So today I had a bit of a realisation… It’s a bit random after my last post, but it needed to be said while I’m in the heat of the moment…
As everyone’s who read my blogs knows, I had Anorexia 3 years ago. That’s really not that long ago if you think about it, especially for me to be saying I ‘had’ anorexia. It took ages to develop, so surely it doesn’t just go away that easily right? I’m going to be brutally honest…
When I finished my 6 months CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for Anorexia, they let me go like a duck in the water, I felt free; ‘OMG I’M FREE AND I’M ME AGAIN’. My BMI was within the healthy range, and my hair grew back quickly, I was ‘happy’ according to the NHS’s mark. All those stupid forms I filled in SO MANY TIMES (I’ll attach an image below for those who don’t know what they are) about my mood and anxiety, were now irrelevant because I was healthy! Was I though, said who? If I had said I still didn’t feel ok, would they have kept me in CBT longer? Once you’re a healthy weight, you’re miraculously ok apparently… This isn’t the case AT ALL. 3 years down the line, and only today have I realised that most of my daily behaviours, especially those around food, are behaviours I used to have when I was anorexic. It’s lead to me pose the question to any health, eating disorders expert, NHS member, mental health worker, the stupid system we live in, (don’t get me wrong the NHS does a fabulous job and we’re so lucky to have such an advanced health system but, in terms of mental health, it needs work) what makes anorexia acceptable and is that criteria really what makes someone anorexic? If I’m a healthy weight, am I still anorexic?
Before I start, lets look at the facts and what’s the criteria to be ‘anorexic’?
According to a lot of articles and pages I read online, these are the ‘symptoms’ of anorexia and if you have these, you’re anorexic:
- Exercising excessively
- Below a certain BMI – 17.5 but may change based on gender.
- Not eating/restriction of food intake
So, to be diagnosed with Anorexia you need to have some of those symptoms and a few more. www.verywell.com is a website that just gives you information on Eating Disorders and they have this on their website: “For patients who do not meet full criteria for anorexia nervosa, Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorder may be an appropriate diagnosis.” I’m sorry, what? ‘For patients who do not meet full criteria’ – am I applying for a job interview or filling in a form? I am not under-weight now and still have anorexic symptoms, when I was at my worst, I did not exercise excessively, I did eat, very little but I did. It was only when I stopped eating and my weight was at its lowest that I was acceptable to be ‘anorexic’, I finally fit the criteria! If this is the case then what entitles you to having an eating disorder? People at their WORST, won’t be given the anorexic title, and so don’t get diagnosed, which means they’re left neglected until it manifests becoming something worse. A year post-recovery, I still had A LOT of the symptoms I had during my eating disorder, I was in and out of my GP, asking to be seen, to be understood, to be heard. I was told I had anxiety, it was stress and everything would be ok, it was depression, it was everything but an eating disorder because when I stepped on those DREADED scales, it was ‘correct’. What is correct anyway, says who? It’s stupid because the reality is, I could be overweight and still have an eating disorder. I still control my food, I still can’t look at my reflection, I still find it hard to eat in social situations no matter how much of a front I put on. I always tell one person who I’m with when I’m eating out how nervous I am about eating and that’s so bad because food is everywhere. I can’t hide anymore. It makes me ashamed that I have to do that because ‘I’m not anorexic anymore’ says who? Who makes this criteria and how much do they really know? To the stupid doctors who told me that I have every other mental illness under the sun, made me feel like shit, like no matter what I did I couldn’t avoid this dark cloud above me every time I tried to be free, who made me feel like the most messed up person in the world, who didn’t listen to me when I said I would rather be dead than alive because I couldn’t do it anymore, who didn’t even consider asking about my food or anything related because I was a healthy weight, WAKE UP. Anorexia is a MENTAL illness. MENTAL. That means its in your head. It creates this tunnel vision and filters your sight. You can only see through it and no other way.
What really is Anorexia then? If someone’s weight isn’t low to the point they’re just skin and bone, what makes someone anorexic? It has to do with food of course, but that’s not the main issue. During my sick time, I ate, not what I wanted to, but I ate. It’s all in your head. It creates this idea in your head that you have to look and be a certain way and are never good enough. Even when you restrict. This applies to everything in your life. Got a grade back? It’s not good enough. Got some new trousers, they aren’t loose? Not good enough. Tried to socialise but you couldn’t do it? Not good enough. You’re never good enough or worthy of anything when you have anorexia. You feel trapped inside this body that isn’t yours and you can’t get out. You get glimpses of what its like to be the old you but you never get to go there which is unexplainable. It’s looking in the mirror and feeling physically sick whether you’re under or overweight, running to the toilet and being sick. Its hating a part of your body so much, squashing and squashing and SQUASHING it in the hope it will just disappear. Feeling guilty about eating an apple or something healthy. An Anorexic’s mind is consumed by all these ideas of perfectionism, control, self-esteem, and food. It twists your thoughts so that everything you do is bad and nothing is ever good. It doesn’t matter the digits on the scale, or the digits on the blood pressure machine. How can you define a mental illness with numbers?
Having said all of that… I then want to say, from experience, how I feel an eating disorder should be diagnosed. This is only my view, I’m not a professional or whatever, it’s just based on my experience and highlighting how important even the small things are. Firstly, I think an eating disorder shouldn’t be labelled an ‘eating disorder’ it should just go under the category of all other mental illnesses. Depression isn’t labelled ‘low mood disorder’ so why are eating disorders? Secondly, just because you’re a healthy weight DOES NOT mean you don’t have an eating disorder. Scales don’t define your mental state. This is what went wrong for me, I was finally a healthy weight after 6 months and was dropped, because I was ok, when I wasn’t. The current diagnosis system is losing people to eating disorders. It’s one of the most dangerous mental illnesses, the one that causes most deaths, do you know why? Because it’s not labelled as a ‘mental illness’ but as an ‘eating disorder’ when food isn’t at the core of the problem. After all, it is a MENTAL illness.