One of the most cliche lines may be “The first step is admitting you have a problem”. It may piss off anyone who hasn’t admitted they have a problem yet. As someone who has recovered I can see the statement and go yup that is 100% true but I can also understand that it is hard to grasp because I have BEEN in denial. I was in denial for SO long. In this blog I am going to go into being in denial and the excuses I made for myself.
Disclaimer this blog is going to go into a lot of symptoms that may cross over into someone who is unhappy with their body so I feel it necessary to say the following:
Let me be perfectly clear some things may overlap or have a few things in common with people with body image issues versus people with eating disorders. However, do not get body image issues in terms of not liking what you see in the mirror confused with eating disorders. Just because you do not like what you see in the mirror DOES NOT mean you have an eating disorder. The last thing I want to do is write this blog and then have people who definitely DO NOT have eating disorders thinking that they fall under that category simply because I said something they can relate too. In fact lets define a few things.
- Unhappiness with your body: Being upset with what you see in the mirror, knowing what you see in the mirror is the truth but having a hard time being happy with it/accepting it, feeling uncomfortable with your weight what you are wearing, etc. (I put these in here because while they are not good things to have they aren’t quite eating disorders or indicators of one).
- Body Dysmorphia (often something that is tied to eating disorders) : This mainly means that one has such mental issues with their body that what they see in the mirror is not what is actually there. They are over exaggerating the negative aspects and flaws in their mind, things that others may not even see but they believe they do. Part of the Mayo Clinic definition for this disease is “When you have body dysmorphic disorder, you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, repeatedly checking the mirror, grooming or seeking reassurance, sometimes for many hours each day. Your perceived flaw and the repetitive behaviors cause you significant distress, and impact your ability to function in your daily life.”
The definitions of anorexia and bulimia may be a bit much to handle and unnecessary to share for this specific blog post. Those who suffer from not liking what they see in the mirror feelings are not just discredited because they don’t have an eating disorder that is not what I am trying to say. Often times when that goes unsolved it can lead to something worse but not everybody who doesn’t like what they see results to an eating disorder. Okay but what am I getting at? Not loving what you see in the mirror is hard on anyone and I deeply sympathize and am here for people who struggle with this. However, I am trying to be very clear in the difference between these two things so as my blog is not taken the wrong way and impressionable minds don’t begin to think they have a disorder.
That being said:
The BIGGEST part for me was having to admit I had a problem. While I struggled with this disease for years and had moments where I admitted I had a problem, consistently believing that I did have one was an issue for me. The only moments of clarity I REALLY had were just looking at myself and realizing what I was doing but shortly after I faded back into the background. I think this is why I told my boyfriend when I did because I was having a moment where I knew I had a problem and I was terrified of fading back into ignorance and I needed out and a different way of life. I needed someone else to know so that I couldn’t just easily hide in the background again and do what I wanted to do.
Here were some of my symptoms of my body dysmorphia/eating disorder, which I was doing for so long I didn’t see a problem and I believed they were NORMAL. However, thinking about my body consumed my whole entire day and the majority of my energy:
- Spending endless amounts of time examining each bit of my body in the mirror/ Body shaming myself
- Not being able to leave the house without makeup I believed that if I look pretty than nobody would focus on my body
- ALWAYS having my midsection covered by a pillow, my purse, my jacket, anything I could grab.
- Weighing myself and having complete and total break downs over the numbers that triggered me.
- Limiting my foods based on calories, what I believed to be healthy, and never allowing myself a cheat meal.
- Binge eating as a result of 5
- Acting on my eating disorder
These are just SOME Of the things that I did to myself on a daily basis but I was so used to this being my normal that they became part of my daily routine without failure or even thinking about it twice. Truth of the matter is I think, well I KNOW, my body dysmorphia started in high school as it is the time when I started forming some of these habits like obsessing over what I saw in the mirror and covering my midsection. I very rarely acted on the disorder (I did a few times) but it went untreated and I think thats why it grew into a full blown disorder. However, since I started doing some of these things in high school by the time I was 19-20 years old they didn’t seem wrong. I look back on it and realize how absolutely miserable I was for YEARS. I can’t believe I let these habits dictate my life from my teens till I was 22 years old and that I would of rather denied my problems then be happy.
Why did I deny it? I can’t say for sure but I was very aware of the stigma on eating disorders. Mine developed in the time of high school and college where every girl being pretty was so important and our self-worth was very defined on what others thought of you (at least thats what I thought). I think the biggest reason I wouldn’t admit it is because I viewed myself as damaged. I grew up with ADHD and anxiety, I have never been able to sleep naturally as a result of that, and I felt like adding something else on top of that would make so undesirable. I felt so damaged and I figured everyone else would view me as damaged and not want to be around me, date me, would hold it against me, use it to make fun of me. To me if I just kept silent and pushed it down then I was normal and not broken. At one point I remember vividly not wanting to admit it because I had lost 20 pounds the natural way and if I admitted I had gone back to my problem I had it figured in my head that everyone would talk about me and they would say that’s how I lost the weight. I was so concerned about what others thought that I was slowly letting my health and sanity slip away.
So what were my excuses/ how was I denying it?
“I am not making myself sick after every meal its an occasional occurrence”
“I am so drunk so if I just do it I will probably sober up” (said after binging)
“I am only doing it because I need to relieve some of the pressure of feeling too full”
“I can’t have an eating disorder because I workout and go to the gym, so I am healthy”
“I eat ‘healthy’ so I do not have an eating disorder”
“I eat so I don’t have an eating disorder”
“Look at these people with eating disorders I am nothing like them so I do not have one”
“People have it worse then me I don’t have one”
“Look at my body its not perfect so clearly I am not doing it enough to have a problem”
You name it I said it to myself to talk myself out of thinking I had a problem. Let me tell you every single one of these excuses were just those, excuses. If you are acting on impulses of an eating disorder no matter how much or how little, you HAVE one. It doesn’t matter if you the fittest person but still act on it, you have one. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t losing weight from it, you have one. You act on it YOU HAVE A PROBLEM, do not let it get any worse admit to the problem and figure out where you go towards happiness from there. If you are also realizing that you may have body dysmorphia (you are realizing your obsession of your body, your daily rituals, etc indicate it) then also go and get help with that before it develops into ANYTHING further.
There were moments, my god were there moments, where inner me fought and kicked and screamed and said let me out and I just wanted to get better so bad. However, I just could never let her out. I got as far as admitting it to myself but then I could never admit to anybody else. Its really hard to move forward when you are the only person that knows you have a disorder and you only believe it a fraction of the time because the sick part of me always talked the one that wanted help out of reaching out to anyone.
So know we look at when I went into recovery. It wasn’t planned , I didn’t 100 percent intend for it to happen, I just enlightened someone else on what I was going through. Even when I was telling that person I was really playing it off as not a huge deal. I think when I was telling him I was more than likely already slipping back into the I don’t have a problem mode. So when I essentially had no choice but TO recover (at least that’s how I saw it, I look back now and I guess I could have easily slipped back but thank God I was strong enough not to) it was kind of like hitting a brick wall in terms of coming to a realization I had a problem. I was literally STILL telling myself these excuses, still playing it off as not a big deal, but it really was hard to do this because I had so many people telling me I did have something that needed to be dealt with. Nobody ever judged me for it or talked down to me because of it, but they did tell me I had a problem. So getting over that mental hurdle so I could FULLY recover was a big challenge of mine. I think when I was forced to face these habits that most certainly were NOT normal or positive and I had to try to change them THATS when I realized okay, I may have an issue.
SO DENIAL IS WHAT IS HOLDING YOU BACK! If you want a better life you need to admit you have a problem because when you admit you have a problem you open up avenues of ways to tackle it. If you don’t admit you have a problem you are closing yourself off to any solutions. Plain and simple there is a WHOLE LIFE beyond what you are living right now. I was tired and I was miserable but tired and miserable were my normal. I absolutely loved my friends and family and the memories I had with them don’t get me wrong, but within myself I felt this way and I no doubt could of enjoyed those memories more if I had just gotten help. I understand it I do you aren’t ready to come to terms with what you are doing to yourself, you aren’t ready to uproot your way of living, and you are so scared of judgment or feeling alone because of this. Is recovery hard? Yes, yes it is. Is living with an eating disorder harder? Absolutely. You have to choose which hard you want. The hard where you are fighting to better your life and starting to live this whole entire new POSITIVE AND HAPPY life outside your eating disorder? Or do you want to live this life that is hard and makes you miserable? You aren’t alone, you aren’t damaged, and nobody will view you as so (if they do that is SERIOUSLY not anybody you would ever want to be around anyways). In speaking out and seeking help you come to realize that there are many like you, that there are people you can talk to, I struggled for years and I didn’t have someone who knew what it was like when I was in recovery because I was still remaining pretty silent (was I alone in my recovery no I had support but not from anyone who knew what it was like, however I am beyond grateful for the support I did have) . THIS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THE CASE FOR YOU. If you don’t think you have a problem try to think positive thoughts when you don’t like what you are seeing in the mirror, try to not even look at yourself in the mirror for a day, completely try to wipe yourself clean of your body habits for one day. Is it to extremely hard for you? Then you may want to look into talking to someone about those issues. You just need to come to terms and admit the issues you have so you can be happier.
Think to yourself are you really living a “normal” life or are you tired and miserable too? Wouldn’t you much rather live something better? Than start looking past your denial and excuses and take the first step forward.