“You Made Yourself this Way”: An Eating Disorder is Never a Choice
Developing an eating disorder is never an active choice.
No individual would willingly put themselves through the torture of this type of mental illness, knowing beforehand the toll that it takes on your mind, body, relationships and countless other factors.
There is a common misconception that because an individual with an eating disorder is the person who is, essentially, harming themselves and actively performing destructive behaviours, that they are being “spiteful”. That they are purposefully ignoring any offered help and interventions because they are “selfish”. They want to harm those that care about them as they “do not care” back. Even that the person struggling is going through the awful process in order to gain attention.
This could not be further from the truth.
For myself certainly, a large component of my prolonged anorexia nervosa is the concept of control. Restricting behaviours, exercising, checking and monitoring were, and potentially still are, numerical data that I could or can “control”. Yet these are behaviours that very quickly took over my existence. They were very quickly very far from in my control; they consumed me day after day, my head screaming venom at me. Spilling out into my mind as I wept on the cold, wooden floor in my bedroom. There was no stopping the repetitive cycle. There was no undoing the things that I had learned and developed: my core beliefs, my disordered thought pattern.
I know that I definitely did not choose my eating disorder; it crept up, insidious and poisonous, infecting me from the inside out.
The initial, niggling and distant thoughts of safety behaviours quickly became compulsive tasks that I had to perform no matter what.
Oftentimes, my mind races in the dark as I stare emptily at the ceiling:
“I must have made myself that way.”
What other explanation is there?
That was a very common thought throughout my recovery process, especially towards the beginning. There was no denying that it was indeed me performing those behaviours and endless rituals, throughout the day and into the night. Those that interrupted my sleep and exhausted me more and more as I fell deeper into the very thing that was destroying me. My parents certainly seemed to believe that it was my choice, proving my thoughts and confirming some of my darkest fears.
Yet an eating disorder is a shapeless, multi-faceted figure. It looks like your worst personal nightmare amplified. At first, it is a beautiful outlet; a safety net you weren’t sure you needed. But this façade is soon ripped away and you are stumbling, alone, unable to stop.
This post is here, from someone who first began to struggle with anorexia at the age of 12. Someone who is now 19, studying Applied Psychology at university and who is well on her way to becoming a professional to mirror those that saved her life.
I’m here reaching out a hand.
Darling, this was not your choice.
The illness you find yourself enveloped in was not caused by something in your control, nor did it happen because of something that you did “wrong”.
I will preach this message throughout my life as it is something vitally important to understand, as difficult as it can be for those that love you, or even in yourself when you have a bully inside of you.
For now, keep fighting. Keep breathing.
You will get through this, you will break free from this: that which you do not deserve at all. It is such a difficult journey, I know, but after seven years I am on top. Each journey is different, each story so unique. There is no set time-frame in which to recover. No right way to heal. You will get there.