I have never mistook a tin of peas for baked beans, and that is a good thing – because I hate baked beans with a passion that is likely far too feirce. There is no orgin to this hate, I..sadly do not have a witty tale of childhood bean-related trauma (unlike Smarties, but I’ll save that for a different day) I just hate the orange little bastards. Canned peas, I love em..frozen ones I can take or leave, but give me a tin of peas and I’ll be a happy camper.
My point is, in this case, labels are important because there is no other way of knowing what is inside until It is far too late…and pea/bean mix up’s are very sad. In Eating disorders however (and yes, I also think it is amusing that I chose to use a food analagy) labels do not matter….we just think they do.
When someone is diagnosed with an ED (that shorthand for eating disorder which I shall use for the rest of this post)..they think that thier ‘label’ matters very much, at times in thier illness alot of people are defined by thier illness and find it very hard to find a difference between self & ED..
Me on non-recovered days when ED is incharge: Hello, HiiiiiiiiYA! I am anorexic…and my name is alexishereidrawlikenick
Me on ‘good’ recovery – battle days: Hello, HiiiiiiiYa! My name is alexishereidrawlikenick, oh, and I am anorexic..
The future me: Hello, HiiiiiiiiiiiYA! How are you? My name is alexishereidrawlikenick and I really like dogs, I like to write, I am a bad poet, I am not very tidy, I like exciting coloured pjamas and recently brought a really cute tortiose shaped lamp with i have name Stuart..(//rambles rambles..point being that identifying self with ED doesn’t happen..)
I spend a lot of my time thinking of myself as ‘anorexic’ first and as a person second. For a long time I have had a big problem with binge eating, this problem pre-dated the arrival of my anorexia in my early teens..in all probability if I look at it according to the DSM citetria (for a link to the DSMs on my blog > therapy woes and personality disorders) then I have a touch of EDNOS/Bulimic behaviors too, for a long while this was a huge source of shame that I denied the existence of.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you try and treat an illness while ignoring some of the biggest symptoms you are not going to get very far, and I think that this is one of the reasons why all my earlier attempts at recovery and the time spent in inpatient wards did nothing to really help me. From talking to other people that have fought/are fighting an ED though I have come to a few realizations;
1) ED thoughts are similar. It makes us feel isolated and alone. It promises us that we will be special and hiss in our ear that we are not deserving of food because we are ‘different’. Yet, if you read a testimony/real life story/blog from anyone with an ED, be in Anorexia, Bulimia, EDNOS, binge eating disorder, compulsive over eating..you will find that we are very sheep-like..the thought patterns (the ‘I am bad/underserving/disgusting/pathetic/need to try harder/be thinner/change this/be in control) all repeat themselves over and over again. It is as if there is a massive ED cloud, just talking into a transmitter that is heard by all sufferers..we are all dancing the same dance but behind big, thick screens so we think we are alone.
2) Part of the hold of the ‘ED’ is the idea that you are ‘not sick enough’. For me – I ‘need’ to be anorexic, as stated in the DSM because otherwise I am ‘failing’ and do not desrve treatment. I force/starve myself unitl my BMI is ‘less than 85% of my ideal body weight’ because the ED has put it into my head that if I am not of this BMI I do not have a problem, do not deserve help and ..(yes,it goes to this extreme) that I do not deserve to live. However, my unhealthly behaviours/thoughts and the subsequent feeling festival that causes is no different to, again, people with any other ED Label.
This is all the same hell, the sign posts are just a tad different.
Clinicians uses these labels because it dictates the medical producures that are intitisataed. At least, it used to. Now, however, even that is bollocks.
It is widely understood (thanfully) in the medical/psychological professions that binge eating disorder, eating diosrder not otherwise specified, anorexia and bulimia ALL carry a huge amount of potential for major health complications.
In anorexia weight is often very low, if it is under a certian number the patient is often hospitalised for forced re-feeding. This is the ‘old skool’ way of looking at it, and the view that..unfortunately does not seem to have yet penetrated the bubble of the medical professions to reach the media/the public. (I am generalizing here, I know some people still suffer from chronically mis-informed GP’s/doctors/psychs who think eating disorders are for ‘thin people’ but on the whole it has improved). Psychologists and ED specialists now realize that people with EDNOS/Bulimia/any-other ED can have the same nutritional deficits and overall health risks are suffers with an extremely low BMI.
Bulimics or those who invole in any kind of purge type behavior are often in -more- medical danger than those that follow a restrictive diet…there can be electrolyte imblances which can lead to a much increased risk of a heart attack. It can also cause tearing and rupture of the oesophagus, malnutrition, dehydration, and lung problems (including pneumonia), Hyponatremia (not enough sodium in the blood), and even paralysis. for more, click here (from somethingfishy)
Now that it is know that all ED’s are as medically dangerous as each other more people -need- to lacth onto the idea that they are all as emotionally damaging as each other. Seriously, people with ED’s play like broken records, we all have the same concerns that loop over and over, the only difference seems to be the social stigma.
ED’s are not actually about weight, but about emotions. (No shit sherlock)..despite that fact the labels themselves seem to be very important even to the individual sufferer.
I will admit that I did used to be proud of being anorexic. My therapist-at-the-time ‘gave’ me the diagnoses as if she was handing me a fragile gift, I nournish and ‘fed’ it accordingly..until it nearly killed me. Also..ED’s are deadly, but very few people die looking like an emaciated bone bag..my ED -did- and had nearly killed me, but not while I was at my lowest weight. Whem my BMI was 13 I had no energy to do anything, especially not kill myself but I have had sevral serious suicide attempts. The ‘worst’ in terms of me nearly being dead was probably when my BMI was a more-socially-acceptable (although still unhealthy) 17. At that BMI I did not ‘look’ like a anorexic..you could not tell by looking at me that I had an ED..but it still came very, very damn close to killing me. Weight does not dictate the amount of emotional distress a person with an ED is going through.
I did think more than once about actually putting the BMI I ‘reached’ in here in numbers…because I am all too aware of the negative comparisions that ED’s cause. I also know that a blog post on the topic of ED’s is much, muxh more likey to be read than a sufferer or some one who has suffered than average-joe public. However, I felt it necessary in order to give the sheep-like ED thoughts an extra kick. If I read weights I immediatly compare, but irregardless of what my weight is now or has been in the past, the feelings still equal emotional distress and dysfunction.
My current book is a murder thriller, a rubbish 89pence on i downloaded on my Kindle, my ED managed to ruin the whole book for me because the author noted the weight and height of the protaginist..my ED thoughts jumped all over this as if it was a day old kitten in a bastket and refused to give me any thought space for the plot. It turned a fictional novel about a ‘heart in the mouth’ serial murderer into something to feel bad about myself for…now, I realize how damn stupid that is, yet I bet any other person with an ED rerading that will nod along, knowing all too well the situation I am talking about..
whatever your weight is/ your label is…it is the emotions that matter. The fact that you feel so low is not okay, the fact you have a screwed relationship with food is not okay, the fact that your day to day activities focus on this fact is not okay…
weight is a causuatly of the disease, but it does not define anyone as a person…the label of your ED only matter to the ED. I have seen people that are fully recovered and they do not think that anorexia is ‘a better diagnoses’ than any other ED label..whereas people currently fighting an ED actively want to be anorexic, or even more anoreix. No -one is ever ‘sick enough’ if you have an eating disorder.
Labels, diagnoses, and weight all seems to have become ‘part’ of the eating disorder itself. In an ideal world all Dr’s/GP’s/medical experts/lay person will realize that all eating disorders are pretty much identical in terms of thoughts and feelings and only differ a tad in behavior..the medical stuff seems to be fairly individual and should only concern the medical professions, it shouldn’t be another tick on the list that feeds the greedy eating disorder that’ll not want to cease, ever.
I do often wonder if it is helpful for me to talk about ‘my anorexia’ instead of ‘my eating disorder’ because of the connotations I am hammering home to a) my own consciousness and b) other people who may read this – I do think that labels should be left on tinned goods but quite possibly it would be helpful to remove them from eating disorders.
I hope that one day I will become a person with a wide range of interests who does not identify themselves by a mental illness.. someday I am ‘anorexic’ other days I am ‘agoraphobic’ and some days I am a ‘self harmer’ if I can only view myself in these terms it is no wonder I have stayed unemployed as a graduate..
If anyone has read this, and has any views on the ‘label’ debate, I’d love to hear from you.