I was recently challenged with the notion that eating disorders are not as intense or similar to drug addiction or alcoholism. I’ve also been challenged about how much eating disorders are a discipline–not a disorder–issue.
And then we have misconceptions about what eating disorders “look” like: only when are you scarily thin should you get help. When you are overweight, you just need to “eat less and exercise more.” Not exactly.
There’s a lot to fight against with eating disorders, and perhaps that is what makes them so difficult for sufferers to admit what they are going through. I do appreciate the questions I receive from those who simply have not had an eating disorder because it means they are either trying to understand, or that they are at least helping me to understand their confusion and skepticism. But it can be frustrating when people quickly dismiss the illness lightly when you are not hooked up to an IV or fainting at work.
No one can see the obsession circling day in and day out in your head, and that’s the scariest part–that you can’t escape your own mind.
I have certainly not had alcoholism and cannot say I know everything that entails it, but I feel I can understand the pull of the addiction. I have not had drug problems, but I feel I understand the intense, all-consuming cravings when I hoard food and binge. I even knew an eating disorder sufferer who did drugs say that after experimenting with various drugs, the worst “drug” he feels has been food.
So we’re supposedly supposed to “snap out of it.” Would you tell that to an alcoholic? A drug addict? How are eating disorders different? While the world often treats eating disorders as petty girl issues (and what about the male sufferers?) or a matter of discipline, those of us who suffer want to scream that it is not just about aesthetic or something within our control, but a chemical and emotional disturbance that is fought day after day.
I tell you, it is similar to struggle of alcoholism. It is much like yearning for the high of drugs. And to pull away from it is like a breakup from a very destructive love affair. To let go is to fall headfirst into months or even years of grieving the loss of something that you felt held you together for so long.
This is why eating disorders not only take over lives, but also kill. It may not be as quick as a life-threatening drug withdrawal, but a long, slow death is no easier.