Sometimes it’s hard to know what you need. You know you need something, but you don’t know what it is.
I find it tough when others ask me how they can help and what I need help with, and I find that my answer is often, “I don’t know.” It’s not just an answer to stop them from talking, or to get them away, because truly, there are times when I don’t know how I need help. It doesn’t mean that I don’t need help, it just means that I don’t know what I need, or how to ask for it.
That has to be the hardest thing with this disorder. When you walk through recovery and you “look normal” I think it’s hard for others to understand that there is a struggle. We are great at hiding things under it all. We have spent so long hiding the disorder from everyone that we become the master of disguise. Even when we know we should admit something is wrong, we go straight to the easy answer of saying, “everything is fine” because it’s easier to not rock the boat.
Because we are so great at hiding the disorder, we become masters at hiding emotions as well. Really, it wasn’t until my weight was dangeriously low that people realized how bad the eating disorder was. When I was able to get through skinny camp and put the weight on, I looked more “normal”. Hell, one of my coworkers, surprised to find out about my eating disorder, said, “you’re not THAT thin.” The problem exists that we don’t “look” sick so it’s sometimes hard to believe that we are struggling with the sickness. In fact, skinny camp was easy compared to where I am now.
There is a common misconception that all people with eating disorders are emaciated. This is not necessarily true. Certainly, people deep in anorexia can be very thin. However, most people with eating disorders don’t “look sick.” People with bulimia are usually of normal weight, or slightly above their weight range. People with anorexia who are at or near their ideal body weight, but still actively struggling with eating-disordered thoughts and feelings, will typically “look normal.” You can’t tell if a person is underweight simply by looking at them because BMI is so personalized based on so many factors — a person may fall within the “ideal” BMI range and still be significantly malnourished or dehydrated. Using physical appearance as a gauge of mental or physical health is that people who “look normal” could be some of the sickest – and that was the case at skinny camp. Their eating disorders may not be as easily detected and may not be taken as seriously. Sometimes eating disordered people believe they don’t deserve treatment because they’re not thin enough, not sick enough, not worthy enough. It’s kind of an awful thing to think about.
I often ask how long recovery takes, and I’m always reminded that this is a long journey. I don’t know if I’m tired of therapy or sick of the disorder, but I want this to be done. I am trying to respect the process, but I am ready to be finished here! As I’ve been reading, talking with my therapist and others who I know…. recovery from anorexia can take, on average, around 7 years. Talk about patience!! Essentially, you’re finding a new way of life, and a new way of dealing with everything around you – essentially we are giving up the trust from the eating disorder and trying to trust those around us, when, for a long time, the eating disorder provided immense support. For me, and probably many others, we have used the eating disorder to cope with a lot of unwanted things for a long time, and now we are just ripping that out of our hands. It was a great distraction.
So, because there is so much involved in this process, we often don’t know how to be helped. Yes, we probably need help, but we don’t know exactly how to verbalize it. All we do know is that this problem is a mess and that it’s not pretty whatsoever. I know it’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do, and when I come out on top, I think I’ll be a better person for it. I know that this process will change me for the better, but what that means? I have no idea. I know that I hate the process, and each day I’d rather shoot myself in the foot and run a marathon than do this again.
So, where does that leave me? Trying to figure out how I need help, how to ask for it, and still plugging forward.
Step 1: committed
Step 2: positive 🙂