As a provider who works with people with eating disorders, something I hear all the time is, “It took me a long time to seek help because I didn’t believe I was sick enough”. And often, they still don’t believe it. Because eating disorders are often misunderstood, or believed to be reserved for emaciated, white females, it can take someone with an eating disorder quite a while to recognize their illness for what it is.
Sometimes people don’t seek help because they truly don’t think their behaviors are that problematic. They’re just trying to improve their health like everyone else. Restricting or dieting right into the grasps of an eating disorder. For those with the genetic predisposition, dieting is the number one risk factor of developing an eating disorder. In an attempt at health improvement, they may instead end up with worsened health and a new mental illness.
That’s what eating disorders are: mental illnesses. No one chooses to have one, and I can promise you, anyone who’s experienced an eating disorder wouldn’t wish it on another. A hallmark of these illnesses is denying they have a problem, or denying the severity of it, which is why it’s so common not to feel sick enough to need help. The eating disorder (ED) brain likes to “rationalize” why you aren’t really sick, whether it’s because your labs are normal, vitals are stable, weight is stable, you live in a larger body, etc. It doesn’t want you to seek help, because then it loses control.
But I’m here to tell you, whether you’ve been diagnosed with an eating disorder or not, if your behavior around food is causing you any kind of distress, you are sick enough to deserve help. I know it’s not easy reaching out, and that mental illness tends to be misunderstood and stigmatized, but you are worth it. You deserve to live your life free from obsessive thoughts around food, movement, and your body. And you don’t have to suffer silently or try to work through things on your own. It takes a village, or in this case, a (treatment) team, all working together to help you get your life (and precious brain space) back.
If any of this resonates with you, or you are someone who thinks you aren’t sick enough, I encourage you to check out EDCI’s provider page. Look at the providers listed, look through their websites, and see if you can find someone who seems like they may be a good fit for you. Or if that feels like too much, just reach out to any of them, and I’m sure they will be happy to help, or at least point you in the right direction.
In addition, there are several resources worth looking into on the resource section. One of those is the book, “Sick Enough,” which inspired this post. It’s a great read to learn more about eating disorders and the medical complications that come along with them, as well as discover helpful solutions to said complications.
No matter who you are, you deserve to live your life, according to your values, free from the grips of an eating disorder. There is no shame in needing help. Remember, “it’s ok not to be ok.” Today is a great day to take the first step towards recovery! Take good care.