February 26th through March 4th. National Eating Disorders Week. A little known week of awareness I’m sure, but one I could not let pass by without some acknowledgment.
20 million women and 10 million men of all ages suffer from an eating disorder. Eating disorders do not discriminate, and every 62 minutes, at least one person dies as a direct result from an eating disorder. As a result, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Why do I bring this up? Why do I care so much? Because I am an eating disorder survivor, but, like any addiction, every day is a step in recovery. And I’ll be the first to admit, every day is NOT perfect. Some days I take steps back and fall into the trap of my eating disorder, succumbing to the voice of negativity that exists in my head. Some days, I lose power to the sickness. An eating disorder is an especially tough addiction because you can’t go cold turkey. You cannot cut the trigger, food, out of your life. Well, you can, but that’s what makes this illness so deadly…
To the outside eye, I look every bit as normal as anyone else. I am not gaunt and weak. I maintain a full-time job. I pay my bills. I socialize on the weekends with friends and family. But on the inside, I work really hard every.single.day. to make choices to not let my eating disorder win. And, honestly, it’s really flipping hard and really flipping exhausting. But, it is worth it. I am worth it. I am worth the fight, and so are YOU.
Eating disorders, and addictions in general, hide, and that’s often what makes them so difficult. They are not easy to talk about candidly. They are taboo. Many people see an eating disorder as an act of vanity, a choice a person makes because they want to look a certain way. While some choices early on brought me to this journey, I would never choose to continue on this path. That, I believe, is a common misunderstanding. There’s a physiological and psychological wiring inside of me, and any person with an eating disorder or addiction, that makes it feel impossible to stray from this path. It is more than a choice.
What is a choice, though, is working towards recovery. Medication, regular therapy, journaling, self-care, exercise, family and friends, all of these things take work and effort, but they also make recovery possible.
I hope, that by sharing my story, I am putting a human face to eating disorders. They come with so much shame and hopelessness, but the reality is, we all likely know someone who has been affected by one. Someone who is hiding behind this thinly veiled mask, wishing they could come clean about their personal battle. And if that someone is you, you are never alone. If you don’t think you have anyone in your life to talk to about this, talk to me. I’ve been walking this path for 11 years, and will for the rest of my life. It is a badge, perhaps not of honor, but one that I wear proudly.
I am Katherine. I am a college graduate. I am a Financial Analyst. I am a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I am an avid Tar Heel and Panther fan. I am an Instagram fanatic. I am a volunteer. I love Trader Joe’s. I believe walking is a sport. I am so many things, and I wear so many hats.
I am Katherine, and I have an eating disorder. And every day that I am lucky enough to wake up and experience the world once more, I am working to not let my eating disorder overtake me. I am nowhere near perfect in this, but as long as I live, I will try.