26th February marked the beginning of a very important week; Eating Disorder Awareness Week.
If you don’t do anything else this week, I ask just one thing of you: To be aware.
Not everyone will be comfortable enough to share their stories. Not everyone will have the emotional energy- whether it’s the ED that sucks it out of them or something else- to preach awareness. Some allies will not know how to be an ally, so won’t share, or will share what they see- which is great, but not always a good idea.
Today, I ask you to be aware of one main thing: triggers.
A lot of content can be triggering. I’ve spent enough time in the recovery community to know that some of it can be toxic- and no, that’s not anyone’s fault. Luckily, my friend Tyna helped convince me to return to the recovery community, but in a better way; not to put a downer on myself or others; not to feed my ED; not to trigger myself more. I chose the positive side of the recovery community. I chose to thrive.
The ‘positive’ side of twitter, instagram, and the general recovery community however, is not always linear. Recovery is not always linear. It’s very easy, too, to misjudge your own content and accidentally trigger- heck, i’ve probably done it myself.
Things like ‘transformation posts’ can be empowering for some people, but heck, they can be so, so triggering so please be careful, and if you see a post you’re not happy with? You are not obliged to follow anyone. To read all their posts. If you need to unfollow them, or need time away from their account, never feel guilty.
Transformation posts also lack consideration for one important fact, a thing that needs to be remembered this week.
Size ≠ Severity.
An eating disorder is not defined by a person’s size. Someone can be skinny but not ‘anorexic’ (it’s not an adjective). Someone typically ‘overweight’ can still suffer from a restrictive eating disorder. Someone ‘underweight’ can still suffer from a binge eating disorder. Someone who looks ‘normal’ may be as far on the verge of death as someone strikingly underweight.
This week, we need to include people of all sizes in our chats about eating disorders. This week, we need to set a precedent that chats from here on in will always include people of all sizes.
Speaking of inclusivity,
We need to include all eating disorder in our chats.
So, so many people either totally forget to, or straight up ignore certain eating disorders. Whether this is due to a lack of awareness, arguments over ‘severity’, or shame, these eating disorders need not to be ignored.
Frequently, people will ignore things like, for example, laxative abuse as a symptom because it involves something deemed to be ‘more embarrassing’ than what people tend to know about common eating disorders.
Actually, I saw a fabulous insta-blog post which put this into words:
i struggle with laxative abuse. • TW: eating disorders/behaviours. • i have struggled with laxative abuse for 12 years. • today i read a post by @waterstonefoundation_ about eating disorders and behaviours that are rarely spoken about, and when i mused over that, i realised its not something i have ever spoken about either. • why have i never spoken about it? because it feels shameful. • i was diagnosed with anorexia when i was 7 years old, and later diagnosed with bulimia, both of which i have spoken about here before, but lax abuse? never. • my experience began when i used to go on alot of nights out, and my best friend told me how she used them to keep a flat stomach, whilst also dropping some weight. • it started off innocently, but as often happens with such behaviours, they spiral. • at my worst, i lost a lot of weight, and became a ghost of myself. the struggle i was facing was incredible, and my struggle was as important as any other. • it’s important to state that as with any other ED/ED behaviour, weight loss is not always an outcome. at other times of my struggle with LA, i have infact gained weight. • there seems to be so much shame around laxative abuse, because it involves pooping. although purging isn’t talked about much, it seems that purging by pooping is so much more taboo. • laxative abuse is as valid as any other eating disorder, or eating disorder behaviour. • please do not be ashamed if it is something you struggle with. please know that you are not alone. please know i am here with you, and for you. • laxative abuse is serious. it is dangerous. it is incredibly dangerous. it can be life threatening. • let’s lift the shame surrounding it, and open up space for people to discuss their struggle. • stay safe, as safe as you can. ♥️♥️♥️♥️
All eating disorders and eating disorder behaviours are very, very valid and deserve, and need help.
Typically, a sufferer will wait 3 years before seeking help for their eating disorder, and after that, the wait for treatment is endless- especially if you’re not showing the more physical symptoms, such as being severely underweight. This is heartbreaking, and life threatening.
So. Let’s raise awareness.
Let’s raise awareness for all eating disorders, all symptoms, people of all sizes, people of all backgrounds. Let’s be cautious what we say or post to ensure it’s not a trigger trip. Let’s all put all the energy we can into EDAW and not feel guilty about anything we can’t do.
If you want to do something but don’t know what, reading up is good!
Anna, also known as HopingForHappy runs a mental health blog, Recover Your Life Back, and she’ll be posting on EDAW all of this week! I particularly thought her ‘Myths and Facts’ post yesterday was wonderful and I couldn’t recommend reading it enough!
I have one last thing to say
I have an eating disorder. I have more than one diagnosed eating disorder, and it’s taken me years (It was first developed when I was 13) for me to gain the confidence to speak out. Recovery is hard, and what makes it harder is people looking at me with the ‘but you don’t look sick’ attitude because i’m not your ‘typical ED size’ (in quotation marks because I can confirm: It’s a social construct!). I am valid. My eating disorder is valid. I strive for recovery.
Is there anything you’d particularly like to see on Eating Disorder Awareness Week? From either myself, or generally, from the media? Let me know.