They Will Never Understand

Since it is now 2014, I am coming closer to celebrating the 4th anniversary of my diagnosis and the start of my recovery. I have now spent almost 4 years learning about myself, my disorders, and what it means to be healthy. I have learned a lot. I have learned that when I’m stressed/anxious I suddenly become lactose intolerant. I have learned a fair amount about the human body, how it functions, how to destroy it, and how to get it to optimum functioning capacity. I have learned what works for me in terms of nutrition and exercise. I have learned how my emotions are not always under my control, and just how much that frustrates me.

I have also learned that no matter who they are and how invested they are in your recovery, they will never understand what it is like to have depression and an eating disorder. They will never understand what it is like to live with that everyday. No matter how long they’ve been with you; no matter how educated they are on eating disorders and depression, they will never understand because they don’t have to feel that stuff working away in their heads as you do. My husband has been a huge support, but after almost 4 years I can feel that support starting to slip away. Because that’s just what we’re taught. People get sick and then they get better, but the thing is, with what I have I’ll never get better. I’m going to be “sick” for the rest of my life, and I’m having a hard enough time making peace with that myself. He helped me out through so much in the beginning. He’d help me eat, no matter how many hours it took to get through one snack or meal. He’d listen when I talked about it and try to help me through it. But it’s been almost 4 years now and our lives have started to move on. We’re not in the “help Aja recover” phase of our lives anymore, because you can’t devote that much time of your life to help someone recover from something no matter who you are. I know. After spending every day in the hospital for a month with my mom I just couldn’t keep doing it. I couldn’t listen to her complain about the hospital staff or how weak she feels or her arm which suddenly looks like raw meat because of an allergic reaction to a drug. I couldn’t keep going there. I swear the hospital staff knew me by the end of all that. They stopped looking at me wondering if they could help. They knew I knew where I was going and what I needed I’d been there long enough.

My mom never tried to understand why I didn’t want to eat, or why I cried myself to sleep every night for years. My husband, then boyfriend, tried as best as he could to help me, and he still does, but there isn’t much room in his life anymore for my disorder. I love my husband, and I am so grateful to him for all the help he’s given me and continues to give me, but I know. I know. At some point you can’t deal with it anymore and you just have to move on. At some point everyone will move on, which is sad and it sucks, but it’s life. At some point they will move on and while you’re still struggling they will look at you and wonder why the fuck you can’t just get over it already. It’s been X amount of time, you’d think they’d be better by now!

They will never be able to understand the pain that you feel. How looking in the mirror can make you cry because you can’t see who you really are. You can’t see what you really look like no matter how hard you try, and you know you’ve been trying your damn hardest, because your ED is just wired into your brain. That’s how you think. That’s how you see. And you hate it, but it’s still there. You’re fighting against your own brain, and when it wins instead of you, jeez, what a failure you feel like! How can you not be strong enough to get over this? Why can’t you just be normal and eat, you wonder. Why can’t that sunny world outside seem happy to you instead of scary? Why can’t your eyes just show you what you look like instead of the fat person you think you see, even when you have a BMI of 10?

When I started this blog I was a few weeks into my recovery. I’d started it for my writing, but it quickly became a kind of diary to write down my experiences while in recovery because I’d found blogs by other people with EDs and they were just so helpful. When everyone was telling me that I was “sick” and that I wasn’t normal, and while my mind was spiraling and screaming at me “why can’t you just fucking be normal?” I found their blogs and it was such a relief to find someone else who’d lived it. It was such a relief to find someone else who knew what I was feeling. Who would never look at me and wonder why the fuck I couldn’t just “get better” because they’d been there, and probably still are there, and they know. There is no “better”. We can learn to manage our disorders but they can never go away. And all those “normal” people out there, they will never understand this because they see themselves when they look in the mirror and not a monster.

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12 thoughts on “They Will Never Understand

  1. I definitely agree with most of what you wrote, with the exception of the thought that eating disorders never go away. No, it’s not easy, and it’s an uphill battle for a long time. There is life beyond this, though. I believe that. It’s what keeps me going, the motivation to keep fighting. There is life, 100% free of eating disorders. I personally know many, many women who recovered with a period at the end. They are strong, incredible women, who are so free from their eating disorders that I didn’t even know they had one until the told me. I believe in recovered, period. It will not come easily. You have fight hard. You have to 100% want it, no looking back. But it’s there. It’s absolutely there.

    • I didn’t mean to say that you never stop struggling with it. I believe you can be 100% free of an eating disorder in its behavior once you’ve retrained yourself to react and cope with things the way “normal” people do. But the reason you got your ED will always be there. The DNA mutation or chemical imbalances or whatever (studies are still revealing the case). I’ve been recovering for almost 4 years and I hardly even recognize how I acted back when I was deep into my disorder.

  2. Jennifer says:

    From my experience, there must be an internal motivation to recover that surpasses the desire to restrict food. I know – many motivations will not stop you from restricting. For me, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was just going to the motions and trying to recover for several years with little success. No amount of statistics or therapy sessions could scare me into recovering. Then, I had a turning point: it was realization that my eating disorder was causing my parents immense pain (way more than I had initially thought). Even though she never gave up on me, my mom was literally GRIEVING for her child. I entered a state of shock when the light bulb went off in my head. I also understood that it was not my fault and that my family was fully supporting me to say goodbye to my “friend”. Previously, I was so engulfed in my eating disorder that I neglected to notice these things. I got angry at the eating disorder for ruining my life and like my doctor once described it, I “pulled myself out of it”. My doctor was the one that set the gears in motion with her belief in my recovery. From that point on, I separated myself from the eating disorder and we were no longer one entity, but “friends” who could no longer see each other. This was key because the separation step allows you to, even momentarily, view your own identity and see yourself without the eating disorder. Your eating disorder does not define you as a person. Later on, when I got an urge to restrict, I would kindly tell my eating disorder to leave me alone because I need to get better and I know what’s best for me. All urges do pass if you allow them to. My own voice got louder and began to drown out my “friend” who was simply not serving me anymore. In short, I defied my own odds and am now fully recovered. You have to ignore your own twisted logic and see yourself on the other side. This was very difficult at first but became much easier when my starved brain started to get nutrients. IT IS POSSIBLE.

    • I completely agree that it is possible. I guess I mean that when I say I’ll always be sick I mean that I’m always going to have whatever imbalances and weird DNA mutations I have that caused my ED but I will one day be able to live without having any of that consciously affect me.

      • Jennifer says:

        True. It will always be a part of you in the sense that it’s a part of your past. My hair will never be the same and I will never look at my body or food the same way. However, my horrible shame for the eating disorder has disintegrated and now I can’t imagine NOT getting my eating disorder since it has made me a more grateful, loving person who knows what she is capable of. Most importantly, the immense amount of personal growth and self-reflection I have gone through has made it all worth it, in the best way possible. Best of luck to you 🙂

  3. This post is so right, I had to email it to my partner. It summarises those feelings, the continual nature of the illness and the associated guilt/frustration spiral so perfectly. Thankyou for writing it, I’m sorry you had to live it to do so 🙂

    • I am glad that you enjoyed it. At the risk of sounding full of myself, I am not too bothered by the fact that I had to live through it to write something that could be useful to others.

  4. I think one of the hardest things about ED recovery is realizing that people in our lives will move on, because we’re so used to illnesses being completely treatable. Once we start to look and act more healthy, it’ll stop being the center of attention, no matter how much we might still be struggling on the inside. I think it always comes as a shock to my mom when I bring up the idea that I still struggle sometimes with my body image and eating, because she thinks that I “got over it”. Even if we’re doing better, a part of the disorder will always be there. And the fact that people don’t understand drives me crazy, but it’s understandable to an extent. You can’t really get inside the head of someone with a mental illness unless you’ve been there yourself, so it makes sense that family and friends won’t understand some of what we do or think. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish they could though, because it’s hard feeling like I’m totally crazy and misunderstood. That’s the good thing about blogging though–I love the community of people who get it.

    • The blogging community has done so much for me. The internet community in general. Especially when I was just starting I was so grateful for all these people on the world wide web putting up blogs and v-logs and forums.

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