Trigger warning: Eating disorders, suicide ideation
As I sat in the sweltering heat, I critiqued my large frame and understood the harsh reality of body image and self-love. I was not big at all—I was a size 6. Why didn’t I see this? Maybe it was the beautiful petite ladies that swarmed in my presence, the temptation to eat one more meal at Burger King, or possibly the reality of relationships and the way your significant other looks at you. Whatever it was, it was real.
Then there was the Starbucks sign that suggested a brighter start in the morning, but I didn’t agree that filling my stomach with hot chocolate and a croissant could do the trick. Maybe for five minutes, but then the guilt would kick in and suddenly I’d set myself up for a full day of body shaming.
There’s no quick fix, no sudden revelation where you are free from this debilitating and complicated illness. You can’t just tell someone to eat—the problem is far more deep-rooted within, and to this day, people still don’t understand it. The stigma surrounding it makes it extremely difficult to speak up.
Trust me, as an anorexic of 15 years with a history of relapses, I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It is constant torture and constant worry. It is fear and obsession with almost every aspect of your life. As each piece of you disappears, the anorexia takes hold bit by bit, day by day, year by year, until you’re staring in the mirror at a distorted version of yourself. You’re staring at your body as your mind tortures you—you’re fat, you’re ugly, no one will ever love you for looking this way, no one cares about you, you may as well stay inside and hide, you are an embarrassment. It’s everywhere you go, in every reflection you look at, whether that be in a shop window or your own shadow. You’re constantly checking and critiquing, and you can’t get away from it. The deeper you get, the more distorted that image becomes.
I haven’t mentioned the depression or the anxiety, the sadness that takes you to depths you never thought possible. You’re convincing yourself that it’s the only way; this is what needs to be the outcome. For me, this has been the hardest obstacle. All eating disorders are different and complicated in their own way. For as long as I can remember, I have suffered from suicidal ideation and I have planned and written letters. Each time, something has stopped me; I’m grateful for that. Not everyone with an eating disorder is as fortunate as I am—some fall deeper, some battle it for even longer, and a huge percentage don’t survive. One in five anorexia deaths stem from suicide. It’s got the highest overall rate of any other mental health disorder.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to support people with this disease so we can make a change. Even medication can’t relieve it, but studies have shown that if we catch it early, family-based treatments are highly effective. I never had this option because there was still a lot to learn. Research has come so far, but there’s still a long way to go. Let’s make a change today. Listen, look for signs, and do not ignore it.
I hope that having a platform to voice my experience will raise awareness and give others the hope and support to do the same. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.