“So what, you just don’t like food?”
This is how my boss responded when I confided that I was seeking treatment for an eating disorder and would need some time off work.
“You know, I just don’t get the eating disorder thing. I’d eat anything you put in front of me. They say you live longer if you’re skinny anyway.”
Really? REALLY?? Despite the fact that talking about it nearly brings me to tears every time, and that I had to work up my bravery all morning to tell you this, THIS is how you reply??
It’s 2014. Aren’t people more aware of the seriousness of mental illness? I’ve been a big supporter of Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Day, and Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the past few years, but I’ve never really stopped to think about what it meant to “raise awareness.” I just kind of thought, at this day in age, it wasn’t even an issue of people be unaware. People had to know how real and how debilitating mental illness can be. But apparently not. My boss is a prime example of how ignorant (and rude) people can still be.
Mental illness — namely eating disorders, in my case — is not to be taken lightly. Just to put it in perspective, anorexia nearly killed me ten years ago. At twelve years old, I had dropped down to a disgustingly low weight. My body had deteriorated so badly, and my heartrate was so low, that I was immediately admitted into hospital and hooked up to a half-dozen machines.
After a three month hospital stay, I was healthy enough to go back to “normal” life, but now, even ten years later, I’m not truly healthy. The hospital stay made my body healthy(er), but my mind stayed as crazy as ever. Almost every single day since then has been a struggle; every calorie that enters my body has been a tiny battle. I’m constantly aware of what I eat, and how or if it might affect my weight.
After ten years of stress and anxiety over something as basic as food, you know what? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting anorexia and its evil little voice in my head control every day of my life.
I’ve talked to my parents and close friends, and I’ve been to several professionals already. I’m in the process of getting enrolled in an out-patient therapy program. I’m taking steps to make myself healthy — mentally and physically. It’s not going to be easy, and to be honest, I’m terrified, but I know it’s a HUGELY positive thing in my life.
So, when I went to my boss to try and explain the situation, at the very least I was hoping he’d be happy to hear that I was doing something to improve my health. I never expected to be trivialized, as if the struggle my life has been for the past decade was no big deal, a joke.
The more I reflected on the conversation, the more annoyed I got. Here I am, making one of the scariest decisions of my life, and you act as if I should just be able to get over it? Now, on top of the appointments, doctors, therapy, and stress, I have to deal with the skepticism and judgment from my boss?
And I know now that he’s not the only person around who is so oblivious. After meeting with other girls at group therapy, I’ve heard how they all have people in their lives who just don’t get it. Contrary to what these people believe, it’s not a matter of just getting over it, just eating a piece of cake.
I’m not sure my purpose in writing this is. To raise awareness? Maybe. If people read this and choose to learn more about eating disorders, or any other type of mental illness, great. But I think I’m writing this more in the hopes of ending such rudeness in people’s ignorance. Even if you don’t understand the struggle of someone else, or if it seems like a silly issue to you, please understand that to them it is a big deal. Please, please don’t make them feel like their problems don’t matter.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.