and control. Each disorder, sufferer, behaviour and experience is complex and interwoven within a society that systematically benefits from beauty ideals and weight obession. A society which reinforced that my dangerous eating disorder was almost necessary and definitely encouraged.
See an eating disorder sufferer who doesn’t make the weight criteria or BMI criteria for diagnosis is left out there to suffer, an almost come see us when you fit our weight criteria. A kind of ‘You need to get worse before we can help you get better’ mentality. The idea that some sufferers are more deserving of treatment. While no one is disputing those who are incredibly emaciated and in need of physical treatment be denied, how many more people could we save as rarely anyone becomes deathly skeletal over night.
While I do not have all the answers to combat the complex world of eating disorder treatment, what I can comment on is the atrocious state of our society when it comes to stereotypes regarding weight and in this case eating disorders.
While I luckily found recovery, while I luckily am happy and healthier than ever before – my weight is always the subject which people attempt to disparage my eating disorder. I have seen first hand the damage and danger that comes with body shaming, weight diagnosis and hierarchy within the eating disorder community.
I have watched myself be dependent on peoples ignorant and harmful ideas of bodies, I have seen with my own eyes comments from fellow sufferers denying my eating disorder. I have had people tell me I was never that sick, I have had time & time again gas lighting from the online community when it comes to my story and mental illness.
I use my voice to speak out about this whenever I can because unlike those who people clearly can label as sick, there are millions of sufferers who are still denied validation and help. This sick world of beauty ideals, thinness, obession with health goes beyond harming those in the community who are healthy at every size but plays directly into the idea that to truly be suffering from an eating disorder you need to be thin. You do not.
Weight loss can be an indicator of an eating disorder, weight loss does not have to be present for someone to die from an eating disorder. Body size does not determine the severity or danger of an eating disorder. Instagram profiles of recovered eating disorder sufferers with weight restoration of a societal acceptable weight is ONE version of recovery.
Your weight and body tells nothing of the internal health mental or otherwise. Our suffering no longer should be denied and doubted. Our importance is not less than simply because we weigh more. Being thinner tells nothing about a persons illness, getting thinner tells nothing about the severity.
EATING DISORDERS DO NOT COME IN ONE SIZE. THEY ARE NOT LIMITED TO THOSE WHO HAVE WHITE SKIN. THEY ARE NOT ONLY DANGEROUS ONCE SUFFERERS ARE EMACIATED BUT AT ANY WEIGHT. FAT PEOPLE HAVE EATING DISORDERS, SKINNY PEOPLE HAVE EATING DISORDERS. WEIGHT GIVES NO INDICATION OF THE SEVERITY OF DISORDER. ALL EATING DISORDERS ARE DEADLY, DANGEROUS AND DESERVE THE SAME LEVEL OF CARE.
Do not be silent, do not allow those who simply do not understand to gas light your disorder. You deserve help, you are allowed help and you can get help.
I urge if you or anyone you know may be suffering from an eating disorder to head to my menu and click ‘About Me’ then ‘Eating Disorder Support’. There are many countries listed with website links to support for sufferers as well as loved ones.
This post is for all those people out there who have been neglected and those who have lost their life because their eating disorder was not treated or taken seriously. We are the silent sufferers the ones who fight that much harder to be recognized and taken seriously.
Love Danielle xo