March 31, 2021, noon
When did being sad, or carrying a diagnosis of an illness that has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder become something to strive for? When did comparing one eating disorder to another become a trend, based on a number on the scale or whether or not we’ve been hospitalized? When did we turn to social media as a means for finding validation that we are “sick enough”? When did misery become glamorous, and pain beautiful? When?
I remember being told that my story, my fourteen-year battle with anorexia, could inspire so many other individuals going through something similar; that my story could really “capture the attention of others” because there is something so beautiful about tragedy. There is nothing “tragically beautiful” about an eating disorder. Tragic? Yes. But beautiful? No. What’s tragic, is that we’ve come to think that pain is beautiful.
If I had to summarize my experience with an eating disorder, I would say that it was like I was a marionette, being manipulated by my anorexia. I truly believe there is something very healing about hearing another person’s story. Though we may not relate to every little detail, as everyone’s experience with an eating disorder is unique, the takeaway can lift some of the heaviness we carry when we’re feeling so lost and alone. So, in hopes of reaching even just one person, I will share my story - a story that is still unfinished - in the raw. My battle with anorexia was agonizing, torturous, and at times, unbearable. But something to remember is that there is always hope. We can turn the “impossible” into “I’m possible” and find freedom from our eating disorders.
For me, an eating disorder is waking up before sunrise, exhausted from the tossing and turning that has replaced my sleep. It’s getting undressed, shivering, while carefully and reluctantly stepping on the scale, knowing that this is the moment that will dictate how I feel and what my plans are for the day. It’s spending hours in front of the mirror, poking and prodding at every bit of flesh, with tears streaming down my face. It’s wanting to convince myself that I am worthy, that I am enough. But it’s nothing ever being good enough. It’s going to bed crying, every night, wishing I wouldn’t wake up in the morning because I can’t endure another day of torture at the hands of my own mind. It’s being afraid of the one thing essential for survival - food.
To me, an eating disorder is wanting to be better, but not having the energy to fight its wrath. It’s choosing to spend Christmas alone, instead of with my family, all to avoid that one holiday meal. It’s isolating myself from my friends when there is the slightest possibility of food being involved. It’s not being able to go on a date without my eating disorder being a third wheel. It’s losing who I am because my eating disorder has convinced me that without it I am nothing. It’s wanting to shrink myself with the belief that the less space I take up, the more value I add to the world. It’s an indescribable kind of fear and terror. It’s an unbearable kind of torture.
When it’s dinner time, picking up the fork becomes the switch that turns my breathing shallow and my heartbeat fast. Trying to take that first bite of whatever is on my plate feels like I am about to jump out of an airplane, convinced my parachute will malfunction. And once I finally manage to swallow that first bite, I want to throw the rest of my food at the wall. It’s wanting to run away, telling myself I am never eating again. It’s hiding in my bathroom, crying on the floor. It’s struggling to find the strength and the willpower to reach out for help. It’s the fear of not being taken seriously unless I am severely underweight or when my periods stop or when my heart is beating dangerously low. It’s being told that I have to figure out how to keep myself alive and reasonably stable for the next six months because access to treatment programs is so limited. It’s those six months feeling like a lifetime because I am just barely surviving. Every day is the same. I am depressed. I am exhausted. I am dizzy. I am weak. I’m resisting every effort to follow my meal plan because I’m afraid that if I let myself take even one small step towards recovery, then I won’t be “sick enough” for treatment. It’s that constant fear that keeps me in this cycle. One foot in recovery, one foot out. It’s feeling afraid. It’s feeling alone. It’s feeling unworthy.
There is nothing beautiful or “glamorous” in the agony, the torture, and the misery that an eating disorder carries with it.
Something that I have found to be so crucial in healing is being able to recognize and acknowledge my own pain and use that as my foundation for recovery. While I don’t believe my experience with an eating disorder is “tragically beautiful”, I do believe it’s possible to
turn a tragedy into something beautiful. A journey from thorns to roses. But it’s a journey without an end because I am still becoming.
My name is Lauren Bertrand. I am currently living in London, Ontario. Aside from writing, I love fashion and styling, skateboarding and snowboarding. My happy place is being outdoors, whether that’s sitting in a park in the grass, reading a good book, or wandering to new places and looking for the perfect spot to watch the sun set. I also love finding new cafés, in search of the best coffee, and meeting lovely people along the way!
If you want to follow along my journey, you can find me on Instagram: @lauren.cove
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