Trigger Warning: This article contains the topic of eating disorders. None of this replaces the advice of a doctor. If you or a loved one may be struggling with an eating disorder, please visit the National Eating Disorders Association’s website for resources. There is help available and you deserve it.
Accepting you need help for an eating disorder can be a hard pill to swallow. I’m sitting here, faced with another admission for my Anorexia, in the exact same boat I’ve been in before. Do I really need to go? I pride myself on being a logical person, but that all seems to slip away when it comes to myself. I view my eating disorder as a lesser threat against myself but preach recovery for everyone else in my life. My doctors want me to seek a higher level of care based on my symptoms, but I’m hesitating. That doesn’t seem logical, does it?
I identify as an intersectional feminist and a supporter of almost every body acceptance and positivity movement. Yet, how can I be authentically supportive of these when I view myself as the exception? From what I have learned about intersectional feminism, my goal should be to uplift and advocate for women and other marginalized communities. Here’s the thing… I am also a woman. At that, I am a chronically and mentally ill bisexual woman. While I still have some amount of privilege (that I am grateful for), shouldn’t I be trying to uplift my own recovery as well, after falling into some marginalized communities? Am I a feminist fraud?
The tricky thing about Anorexia (and other eating disorders) is that it strips away your identity. You are left with a fragmented sense of self and are forced to pick up all the pieces on your own. Communities I once felt aligned with are foreign to me. I feel like an outsider looking in. Honestly, I often feel just like an anorexic shell of a person. One of the worse parts of the disorder is how little value you develop for yourself. My inner monologue is constantly doubting myself and my worth. Do I deserve to recover from my eating disorder? Do I deserve that support I give to others? Am I faking this all?
Thankfully, after a bit of an imposter syndrome-esque driven inner inquiry, I have regained a bit of self-awareness. I’m starting to pick apart some contradictory thoughts. While I use my voice to break down stigma, I don’t need to allow myself to get lost in that stigma. It’s time to be blunt: in order to authentically accept other people’s bodies, I need to accept mine. I need to support my recovery with the same intensity I preach recovery for others.
Wait a second. I have an eating disorder! I can’t just change my thought processes that quickly.
Of course! It isn’t an overnight process. It would be unrealistic to expect immediate change in an area that has plagued my life for years. There is no way to make myself fall in love with my reflection on command. But, there are some other thoughts I can learn to break down.
If any body can be sick, my body can be sick.
Let’s grapple with the elephant in the room. An eating disorder can make you feel invincible. It makes you feel like nothing bad can happen to you. With a distorted sense of self (mentally and physically), I look at my body and see everything that is “wrong” with it. I see all of this weight that I could lose. Next, I see this fat on my body as a buffer between medical complications. I can’t be ill while I still have fat. I get caught up in the cognitive distortion that I am immune to eating disorder complications because of my body. With this, I tend to lose sight of my core beliefs. My eating disorder takes over and I am devaluing myself, a female-bodied woman who deserves her own feminism. Does my eating disorder derived distortions make me an inauthentic feminist?
Then I see my friends with eating disorders. I have friends in all shapes and sizes that struggle with their own eating disorders. But, I am able to see them through a lens other than their weight: their mental illness lowering their quality of life. I also take their behaviors seriously. Particularly, I always validate their struggles and uplift their recovery – a staple in my brand of personal feminism. No matter the weight, they can have life-threatening complications as a result of their malnourishment. So, why don’t I allow myself the same compassion and consideration?
Now it is time to apply that to myself. No matter my weight, regardless if I am at my lowest weight, I need to take my situation seriously. This is the first step of body acceptance. I need to accept my weight does not determine my health. Taking this step is my way to show that I can be body positive for myself someday. I am not a feminist fraud. I’m just a feminist work-in-progress… and that’s all we can ask for. That is authentic feminism.