Dear me, the girl with the laughing face. Hard times are coming. You’re going to hate your body, detest the very skin you reside in, yet obsess over it, every inch of skin. You’re going to restrict and induce. You’re going to rip yourself to breaking point, your family too.
Dear me, you’re going to feel frightened, lonely, yet claustrophobic at the same time (your parents will watch your every mouthful), determined, some days to get better, others to achieve the perfect figure. You’re going to be exhausted physically (from the exercise) and mentally (the lies about what you’ve eaten are draining).
Dear me, the doctor says you need help. I know you know that deep down because you went to see them, but it will take you a while to realise how ill you really are – years, in fact. Hindsight is a beautiful thing.
Dear me, you’re on the waiting list for treatment. Stay strong – help is coming, but help yourself the best you can. Treatment is hard – you think everything they say is not true. But I promise you they are not lying to you, they do want to help you and no, they’re not trying to make you fat, only healthy. Please stop trying to fool the scales and the psychologists; you’re only fooling yourself. They see straight through your tricks and lies. Carry on – put one foot in front of the other. I promise you you’re getting there.
Dear me, the number on the scale says you’re better now, but your mind is not so sure. Those habits and obsessions – you’re going to have to keep them in check. You’re going to have to face your fears – eating out – and plan your food.
Dear me, you’re doing so well and…
Dear me, it’s ok to have a wobble; it’s a wobbly world and you’ve got this, just like last time but better equipped because you understand what is happening and why and you know how to stop it. You’re strong. I believe in you.
Dear me, you did it!
Dear me, I wish you could love yourself for who you are. I wish you could look in the mirror without finding fault, eat without feeling guilty. Because you are so beautiful, inside and outside, but more than anything you are strong. You made yourself better. No one else could have done that for you – it had to come from yourself.
Dear me, you’re going to be okay, but… please know that some of the thoughts and feelings you experienced won’t 100% disappear. Some EDNOS exists in you still, and when your self-esteem plummets, EDNOS will seep through the cracks, so here is my advice to you:
Never be ashamed of your EDNOS. In many ways, it has shaped you: it has pushed you into a career of mental health, sculpted you into a feminist and formed you into an advocate for others with similar experiences to you.
Use your experience to empathise with others, but never assume you understand how someone feels; you didn’t appreciate hearing that when you were unwell. Instead, be there and be constant.
The moment anyone makes you (or tries to make you) feel self-conscious about your body (on purpose), they are unworthy of your time or love.
There is no miracle cure. There is hard work, understanding, insight, and regaining a thirst for life. And you will have that thirst for life. I promise you it will come back. You’re determined; it’s one of your biggest flaws but it will be your strength. Use your obstinance, use your thirst for life, use your voice that you were blessed with to help others – speak about it, write about it. Just never be ashamed of it. You recovered, you were strong, you turned it around, and that is something to be proud of.
Use what you learnt, what tools you were given. Use your coping skills and your contingency plans if your early warning signs begin. Make your food diaries and remind yourself about nutrition. Rally your friends and family to be on the lookout and to support you.
Don’t weigh yourself if you don’t feel good after (you won’t). Scales and numbers will never show the fullness in your heart and life.
Be sensible with exercise (you’ll learn to love it in a healthy way).
Learn to love food again. It’s not your enemy.
Most importantly, love and respect yourself.
Dear me, you’re going to be okay. I know, I’m you, years down the line, and I’m thriving.
Love, you (the person I am because of EDNOS).
Disclaimer: the advice given is personal advice to myself and might not be suitable advice for other people to follow.
Note from Beat: The diagnosis of EDNOS ("eating disorder not otherwise specified") has become increasingly rare in recent years. It's more common nowadays to hear the term OSFED ("other specified feeding or eating disorder"), although this is not a direct replacement. You can find out more about these changes here.
I’ve worked tirelessly in day care, private therapy and on my own to get as “recovered” as I can possibly be. I wasn’t content with surviving with an eating disorder. To me the mental torture and confines are the worst part, so a healthy body without a quality of life was not enough.
When I was about 13, I stopped eating for a bit, just to see how it felt, what it would do. Prior to this, I don't think I had been even vaguely concerned about my weight and, to be honest, I don't know what it was that triggered it.
After looking back on the years of my life that were taken due to my eating disorder, I realise how much I now love my life and want to keep recovering every day.