Believe It Or Not - we can recover from our eating disorders and be stronger people for the struggle.
So often we read that a girl (woman, teen, etc)’s life was “ruined by an eating disorder;” the Huffington Post has an article on the causation of EDs today that included just that description of, claiming they “destroy a teen's life as well as that of his or her family.” I’m not about to say that a family member with an eating disorder does not complicate matters and add stress (emotional, financial, etc) to family life, yet my own experience with anorexia was not one that has “destroyed my life.” In fact, looking at life from the far side of eating disorder Hell, these rough few years have changed me, and my relationship with my family, for the better.
I used to count when I was anxious, as an elementary schooler I’d count well into the thousands if my parents were arguing or talking about ways to save money. For as long as I can remember I was convinced that I was the problem, I was the reason money was tight or the house needed unforseen repairs. My stomach still clenches when discussions focus on balancing the checkbook, selling the house, or securing financial aid, but I also realize that every family has these concerns. I understand that for me coping with everyday stresses and viewing them as commonplace instead of catastrophic is going to be a longterm challenge. Most people, my sisters for instance, grow up with a different perspective on such mundane challenges; they never need to be told outright that they are worthy of love, appreciation and life itself. I, on the other hand, needed to hear this time and time again before I even began to view myself as a human being just as capable and deserving as the rest of my family and friends. Anorexia made me confront these anxieties head on. Yes, the disorder was most likely itself a product of my skewed perspective on conflict, but when the symptoms finally manifested themselves my family was there to help, or to find help, and to love me regardless of how much I weigh.
To read about the destruction that an eating disorder can bring to a family does not do any favors for those of us who have been there and suffered though it alongside our families. It simply adds another healthy dose of guilt to the already guilt-plagued brain of a disordered-eater. Instead of dwelling on the ways in which EDs can harm a family let’s focus on the ways in which a family, when tested by an eating disorder, can pull through and provide the support network necessary for recovery. Let’s think about the ways in which we can educate families about eating disorders so they will never have to think “where did we go so wrong? Are we really awful people?” when its their son or daughter that looks at them from across the dinner table, but a ghost of their former self. Let’s celebrate the families that have and are recovering from this unexpected foray into the deepest ring of Hell instead of attaching to them yet another label and yet another stigma.