Sunday, January 25, 2009

i'm mrs. "she's too big, now she's too thin."

I've been telling people I don't want to do my H&I speech until I'm more - how did I word it before - "visually appropriate?" In speaking with my MEDA "advisor" about this a while ago, she told me (per usual) I'm being too hard on myself and to just do it. I'd be worried about the fact that I've heard of speakers getting ripped apart for telling their story of being recovered and not "looking" recovered. I want to be taken seriously. She told me, "Maybe write that into your story."

She makes a good point. I think too much emphasis is put on physique when it comes to recovery. I think the point is being missed and it needs to be addressed. I'm skinny. I'm just a tiny person - always have been, always will be. Am I underweight? Yes. Is anyone worried about it? For the first time in my life, no. Weight is merely just an unfortunate side effect (sometimes, yes, a symptom) of an eating disorder. None of my doctors or family members or friends (as far as I know) are worried about my weight any longer because, mentally, I am very healthy. That's what counts for recovery.

It seems strange that I should be afraid to tell my story because I don't "look" fully recovered. What's even more strange is that I felt like I wasn't sick and didn't need to be in treatment because I didn't "look" sick (enough). A lot of people in treatment aren't too thin. Some are "normal" or average weights, some are overweight. Sickness is not necessarily determined by the way you look, and health shouldn't be either. Of course, it plays its part. You cannot be emaciated and healthy, you cannot be morbidly obese and healthy. But you also never know the circumstances of someone's weight. I think it is just a ridiculous way to live, feeling like my level of recovery is constantly being judged by how I look.. and not by doctors or family and friends, but solely by friends that I've been in treatment with or people looking to me as someone who can prove that full recovery is possible. It's frustrating and really not worth my time.

I am actively working on restoring my weight. It takes a very long time and is difficult after what my body has adjusted to, but that doesn't mean I should put off a great opportunity because (as I've been told from experience) it could take me another year or so to get to where I need to physically be. I'm not going to let someone else's judgement (who does not know me medically or personally) lead me to waste valuable time that could be spent doing something that means a lot to me.


saa said...

Great post! No, you should not pass up this opportunity...the appearance thing can indeed be so frustrating and everything you said about not judging health based on appearance is so true... I wish more people knew that. I am glad you decided to go ahead with your presentation, I know it will be fantastic and that everyone will benefit from the things you have to say:)

Robbi said...

Isn't knowledge delicious?! The more you learn the more you want to learn and it feels so good. It’s like a rose bud and each day that rose opens more and more and there's no stopping it! The rose is still a rose but it's more beautiful each day it blossoms because it becomes a beautiful flower. That's what you remind me of. What an inspirational post for us all. xox

Sarah said...

I agree. I think it is cool that you want to make it as part of your presentation because that shows the ongoing nature of the recovery process. I would also suggest you wear clothing that does not emphasize your thinness, just so your appearance does not pose a distraction or a stumbling block to anyone. I'm so glad you are going out and speaking publicly. It shows a lot of bravery.

Gwen Jackson said...

I can so relate to this post. When I was at my sickest, I felt I didn't deserve treatment, or that people wouldn't believe I was sick, because I wasn't thin enough. Looking back at pictures of me at the time, I really, really was. My illness didn't allow me to see the truth. But you are so right when you say that weight is not always indicative of a person's health or whether or not they are suffering from an eating disorder. I always thought it was a curious a mental illness had a physical criteria. Even when I started to put weight on in recovery and looked "normal", I was still very, very anorexic. Because my mental I just wasn't there yet, even though physically I was. It was like my mind hadn't caught up with my body. Thank you very much for writing this post. Thank you for being brave enough to talk candidly about eating disorders. As a fellow sufferer, I know how hard it can be to talk about that. I wish you all the best as you progress in your recovery!

lucky said...

Don't pass up the opportunity! I know how to feel about not "looking" recovered... people don't get that we all come in different shapes and sizes, ED or not. Like you, I've always been small, no matter how much I eat. But you could really do some good emphasizing that weight is just one aspect of an ED, and there are so many others parts of our lives effected by EDs.

Life Works said...

Thanks for your article. Struggling with an eating disorder can cause profound isolation, fear and hopelessness. Because this illness thrives in secret, people with anorexia, bulimia and compulsive overeating hide their behaviours from those closest to them, hoping that no one will notice whilst hoping that someone will.
In order to begin the process of recovery, secrecy must give way to self awareness and honesty, and this can only happen in a safe, structured and caring environment.

I would also like to suggest a website with lots more information about eating disorders as well as addictions .

Life Works Community Blog also gives a source of information and inspiration from some of the leading counselors at Life Works. Topics include: alcohol addiction and drug addiction, eating disorders ( anorexia, bulimia , and compulsive overeating ), depression and anxiety disorders , and compulsive disorders ( sex addiction , love addiction , gambling addiction , and codependency ).