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Talking about eating disorders: ednos

‘Silly women’s problem.’ Commented some middle aged man.  Anorexia has the highest fatality rate of any mental illness. One third of all eating disorders go undiagnosed.  10 million women in the US alone will suffer with an eating disorder.

Is this silly to you?

This week is eating disorders awareness week. While the conversation surrounding mental health is opening up more and more, eating disorders seem to be getting left behind.  By sharing a small portion of my story I want to raise eating disorder awareness. I don’t ever want to see the words ‘silly women’s problem again.’

When we think of eating disorders we usually think of anorexia and bulimia, but there are a whole other realm of eating disorders we never talk about. One of these includes EDNOS (Eating Disorder not Otherwise Specified.) this means that while someone may have multiple symptoms of an eating disorder, they do not fit comfortably into the anorexia or bulimia category.

For a lot of those, this means we have eating disorders but we don’t fit into the ‘underweight’ category. Unfortunately, one can’t be treated by a doctor for an eating disorder unless they fit into that category. EDNOS is thought to make up for about 50% of all diagnoses of eating disorders.

For me, it was the summer after third year everything seemed to go downhill. I remember sitting in the car on a hot sweaty day and looking at every woman that walked by, I assessed which ones were skinnier than me and which ones were bigger than me. I knew it was toxic behaviour but I felt it was the truth. It was a confession I had to face up to, I couldn’t live with the lie anymore. The lie that I was good enough as I was. I needed to face up, reach a turning point, and cop on.
I needed to lose weight.

That summer I decided to restrict calories. I started to gawk at images of emaciated girls on twitter and Tumblr. I wanted so badly to be like them. Then people would like me, I would have more friends, boys would find me attractive.  I would feel great.

Little did I know, I was slowly beginning to detest every inch of myself. Every time I looked in the mirror my hips were too wide, my stomach protruded.  I looked like a normal healthy girl from the outside but my mind was slowly rotting away. This is the thing about EDNOS, the worst of it is going on inside your own head whilst still remaining in a healthy weight range

Self-induced vomiting became a regular part of my life. Feeling completely weighed down and broken, I was psychologically and physically exhausted.

My life revolved around calories. I was given a fiver every morning before school to buy lunch. I bought diet coke and chewing gum and the change from the fiver began to manifest into a handy makeup fund. I couldn’t buy clothes, I would get too upset by the number on the label. At school, people noticed I didn’t eat lunch. When my classmates asked why, I said it was ‘too early’ an utterly lame excuse. A girl I was friends with at the time answered on my behalf ‘she’s anorexic.’ And that was the end of that.

You can have an eating disorder and still be a ‘healthy weight.’ Eating disorders are a mental illness like any other.  It is much more complex than having a strict diet or simply being very slim. Women are 10 times more likely to develop an eating disorder than men are however, this doesn’t mean it’s a silly problem. If we’re going to open up and talk about taking care of our mental health, eating disorders need to be included in the conversation.