A few months ago, Amy was diagnosed with an ‘unspecified’ eating disorder. Not fitting into the usual box of what someone with an eating disorder looks like, she now shares her experiences to raise awareness of the not ‘commonly known’ eating disorders, to help others who might find themselves in a similar situation.
Occasionally binging on what felt like mountains of food is what allowed me to hide my eating disorder not only from others but also from myself for so many years.
Binge eating in itself is an eating disorder probably not widely recognised by the public. I imagine if a room of people were asked to draw someone with an eating disorder then a similar image would be replicated from person to person – a tiny stick of a human with the word ‘anorexic’ flying about in conversation. I think the biggest thing in today’s society is to step back and acknowledge that eating disorders don’t just present in the form of an overly thin individual. An obese individual that over indulges on a daily basis is suffering from an eating disorder. A person who starves themselves either daily or a few times a week, or makes themselves sick from time to time, is also suffering.
The one thing I have hated hearing over the years, and still to this day hear from time to time (when I am brave enough to be honest to open up to someone about my situation), is ‘so which disorder do you suffer from, is it anorexia or bulimia?’. This is not a phrase I want to hear after opening up to someone – it casts doubt in my mind that I am actually suffering at all.
For years I have thought ‘well hang on, I’m not thin enough to be classed as ‘anorexic’, am I? And I’m not making myself sick after every thing I eat, so I can’t be bulimic. So I mustn’t have a problem at all! How embarrassing that I have even told someone about my ‘disorder’, I won’t be making that mistake again.’
If any of you out there are like me – you yoyo between depriving yourself of meals, starving yourself, living each day calorie obsessed, then the next you spend an evening binging on your favourite snacks – consciously aware in the back of your mind that being sick will ‘erase’ all the ‘wrong’ you are doing, or for the next few days you know you can just avoid food to ‘make up’ for all these calories you’re consuming – then please Google ‘EDNOS’. ‘Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified’ is the biggest eating disorder out there – it consists of a cycle of starving then binging then purging. Believe me, I was as surprised as you probably are right now that it is actually a thing to not fit into one specific well known eating disorder. Instead, you’ve conned yourself and others around you that you do eat ‘normally’ – ‘I had loads of chocolate last Friday so I’m not suffering from anything at all‘ or if you’ve heard someone say to you ‘How do you manage to eat all them biscuits without getting fat? I wish I could eat like that‘ . Phrases like these are what allow you to get away with this vicious cycle. Everyone (including your own self) seems to comment on the times when you’re eating loads. There’s been times when I was low and desperately wanted to share what I was facing in my own mind day-in-day-out but stopped myself just thinking ‘God if I tell them now that I have an ‘eating disorder’ they’ll think I’m such a fake…they saw me eat all that chocolate last week and I’m not even skinny enough to be taken seriously…how embarrassing, I’m not mentioning this to anyone. In fact…there’s not even anything wrong with me’.
It’s still incredibly hard to openly admit that I do have an eating disorder and there are only a few people I have trusted with my circumstances since I opened up five months ago. I still binge from time to time and the same thoughts enter my head of how to ‘undo’ it all the next day. It’s hard not to listen to my mind as the ideas start ticking over and the guilt sets in as I feel my stomach and think how horrendously fat I’ve become. But, I’m learning not to act on these negative thoughts as I once did and I hope CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) will help me erase this thought pattern from my mind for good one day.
I feel it is so important that people out there understand how binge eating can mask disorders and how it can play a huge part in EDNOS amongst other conditions. Binging enables easier vomiting and therefore plays a massive part in bulimia. It is the master of all disguises to everyone around. After all, who would second guess someone who ate all that food at the party the other night? They’re not starving themselves or suffering, are they? But the thing is, they most likely are.
You can follow Amy’s journey on coming to terms with her eating disorder on The Blog of Ambivalence.