Be Aware, They’re Everywhere + 6 Ways to Get Help {Eating Disorders Awareness Week}

Talking about eating disorders isn’t easy. I tend to shy away from the topic, since I can vividly remember what it is like to eat up other peoples’ stories as substitute nourishment (if you are easily triggered, feel free to click away now or click here to access the NEDA website). In any case, I have learned that listening to others’ experiences can be exactly the motivation needed to reach out and get help. Since this week is NEDIC‘s Eating Disorders Awareness Week (NEDA‘s takes place from February 23rd-March 1st), I wanted to take the opportunity to share my experience with anorexia nervosa.

My whole life I have been driven to excel, be it in school, sports, or artistic endeavours. This purposefulness combined with life’s bumps throughout middle and high school transformed into a pathologic addiction to control when my efforts did not receive the result I had hoped for. Despite singing my heart out, I never made the choir. Hours spent trying to understand quadratic equations and ionic bonds resulted in disappointing test scores. Fear of coming in last forced me to quit running cross-country. Something had to give; it just so happened that thing was food.

Research is uncovering a multitude of possible factors causing the development of eating disorders from genetics, to past abuse, to societal pressures. I’ll never really know the exact reasons why I decided my body could function properly without food, but I know I prevailed because being in control of what I ate and the way my body looked felt good. These days when I hear that Kate Moss quote I cringe, but at the time I knew exactly what she meant.

When I got to what people call ‘rock bottom’, my friends persisted in talking to my parents, my parents persisted in finding a doctor who would diagnose me (after the first signed me off as ‘normal’), and a wonderful nurse persisted in getting me admitted to hospital despite a shortage of beds. Living in Canada meant that my in-patient hospital treatment was covered by universal health insurance (in reality, beds are extremely scarce, forcing many to resort to expensive private care). I truly had all the forces of the universe on my side, but some people aren’t as lucky.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has gone through extensive changes since I was diagnosed with anorexia, and for good reason. More so then, but even now people struggling with eating disorders are overlooked for the simple reason that they ‘fail’ for satisfy certain criteria (such as lack of a menstrual period). To think that someone may be denied care based on a list of checkmarks irks me to no end. For this reason, asking and seeking help really is someone with an eating disorder’s best chance for recovery.

What You Can Do for Yourself

  • Admit that you need help. This is easier said than done; those voices can be pretty loud and unrelenting. If you can open up to a family/friend/health care provider/stranger you’re one step closer to recovery
  • Seek the help you need, not the help you want. I didn’t exactly go into the hospital kicking and screaming, but the pit at the bottom of my stomach was confirmation enough that I was terrified to be there. If it had been up to me, I probably would have chose something much less intensive (something that didn’t keep me cooped up in a hospital for months), but choosing that course might have led to more serious complications in the end.
  • Keep Going. Just when you think it’s over and done with, you realize that it’s not. It has been nearly six years since my in-patient stay, and since then I’ve taken part in out-patient clinics, family therapy, individual therapy, group therapy, nutritional consultations, countless doctor’s appointments, and a lot of introspection. I’ve filled countless journals and found yoga as a source of healing. Even now I face bumps once and a while, but they are manageable.

What You Can Do for a Friend or Family Member

  • Trust your gut. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. If you feel like you’re going behind your loved one’s back in seeking treatment options, remember that prompt treatment leads to the greatest chance of recovery.
  • Speak like you would like to be spoken to. This is an abstract concept, but imagine that you yourself had an eating disorder. What words, phrases, or actions would trigger self-destructive thoughts and behaviours? In my family, we changed the channel when Weight Watchers ads came on television, and made words like ‘fat’, ‘skinny’, and ‘diet’ taboo. It’s best to ask your loved one directly how to speak and act to them. Be as gentle and kind as is possible, and remember it’s no one’s fault.
  • Find support for yourself too. Caregiver burnout is a real thing. Caring for someone with an eating disorder can be exhausting and defeating, so be sure you have your own support network in place. Make a list of people you can talk to, try to connect with a knowledgeable health care provider, or join a support group. It’s difficult to care for others when your own needs are being neglected.

One thing that really shocked me was how many people struggle with issues related to food; everyone really does know somebody. If you are struggling, know that there are people here for you, myself included.

No questions, but I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Thanks so much for reading! Leave me a comment, or follow me on, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Bloglovin, and Instagram; I’d love to connect with you!

About Suzanne Poldon

runs on plants. eats out of mason jars. bends like a straw.

05. February 2014 by Suzanne Poldon
Categories: Mind, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 comments

Comments (16)

  1. Thanks so much for this, Suzanne. It’s such an important topic to speak about due to the huge stigma surrounding eating disorders. I’ve recently started speaking of my experiences on my own blog and have gotten a lot of positive responses, which I think is a really good sign. Keep up the great work!
    Ali @ Farmers Market Vegan recently posted…A Response to “Veganism is Celibacy” from an Eating Disordered PerspectiveMy Profile

  2. This is great Suzanne – such an informative post on a topic that definitely needs to be discussed more often. You know that I suffered from anorexia in my past, and although I was never put in in-patient care (the threat of it prompted me to start making some changes) going to individual and group therapy sessions definitely saved by life. ED’s are horrible, but there is hope for everyone who suffers.
    Sam @ Better With Sprinkles recently posted…WIAW: Superbowl Sunday.My Profile

  3. I love that you posted this. Such an important topic to raise awareness about. Keep on being inspiring, doll!! This was awesome. Xo

  4. Amazing post girl! I wish my friends/family/doctors had read this when I was suffering, because maybe then I wouldn’t have had to learn how to recover on my own. I’m still bitter that my doctors didn’t even recognize I had an issue or suggest treatment for me! Luckily I was able to find the inner strength to recover without help… but other girls may not have that, and that means they may be suffering for a very very long time, which is sad and scary!
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  5. What a wonderful post. Shocking and informative. Thank you so much for sharing!
    Katie @ Produce on Parade recently posted…Birdseed CookiesMy Profile

  6. Suzanne, your advice to readers is very well done. As your Dad my advice to families is do not give up. Get help, get help fast and keep pushing for the help that you know that your loved one needs.

    Suzanne’s journey into the depths of her ED, also, included her family. It was very hard on me, her Mom and brothers to see Suzanne sink with the ED. Her recovery was, also, our recovery. We all worked on it together and with leading edge help we learned strategies to assist Suzanne on her voyage out of the depths of her ED.

    One of the realities of her recovery was that her family was part of it. We all worked and continue to work to make sure that Suzanne never goes back. Don’t give up and seek out the best help – it is available. Even when your family physician and his or her colleagues says everything is fine, go with your heart; after all it is you as a parent that know your child better than anyone.

    Suzanne, thanks for continuing to share your journey

  7. Thanks for sharing this post Suzanne. I am so grateful for all the care and support I received and I know I was very lucky to get funded in-patient treatment too.
    Like your Dad commented above, eating disorders can be devastating for families but having their support can really help recovery. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without my Mum- she provided a shoulder to cry on so many times, a hug whenever I was willing to accept one and love that goes beyond words.
    Emma recently posted…Lentil, Cashew, Quinoa Stuffed PeppersMy Profile

  8. This is a beautiful post Suzanne. Thank you for being so honest & open with us.
    It’s actually something I’m currently struggling with (in outpatient therapy) and I’m having a hard time recovering. It is really good to know there are others out there who understand.
    You’re very brave to post this… I’ve been wanting to post about my ongoing recovery but have been too chicken, maybe this is the push I need =)

  9. you continue to show what a strong and inspiring person you are Suzanne! I have never struggled with an ED but had seriously disordered eating and body image issues (still at times to this day!) so you spreading light and wisdom on the issue is so wonderful :)
    Gabby @ the veggie nook recently posted…valentine’s double chocolate and goji granolaMy Profile

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