Illness of the mind

About a year and a half ago I wrote a blog post that was well received. It was about my journey from eating disorder hell back to health. I was very sick at one point and the journey back to normalcy was a very long one. What most people don’t realize is that eating disorders have little to do with the weight loss, although food and/or weight loss is the obsessive focus. I won’t go into my sickness and recovery, except to preface my post with this: I was almost 20, I weighed 104lbs. and the only food I allowed myself to eat without vomiting was 8 small graham crackers per day. What woke me up was a scary esophagus bleed and stay in a hospital. What got me better was the support of those who loved me and a wonderful counselor who specialized in ED. Coming home from the hospital and walking through the door of the Walter Hoving Home (which was where I lived) I was full of shame and extremely embarrassed. I walked into the dining room and everyone clapped for joy that I was home and okay. I got better after that.

My eating disorder was not a phase or a diet. It was an illness of the mind in which I used my body to express the illness. I have known several women over the years who have had this disorder. I know one right now. Back when I was young we used to try to flat-out hide our addictions. Today I have noticed a trend in the eating disordered… they recognize that they are ill, but in order to maintain control over this illness and not have it taken from them, they cling to phantom illnesses. Many, many of us wanted attention and at the same time just wanted to be left alone. If anyone were to know that what was going on was an eating disorder, well then the tests, and blood work, and all the concern and attention might go away. And in it’s place a healthy diet would steal this wasteful disease that we needed. Eating disorders begin when something traumatic happens (a death of someone close) or a major change happens that makes life seem a little scarier than it was. Tis disorder sneaks up on women who need and want attention the most, yet don’t know how to ask for it in a healthy way. I was able to help counsel women in the Home who also succumbed to anorexia and bulimia so I was able to see how we all were very alike in our disease.

In honor of helping those who need help bad, but can’t ask for it, I want to share some of the giant red-flag symptoms. They may not be what you think. We get very good at hiding our weight loss, or weight fluctuations, and we get very good at hiding the obvious… that we are just not eating properly.

ED’s are a physical destructive powerhouse so one of the number one symptoms are many visits to doctors and ERs and having complaints of pain, but no illness is found, or only small illnesses which shouldn’t be causing so much pain. A woman is not going to come out and say that she has been abusing her body. If you love someone and the signs are there, you may need to care for her. I have noticed in my own life and with almost every other girl I met, either in the hospital or in regular life, that as the illness gets worse, people around become very attentive to the sick person and because there is no diagnosable illness, there is nothing anyone can do but watch her starve herself sicker. The woman with an eating disorder becomes like a sick child, others begin speaking for her and talking as if she were a toddler.

When it comes to food, anything out of the ordinary is notable to me. I am very knowledgable in what helps the body and what hurts the body. Recently I was trying to help a woman in a similar situation as I was once in. Being the fanatic green foodie I am I offered some health minerals and enzymes to a woman suffering. Instead she chose to eat  sugar in the form fruit at night along with non-organic cheese. These are some pretty big offenders on the gastrointestinal health’s most wanted list. She did not choose these foods because she is faking her belly ache. These foods were chosen because they were safe. Often we form two categories of food: safe and non-safe, solid and non-solid, good and bad. Everything is categorized and controlled and that’s how it has to be or life just can’t go on. It’s a hell of a prison to be chained up in. To be so incredibly sick, yet turn down such healthful foods in favor of garbage is not what the Lord had in mind. I have to admit it made me angry and I wanted to scream “snap out of it!”, but if I know anything about eating disorders, it’s this… you can’t make someone get better. Often times it’s just the opposite. The more fussing and fawning done over the sick woman, the longer she stays ill. And until she decides to fight, the illness makes her decisions for her.

There was a time I would have loved the attention for my current ailments. I would have loved to have thrown a pity party and I would have complained constantly of the effect it has on my life and the pain I am in daily. When I lost my youthful health shortly after the birth of my youngest son, I became trapped in a body that is just too slow for me. Sometimes it feels like my hips are broken. I have issues that make me want to scream. And in the last few years since Chris and I have taken control over our health I also took control over the pity. As long as I am alive I will fight to have a long and happy life. I will work my way towards health and will strive my hardest for it. I will not just give up and let the dark things of this world take my body or my mind. I will fight for both because I love life and I love the people in my life.

The difference between the eating disordered and other illnesses is that those with an ED have lost the will to fight. They can’t. I couldn’t. I have learned that the way to help those who can’t help themselves is not to join them in their world. If they want a piece of life, they need to come out and join me. I will not go into that dark place and join them. It’s called enabling and the illness lasts longer when it’s enabled. I want those I love to care about their lives. I want them to come out and fight. I know how hard it is to eat the thing that’s on the “bad” list, but it’s what will help our bodies get better. It breaks my heart and I see just how helpless I am in anyone else’s life but my own.

This blog is dedicated to those who are ill tonight. Especially those with anorexia and bulimia. I am so sorry for the pain that causes this illness and I am excited for the day healing infuses the weak and shriveled body and soul.

Have a good week,

Love,

Jackie

 

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