Today I wont write about quiting the smokes, my plants, stress, depression or Aspergers. Today it is about something I don’t write about very often, but it is a very large part of my everyday life – well, all my awaken hours in a day. I have been inspired by a Facebook post from Landsforeningen mod spiseforstyrrelser og selvskade (Danish Organisation Against Eating Disorders and Selfharm), in which they encourage people to send stories about eating disorders – stories that are different from the usual “teenager with anorexia”.
And I spent a few hours thinking about it, because speaking about it is very sensitive and difficult, especially because I/one dont fit into a neatly folded box. And I/one can be affraid of the reactions, because one is not “really ill”, when the weight is not 36 kiloes and one is not starving. Maybe that is the reason why these alternative stories are missing. But then it dawned on me that maybe those stories are missing, because the stories are missing. Because in our loneliness we think that we are the wrong ones, the odd ones out. So – speaking up for once: today I will tell you about what an eating disorder means to me, what it does and how it affects on a daily basis.
I am recently diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome og one of the things, I recognized was the many written articles about comorbidity, such as self harm, depression – and eating disorders.
I am not the “type” of person with the most commonly known eating disorder. That is also the reason why it is so hard to talk about and I actually believe that my own family believes that eating disorder “that was when I starved myself in high school”. Because I don’t talk about it. It is embarrassing and I am ashamed and I just don’t feel like I have the strength and energy to explain to them, how an eating disorder also looks like.
Let’s start with yesterday. Yesterday I had a small victory. I was able to stop myself from eating an extra portion of food for supper. That does not occur very often; to be able to say “no” to food. Even at this moment, as I’m writing, my mind circles around thoughts about eating. That is why I have mints at the desk. They are meant to prevent myself from indulging in festivities like chocolate or cake. And sometimes it works. More often it does not.
When my own thoughts on my body and on food became unnormal, is hard to say. But in high school it was the first time my eating disorder was expressed externally, visible for others to see, in shape of one and a half year of anorexia. I counted my calories, not estimated, but carefully calculated and added by weighing my food down to the single gram. I had meticulous scedules, diagrammes and charts of my weight loss, the calories sequence, meals, amount of minutes with activity, whether it was sitting, walking, standing or running – because you burn calories at different speed depending on the activity – and I counted the minutes and during the worst period, I was counting seconds. It goes without saying that during that period,, my absence from classes escalated – my eating disorder was my everything.
A teacher helped me to overcome my illness, by investing time to talk to me; not just about my eating disorder, but also about life, ups and downs and how a human being can choose to deals with those in life. I understood that I wanted to live, so I turned my scedules and diagrammes upside down and started recording my mood, my calories reached per day, limited activity and so on. And there are quite a lot of pople who would say that it was a long and pretty stubborn move and “how strong you were” to be able to pull myself out of an eating disorder so all consuming.
Trouble is, it never left me. Only untill I starved myself again, but kept it even more secret – because the first time had taught me, that some people would try to stop me. And once I ate, it was difficult to stop. I didn’t get help for my eating disorder, because I was embarrassed. And I didn’t want to die, so I starved myself to a certain point and then I fought to regain the weight. But no matter what my weight was, my body was wrong, I was wrong.
If I am forced to pinpoint a time, my BED (binge eating disorder) started during an absence due to stress. I “comfort ate” untill I lost control of the calories. I was able to tell my self that “enough is enough”, but suddenly I would have a cake in my hand. I didn’t eat it. I swallowed it, like I had been starving for a week.
Unofficially though, the same thing goes for BED as for anorexia; it is really hard to say exactly when the normal thoughts became unnormal and when unnormal turned to sickly thoughts. Early than the mentioned absence due to stress, I have had periods of loosing control of my food consumption. I simply couldn’t say “NO”.
Today I have come to understand that I am a mixture of both, also called atypical eating disorder. It looks like BED on the outside, but in my head, my thoughts are anorexic; counting calories, shaming my body, testing myself in food stores etc. I feel guilty with every calorie consumed. But I can swallow food like I haven’t been eating for a week. And maybe it has always been atypical eating disorder. Th entire time I have had no proessional help to deal with my disorder. I have ben highly self regulating with a shifting weight.
I am affraid to go on a diet, because I am scared of the anorexia. I am affraid of eating too much for too long, because that can become life threatening too. All in all, I am affraid of me.
As said, you can’t tell by looking at me, that I have an eating disorder. I rarely talk about it, because that means that I will have to explain why I eat. Because people tend to think that an eating disorder is about starving or throwing up.
To me, it is about what goes on inside my head.
It’s about whatever I do regarding food, it is never good enough. I am always doing something wrong.
It is about my thoughts every waking hour being occupied with food, calories, how I look and how I am gonna be better at self control.
It is about looking at other people and envying them their effortless dealing with food and their ability to stop eating.
But the worst thing is the loneliness. Because when people like me are invisble, loneliness becomes the thing that confirms and underlines that we are “wrong”. That we are not okay. That “I just gotta pull myself together”, “snap out of it”.
So I try to do just that. And my weight goes up and down like an elevator, depending on my two companions, anorexia and BED.
Loneliness is the worst enemy in an atypical eating disorder.
Because it is hard to explain what an atypical eating disorder is. Movies about eating disorders are usually only about anorexia or bulimia. And usually the lead role is a teenager.
How can you explain as an adult woman – or man for that sake – that you have an illness, that only affects teenagers? Because that is how it looks like and appears to be like from the outside looking in.
I told my boss that I have an eating disorder and he told me that he would try to make sure, I ate during lunch breaks, although he ould not force me. And it was a very kind and thoughtful gesture; but he didn’t even consider that it ould be about anything else than anorexia. And when he saw I was eating, he was pleased. At that time I simply didnøt have the energy to explain atypical eating disorder to him. I tried recently, when we were talking about weight, as I had gained 10 kiloes, but in the situation, it was extremely hard to explain it in a simple and plain way.
Even as I write this, I struggle not to justify to myself that I have an eating disorder for the very same reason; I do not weigh 36 kiloes and I do not starve myself. My weight is farely within the norms, so “it really is not that serious”.
But it is. Because when the thoughts are constantly about self-alienation, it has a huge impact on the mental health in general. The next diet or the next binging could be the one tipping the scale.
I sincerely hope that with this blog (even though my English can be lacking at times) can help others to understand, that none of us are truly all alone. Because I know rationally that I am not the only one with an atypical eating disorder. I am not the only one on this planet, whose appearance lie about what lies underneath.
I am not the only one to whom loneliness is the worst enemy.