When I say it, my voice lowers, almost to a whisper because it’s embarrassing and it’s not something I want to share or talk about. When I finally came to understand and realize what was going on I used to say to myself, “It’s just a problem I have and I’ll have to deal with it for the rest of my life.”
The problem with eating disorders are that they are severely stigmatized which has such a negative impact on people with this mental illness. Most people think that ED’s are just fads, diets or something that only girls and celebrities go through.
Not true at all!
There is just so much misrepresentation in the media these days. No matter what size, shape, gender, class, color or age, anyone can develop an eating disorder. No one chooses to have an ED just like no one chooses to have cancer. ED’s are a mental illness; one that has the highest mortality rate of any other, yet they are under-seen and receive only a fraction of the research and funding that goes to other illnesses and conditions.
Why is that?
Stigma is a sign of disgrace and just suppresses funding and attention to eating disorder research and it gets in the way of receiving proper treatment and prevention efforts.
The biggest problems I’ve seen and experienced myself are people hesitating to seek treatment, feeling shameful and being unable to talk about it because others don’t understand and don’t think it’s serious, and being unable to pay for treatment and thinking that they don’t deserve help in the first place.
What I’ve learned is speaking up about it really helps and who knows who else you might be helping by reaching out and talking about it. Maybe you’re inspiring others to speak up too, maybe you’re seen as a role model to others and to a younger generation! I don’t care what it is, but to know that I have actually helped someone in some way makes me incredibly happy.
Personally, I’ve had two men come up to me after telling my story and tell me that they’ve had an ED. Surprising right? They told me they haven’t told anyone and that I was the only one that knew. Men are too embarrassed to admit that they suffer because of the stigma once again, “it’s a girl’s problem.” Men are less likely to seek help because of this reason! By talking to them, it helped both them and it also helped me. That’s why it’s always a positive thing to speak up. Not something you should feel ashamed of.
Bottom line is that eating disorders are not a lifestyle that you choose for yourself and not something I wish upon anyone. Eating disorders are not glamorous or beautiful. They are not loving, happiness and fun. They are ugly, threatening, isolating and take everything away from you.
We’d never compliment someone if they lost weight from cancer or envy someone with a disease, would we? We also wouldn’t blame them for what they’re going through. We’d do the opposite and show them love, concern and compassion.
I hope that we can approach eating disorders with the same kindness and care. Instead of feeding into the stigma, I hope we can all be aware of how we talk about this disorder and educate ourselves and others so that we don’t contribute to the isolation and pain that the stigma brings. If you do have an eating disorder, be the real you and be strong! Share your story and experiences with others. This puts a face on ED’s and reduces the guilt, shame and embarrassment. Show ED whose boss!
“She believed she could, so she did.”
About the author:
Bryna Moreau is a former patient of Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, MA, an organization providing treatment for eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. She is currently in her first year of recovery and is focused on bringing awareness to the public about this stigmatized mental illness. In her free time, Bryna enjoys traveling, skiing and being outdoors.