Happy National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, everyone! I suppose it’s a strange thing to wish people a “happy” one of, but hopefully awareness will lead to eradication (Wow, that’s a fancy word for how tired I am right now. Maybe I’ll switch it to something epic like “Total Annihilation” or something. Maybe not.) which will lead to happiness for all! A girl’s gotta have a dream. (N.B. It’s Awareness Week in Canada. NEDA’s official week isn’t until the end of the month)
Last year, NEDA‘s theme for the week was, “It’s Time to Talk About It”. I may have been late to the party on that one (I was singing and dancing on tour last Awareness Week, trying desperately to hide the fact that I was out of control in a relapse), but I think I successfully participated by the end of the year. Y’all have borne witness: now you can’t shut me up!
This year, the theme is “Everybody Knows Somebody”. Well, y’all know me, at least peripherally. (Wow. Another fancy one. Maybe the key to my smarts is in being sleepy . . . I’m gonna pretend it’s from wearing heels all day. Heels make every girl look . . . smarter). But have you ever stopped to think about how many people you might know who are suffering in silence?
Anorexics are generally pretty easy to spot. As WGT puts it, “You’re LITERALLY wearing your pain”. Same goes for binge eating disorder. It’s the ones in the middle that are hardest to recognize. I’ve spent a lot of time in that wasteland of disordered eating. I didn’t even know I had an eating disorder until the weight became an issue. But it’s SO not about the weight.
When behaviors around food get out of control in any way, it’s a problem. Most people don’t recognize eating disorders like orthorexia or exercise addiction because fucked up food and exercise habits have become a societal norm. (Orthorexia is an obsession with healthy eating, and exercise addiction is, well, an addiction to exercise. Duh.) It doesn’t sound like a problem to most people, but when a person becomes so obsessed that they can’t function in real life, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat at a restaurant because you don’t know how the food was prepared, it’s a problem. When you cancel plans with friends because you can’t miss a work out, it’s a problem. When you can’t eat a piece of your own wedding cake because it’s not an “acceptable food,” that’s a problem. When you’re sick or injured and work out anyhow, that’s a problem. And eating disorders are a slippery slope. A “normal” diet can quickly become a dangerous practice.
So keep an eye out. Just because someone doesn’t “look sick” doesn’t mean they’re fine. I don’t know about you, but I can’t see cancer or depression or alcoholism with my naked eye, but I’d never tell someone they weren’t sick because I couldn’t see it. And people with eating disorders are really good at hiding it. It’s amazing how crafty a sick mind can be.
So be aware, spread the word and, as always, be kind to those around you. They may not wear their pain literally, but some of the deepest scars are the ones you can’t see.