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Anorexic vs. having anorexia

Posted May 22 2010 8:36pm
A few days ago, Therese Borchard (I blogged about another one of her posts here ) wrote an excellent column in the Huffington Post called " I'm not bipolar; I HAVE bipolar ." And the title is pretty self-explanatory: that we are not our illnesses, because the illness is just one aspect of our lives.

Writes Borchard
For those of us with chronic illnesses that we can't imagine away, I believe Dr. Remen simply encourages us to make decisions as individuals, not necessarily as bipolars, or diabetics, or cancer victims. We will always have to be mindful of our diagnoses, of course, in our relationships and work ventures. Because we need to surround ourselves with supportive people who will undergird our recovery, and we must maneuver our careers in ways that will aid our health.

And perhaps it's that one bit--being mindful of our diagnoses--that struck me the most. There are times when I am sick of thinking about food, sick of making sure I always have an energy bar with me, sick of preparing balanced meals. I want to forget. But I need to stay mindful of the fact that I do have an eating disorder and I am still very new to recovery and that recovery can easily be derailed by convenient amnesia.

Yet the fact that I have an energy bar in my purse and a chip on my shoulder at mealtime doesn't mean that this is all there is to me. True, I think about my eating disorder and related topics (food, calories, weight, etc) way too freaking much. And I have to keep my eating disorder history in mind when I go to make decisions (guaranteed lunch breaks at work, not buying a treadmill, not letting sleep patterns get chaotic) but that doesn't mean that I am my eating disorder. I'm Carrie who does in fact have an eating disorder, but I'm also a writer, a daughter, a friend, and a kitty mom.

The hard part is finding the balance between not labeling myself as "anorexic" and also not disregarding the limitations my diagnosis has given me. Long days without eating? Extremely physically demanding job? Working at Weight Watchers? Not an option--or at least not an option that will end well. Usually, I flip from one extreme to the other, in a classic case of black and white thinking. Either I'm terrified of everything because it might trigger ED symptoms, or I just take this eff-it-all attitude and think I can handle everything. Like most things in life, the answer lies somewhere in between: acknowledging your diagnosis but not letting it rule your life.
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