Here is the latest installment in my series on eating disorders. If you haven’t read the others, here’s what’s up: A passionate girl named Gabriela approached me and asked me if she could share her story. She is a great advocate for those with mental illness, particularly girls with eating disorders. She is currently in the process of recovering from EDNOS, which means eating disorder not otherwise specified, an eating disorder that does not meet the criteria for: anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating. She wants to create an outlet for girls like her and clear any misunderstandings about what they go through. If you are someone with an eating disorder and want to talk to Gabriela, you can contact her on Instagram at @gabrielanadeau. This week’s blog is all about the difficulty in discussing your eating disorder with friends and family, and the stigma that comes along with. Comment below if you have ever experienced stigma related to your mental illness!
The struggle of EDNOS (besides,you know, all the other garbage it throws at you) is that no one knows. Sure, you get skinny, but not skeletal. Yeah, you don’t eat a lot, but you’re not starving. Yes, you seem depressed, but not too much. No one wants to say anything besides a little, “are you okay?” (No, no I’m not.) Those who do pry are pushed away.
But the scariest part is trying to tell people. You don’t want to. Eating disorders come with that special stigma of “how could you do that to yourself? You’re not an idiot!” It also comes with that unfortunate stereotype that I happen to be a textbook case of: an obsessive, self-conscious perfectionist who doesn’t take pity well. And when people find out you’re sick, they treat you differently and with tremendous amounts of pity. You become damaged and sensitive in their eyes. It’s your own personal nightmare.
That’s part of why I’m afraid to tell people. I’m afraid to share these blog posts on social media, except for with a few people that I trust, and I’m terrified that someone will find out. I wish I wasn’t, because I really shouldn’t be. I want people who are suffering to reach out to me, but not people I know. Not to mention, my parents don’t want me to tell people; they won’t say it, but they’re ashamed of me.
A terrible part is when someone notices that you’re bigger, since in that moment you want to tell them that you’re sick, you haven’t “let yourself go” or “pigged out”. I think up half-truths like “the doctor said I have to gain weight so my mom is making me” and “I’ve started doing strength training so most of it is muscle”. I haven’t even grown out of my sick clothes really yet, so I shouldn’t even be embarrassed, but I am. They noticed a change and it’s enough to make my eating disorder flare up.
The worst thing is that you end up lonely. You have no one to tell, and those who do know don’t get it. They can’t help but see you through pity colored glasses. I found that making a recovery Instagram to document my progress helps since the other members of that community are so kind and supportive. But we don’t seem to be kind and supportive to ourselves.
I hope one day I won’t be afraid for people to know. I hope that they won’t stereotype me and treat me like a child. But that day seems to be farther and farther away each day.