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Disclosing an eating disorder can be uncomfortable—even downright scary. In fact, research shows the prevalence of those who suffer from eating disorders is vastly underrepresented. A 2019 estimate from the Global Burden of Diseases reveals that as many as 41.9 million eating disorder cases were unreported over the course of just one year.
I am an identical twin. For most of my childhood, I was viewed as one-half of a package deal. In fact, my sister and I resemble each other so strongly that, as small children, my mom painted our toenails two contrasting colors just to tell us apart. We were known as The Twins, a source of fascination to those around us. I rarely encountered other sets of identical twins in those formative years—until my first experience at a residential eating disorder treatment facility. Twins were not uncommon there, which has me wondering: Is there a connection between eating disorders and twin dynamics?
When you enter the process of eating disorder recovery, one of the most intrusive—not to mention, persuasive—lies you might have to wrestle with is the belief that you're a burden. The combination of shame and stigma, which often underpins an eating disorder and many other forms of mental illness, can leave you feeling like just too much for those around you to tolerate. But as difficult as it can be to tune out this message, don't listen to the eating disorder voice: You are not a burden. In fact, you are worth claiming space in this world.
As much as I would rather overlook this step in the healing process, I cannot deny that self-forgiveness is a powerful tool in eating disorder recovery. It pains me right down to my core when I remember just how much I hurt both myself and those I love most in that dark, miserable season of life when my eating disorder had all the control. I take no pleasure in those memories, but I need to forgive myself for them nonetheless.
Thanksgiving is not my favorite holiday—not even close, in fact. As someone who was raised in a large, boisterous, Italian American family, I understand the importance of seasonal traditions, quality time with loved ones, and communal expressions of gratitude. But as someone who is also in eating disorder (ED) recovery, the overt emphasis on food this time of year can still cause ripples of anxiety to surface. So, as another holiday season rounds the corner, I want to share with you a list of ED recovery affirmations to remember on Thanksgiving. I often repeat them to myself when I feel overwhelmed or anxious during the festivities, and I hope these affirmations calm and re-center you as well.
This article is not meant to be a universal claim about eating disorders, as I can only speak from my own observations and experiences. But in many cases, I believe that eating disorder behaviors manifest on the surface to mask a fear of rejection deep within.
There will often come a time in the healing process when you feel an impulse to share what you've learned with someone else and invest in their eating disorder (ED) recovery as well. I have experienced that urge in my own personal journey, and I've also watched it manifest in other ED recovery warriors I know.
In my own experience, boundaries are frequently talked about in the mental health community as pillars of self-care, but all too often, it's unclear how to create and reinforce those healthy boundaries. I define boundaries as an instruction manual for which behavioral dynamics, communication habits, and interpersonal treatment I either will or won't tolerate in my relationships—and life overall.
In just a couple of days, I will turn 30. To those who have spent more time on this earth than I have, this might not seem like such an extraordinary milestone, but 10 years ago, I never imagined that I would be alive to see my 20th birthday—let alone my 30th. That version of me felt hopelessly convicted to a life sentence of anorexia.
One of the first lessons I had to confront in eating disorder (ED) recovery is that, more often than not, triggers are unavoidable. As much as I still want to insulate myself from these triggers that activate my harmful thought patterns, sheer avoidance is an unrealistic goal. The fact is, I will encounter situations that trigger me because I am a human who lives in the world. Many areas of life are chaotic, stressful, anxiety-inducing, and just plain uncontrollable—I cannot hide from this reality. So, a more effective use of time is to equip myself with tools to deal with ED triggers in environments outside my control.