Disclosing Eating Disorders

Most mainstream eating disorder films offer stereotypical representations of people with eating disorders. It’s important for our storytellers to start offering honest and responsible portrayals of eating disorders that speak to a wider spectrum of people.
I have a slew of insights about understanding eating disorders for family and friends, but I often don't have the language to communicate it all. I suspect that I'm not alone in this predicament. My hunch is most people with disordered eating issues struggle to attach words to their experience. Because eating disorders are complex illnesses that oppress the body, mind and spirit, they are painful to discuss. And their secretive, withdrawn nature can make people on the outside feel confused, wounded or even angered. They might perceive the eating disorder sufferer's actions as callous, apathetic, disingenuous and selfish. But while eating disorders do perpetuate this kind of behavior, it's not indicative of the person's true character. Underneath that hard, stony facade is someone desperate to feel accepted and validated. So I need understanding--understanding about eating disorders from family and friends—and if you can relate, I encourage you to use these talking points with your loved ones too.  
Talking about your eating disorder recovery story and your struggles with an eating disorder can feel intimidating, exposing, or overwhelming. But when you reach a stable, consistent place in eating disorder recovery, that inner nudge to share your eating disorder recovery story is often disarming, healing and empowering—both for yourself and others.
There are reasons your therapist will break confidentiality. For some of us, this may come as a surprise because we've learned to trust our therapist. We see our therapist as Pandora’s box, where we think that they will never share anything that we tell them. However, a licensed therapist is bound by law to share a few things. Here’s what triggers your therapist to break confidentiality.
Most people who know me today know that I’m a food enthusiast -- I love food in eating disorder recovery. When those people become aware of my past and try to reconcile those two experiences, they tend to be confused. How can someone both be enthusiastic about food and also have suffered an eating disorder? From my perspective, this is actually quite a natural progression. Though I may have some anxiety around food, my eating disorder recovery taught me that confronting that anxiety head-on and embracing food as nourishment is part of recovery.
Roughly 10 years ago this week, I was moving out on my own and attending graduate school. Many other big changes were happening at the same time in my life, but looking back, I can honestly say that those two had the biggest impact on my eating disorder spinning out of control around that time. It is no surprise that major life changes or transitions can, unfortunately, be triggers for a number of events or conditions in one's life, including eating disorders. Here's a bit about my experience on this and how it related to my mental illness.
I often say, and write, that my eating disorder never defined me, not its diagnosis, nor the stigma attached to suffering through the illness. Even today, I'm open about the fact that I deal with food anxiety and no, I'm not ashamed of that either.
Not a day goes by without me feeling grateful about being able to share with you on this blog my lived experience with an eating disorder. The concept of giving back to others who stand where I once stood makes me very happy and truly helps me maintain my recovery.
Very often, I'll come across guidelines explaining or offering guidance on what to say or not to say to someone suffering from an eating disorder. Though these guidelines are useful and important in order to give those who are not familiar with eating disorders a frame of reference, they can still lead to awkward or hurtful interactions, simply because these kind of conversations surrounding eating disorders and mental illness are never easy to have.
On Tuesday, I started studies for my Master's degree.  (In expressive arts therapy, if you were wondering.)  And around the country, schools and universities are returning to session and one of the most common "get-to-know-you" questions is "What did you do this summer?" If you were lucky enough to go to an eating disorder treatment center during the summer months, or during a school break, you might be able to make something up. But what if you're in a career and just had to take off three or six months for eating disorder treatment? How do you explain that?