I don’t like hearing blanket generalisations about eating disorders.
The sorts of generalisations that, on the surface, appear to reduce stigma but when you really look at them, only continue to perpetuate dangerous myths.
- “Once you recover, you’ll never think about it again!”
- “Everyone recovers, it’ll be okay!”
- “You just have to believe that you recover and you will!”
They’re designed to be comforting and provide hope when people are in a position of utter hopelessness – I get it. I’ve been there, many times, and I know how important comfort and positive motivation is.
But unfortunately, statements like the above can be more harmful than positive.
#1. Because once you recover, you’ll probably still think about it from time to time.
Like many sufferers, you may relapse. That doesn’t invalidate your successes, and we shouldn’t define “victory” by never thinking about your disorder ever, ever again.
For a large portion of ED warriors such as myself, external variables (such as media saturation of unrealistic ideals and toxic weight culture around you) are merely the catalyst that sets off a risk that has always been lurking in your brain. Neuroscience is, right now, working to identify the genetic markers that place an individual at greater risk for an ED and it’s been repeatedly found that even years after recovery, certain “markers” still lie in the brain in relation to the way the brain processes hunger hormones and related emotional signals.
This doesn’t lessen recovery efforts nor does it make a full recovery any less full – but it does mean that even with a FULL recovery… even if you rarely think about food or weight or body image, you still need to be well-equipped with the tools and strategies to manage the effects of a relapse in case it does happen. It can be a part of your past, but for a lot of people, part of it will always exist in your brain – it’s about accepting that and learning to find empowerment in knowing that you are stronger, and you can fight it if those thoughts come back again.End the silence around eating disorders Click To Tweet
#2. Because sadly, not everyone does recover.
Some spend decades in a back and forth cycle between suffering and recovery. It’s a depressing fact, but we need to be aware of it and we need to talk about it. Pretending that everyone recovers and that everyone will be fine only encourages the stigma and silence to be further perpetuated, and puts more sufferers at risk because in believing that everyone recovers no matter what, less sufferers are inclined to seek medical help. In a disease that thrives on secrecy, encouraging further silence can be deadly.Recovery is possible, but not easy Click To Tweet
#3. Because believing that you will recover is important – but it’s not enough.
You have to fight. You have to choose recovery, every single day. There will be days where you want to give up and days where you do give up. You need to equip yourself with the tools and resources to mentally prepare yourself to go into war, because that’s what you’re doing – you’re battling. It’s not easy, and just because it’s not easy doesn’t mean that you’ll fail. But it does mean that you need to be prepared because either you end the ED, or it might end you.Recovery is a battle that requires preparation to win Click To Tweet
When we’re talking about mental illnesses, silence is deadly.
Eating disorders are deadly.
Comfort is important, but empowerment and proper knowledge is even more crucial.
It takes a lot more than some nice words to help bring someone out of an ED.