When I first started showing symptoms of anorexia and collapsed at school, the head of pastoral support asked if I had been eating enough. I was in the early stages of anorexia and everything in me wanted to say “No, please help me, I don’t think I’m in control anymore. It started as a diet.” But instead I lied, because anorexia convinced me that I was not yet sick and that I didn’t need or deserve help. When I was almost hospitalised, anorexia still told me I was not sick enough to deserve help.
Your eating disorder is a liar. You deserve help at the earliest possible point. There are no exceptions to this. Whether you suffer from bulimia, binge eating disorder, anorexia or OSFED, early intervention is crucial in the treatment of, and full recovery from, an eating disorder.
If you were diagnosed with cancer, you wouldn’t wait until it was terminal in order to start treatment. The situation is no different with mental health – mental health issues are just as life-threatening and just as valid. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. You are sick no matter whether you feel you are or not.
Studies have found that early intervention reduces the chance of relapse by 50%, as well as minimising the physical risks of eating disorders, so why wait? Early intervention can save lives, and as scary as it is to defy the voice of your eating disorder and seek help, it is worth it. Your illness is valid no matter what you weigh or how much you eat.
If you notice a change in yourself or anyone around you, speak up. It can be hard to notice yourself slipping into an eating disorder, but if your weight and food are becoming the most important things in your life, then speak to somebody you trust, begin the process of getting support. And if you notice that someone you love, be it a friend, daughter, son, or parent, is becoming preoccupied with their body and dieting, speak to them. Help them to get the help they deserve.
You will never be sick enough for your eating disorder because there is no sick enough. If you are sick, that is enough. Get help early and reduce the amount of your life that is taken from you by a disease that it is entirely possible to recover from with the right support. It is hard, but it is the most worthwhile thing you will ever do.