Congrats ED community, tomorrow is the first World Eating Disorder Action Day! The goal is to increase eating disorder awareness, eliminate myths, and evoke policy change. In spirit of World ED Action Day, I have decided to take my own form of action…by finally sharing my story with friends and family on Facebook.
Opening up (to what feels like the whole world) is extremely difficult, but equally as important. So for the friends and family who are reading this: yes I know you told me so, your rumors and thoughts were correct. I am finally ready to openly admit I had an eating disorder, and am still in recovery. I am neither proud nor embarrassed. I am who I am and I happen to have a mental illness. All I ask is that you don’t judge me before doing your research and reading more of my blogs to get the full story.
I appreciate those family members and friends who tried to reach out to me, and I am sorry for being too stubborn to admit I had a problem. Denial is a powerful force (just read my previous blog about it). I realize now how much my eating disorder affected my family and relationships. That is why I decided to ask my sister, mother, father, and grandmother to write a letter to me detailing their experience during this time.
Here is the letter from my younger sister: (the other letters will come in time)
There’s nothing harder than watching the woman you looked up to for 15 years begin to wither away before your very eyes. Especially when the problem is so easily fixable, and yet you can do nothing to help. I mean, I couldn’t force you to eat and I couldn’t stop you from exercising. I could only watch as you turned away every burger, every chicken leg, every bowl of ice cream, even a single cookie. You were practically just skin on bones. Everyone who saw you would mention how skinny you were. There were times when I could see your rib cage through your chest. For two years I looked away. I pretended there was nothing wrong with you. Acted oblivious to the illness that was ravaging your mind and destroying your body. But I couldn’t ignore the anger I would feel when I would mention wanting to eat healthier and exercise and be told, “You sound just like Ashley” or “You don’t need to, don’t be like Ashley.” Eventually, the family stopped trying to adjust to your new lifestyle, and started trying to help you get better instead. And relationships got pretty tense. You were really stubborn; you ignored comments about your weight, you refused to eat food offered to you, and you would argue with anyone who tried to explain to you that you’re really sick and that you needed to quit this “healthy lifestyle” because it wasn’t healthy at all. You may have found them annoying in these moments, but they were only trying to help you and keep you alive. I started getting extremely nervous when you mentioned you were missing school a lot to take trips to the doctor and the hospital. I hope they told you being under 90 lbs wasn’t healthy for you. I hope they told you that you were exercising too much and not getting enough calories. I don’t know why you had an epiphany or what caused it, but thank God you did, because I don’t know how much longer you would have lasted living like that. I’m glad you finally acknowledged that you had a serious illness, and took steps to overcome it. You turned your life around. You didn’t just survive your anorexia, you beat it.
Love, your little sister,
The letter was extremely difficult to read, but it is also powerful and motivational. Being 7 years older than my sister and 11 years older than my brother, I was always the second parent and mediator of all situations. (Especially during and after my parents’ divorce.) I wanted nothing more than to be the best role model for them. I was the quintessential “oldest child”…with a type-A, perfectionist personality. Never would I have thought, that my younger sister would actually become a role model for myself.
I encourage you all to take action in your own way. You can also sign the pledge against eating disorders on http://worldeatingdisordersday.org