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Did I Ever Really Have an Eating Disorder?

Posted Jul 12 2011 8:10pm

So, every time I lapse into a bout of anorexia or disordered eating, that part of me in denial hops onto every online ED screening test to see how “close” I am to being diagnosed with an actual eating disorder.

Now, I know that online screenings cannot formerly diagnose you with an eating disorder. But getting a perspective on how “bad” I am is good enough for me.

I’ve taken about ten different ones in the last month, and of course, they all say something along the lines of, “Based on your results, you are very likely to have an eating disorder. Please consult a doctor immediately for futher information and/or treatment.”

But as I was reading through the questions of another screening today, I realized that even those who do not suffer from eating disorders can easily skew their answers so they score higher in severity. A lot of the questions are deal with body image, and I’m sure the majority of women who simply suffer from low self-esteem and poor body image would score fairly high even if they did not have an eating disorder.

It makes me upset that almost anyone could score a result of “eating disorder” simply based on their past dieting tendencies or their body insecurities. Also, this feeds my own denial, because when I tell myself, “Anyone could score as high as me without having an actual eating disorder,” I second guess the severity of my problem.

Thinking back on my eating disorder history, the first time ’round, I began restricting my food in October of 2001. I begged for help from my father that December. I only lasted TWO MONTHS before I caved and realized I couldn’t handle the consequences of anorexia. Granted, I continued the restricting behavior for five years after that, but every “big” lapse I’ve had, they’ve only lasted a few months. In 2006, before I went into treatment, I began restricting in August and went into treatment in October. So again, only two months. With that said, I think those are my justifications. “I was never that bad” or “I never suffered for very long, that’s not a real eating disorder.”

But on the other hand, even after I sought help in 2001, I was bingeing and restricting on a regular basis all throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school. So even though I was never 80 pounds again in high school, I still tortured myself. This was also when my depression was at its worse because of the bingeing and self-harm.

I never considered myself disordered in college either, but looking back, I was only eating one meal a day (dinner) and maintained a weight below 15% of my normal body weight (84 pounds) for almost two years. But this was all normal to me. Food never consumed my every thought, I wasn’t constantly weighing myself, I wasn’t counting calories, I wasn’t measuring my body parts, etc.

So after ten years of this shit, why am I still debating whether or not I ever had an eating disorder? Oh, I know. Because I was never emaciated. Because I never was medically hospitalized. Because I never fainted. Because I still had a period at 78 pounds. Because I never had heart problems. Because my blood tests always came back normal. Some say I had an angel watching over me during those critical periods. I say I just wasn’t sick enough.

Here’s the thing: I was never formally diagnosed with anorexia or any other form of an eating disorder. When my dad took me to the doctor for the first time (per my request) in 2001, I told the doctor I had anorexia and she took my word for it. No questions, no diagnosis. She took some blood tests and referred me to a counselor.

When I went into outpatient and inpatient treatment, again, I told them I had anorexia and they took my word for it. Even when I was getting my period, they still referred to me as a recovering anorexic, as in, “And how did all this affect your anorexia?” or “When did your anorexia begin?”

I mean, I guess that’s normal. I think of my clients now and we don’t really “diagnose” them either. They come in saying they are addicted to drugs, and we accept them as clients. We do do screening processes, but for the most part, we always diagnose them with either substance abuse or dependence. Maybe it was the same for me and my doctors/counselors.

But with all that said — I still question the validity of my own eating disorder. Or disordered eating. Whichever. But is that really important? Even if I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder, food and my weight have impacted my life greatly — it’s ruined my relationship with myself, I was never comfortable in my own skin, my relationships with others suffered, my happiness, etc. I’ve lied for my coping mechanisms with food, I’ve stolen, I’ve hidden, I’ve isolated. That in itself is serious, but then again, what human being doesn’t do some of those things? What woman doesn’t dislike her body? What woman doesn’t feel pressure to be thin?

In my eating disorder I strived to be different from everyone else, and in the end, I feel like I’m really just like every other miserable human being on the planet.

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