We are a few days into NEDA week and I really hope you all are participating by spreading the word, but also by doing things that make you feel good about YOU.
Anyway, as I walked into the office yesterday literally 2/3 of the staff was wearing purple.
No one knew it was NEDA week, or that purple was the color of support for the cause but I did make them aware.
“I am so excited you all are wearing purple today!”
I got a bunch of blank stares.
“It’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and since that is the representative color I will be wearing it everyday.”
They all looked at my quizzically, but interested.
“We had no idea! But now I am so glad I chose this sweater!”
I love the women (and men) I work with because they truly are amazing people. It is pretty much the same group as when I was an actual student in the school so it is comfortable, familiar and they are all just fabulous, BUT no one knows the connection between my enthusiasm for this week and my personal story.
Me being sick has NEVER once been discussed openly, and I am not sure anyone even really knows.
I may have mentioned this before but that is one of my biggest barriers to recovery…fearing that I will completely lose my identity as the “diet and exercise guru,” or “fitness fanatic” here in the office, and to all the rest of my friends.
I dread the “You look so healthy!” comments that I know will come as my body expands, which to me would signify that I lost total control of myself and was just becoming a beached whale.
If my colleagues don’t know I have a medical problem, and NEED to gain weight then they will just think I am a gluttonous PIG!
Yes, this is what my irrational mind likes to tell me…
So I was thankful yesterday, when I was catching up on the forums here, and a thread regarding the “you look so healthy” phrase, was looking me right in the eye.
After reading various responses, I really got to thinking…
Gwyneth, the creator of the site and an absolutely amazing person with immense knowledge of the disorder and how to be supportive, wrote some information that really made sense, and that I will certainly keep in mind as my body changes. (Please remind me of this in the coming weeks!)
From a non-ED perspective, most people don’t understand the disease and because it is not widely discussed, do not know how to handle the topic.
It can make people uncomfortable and scared, maybe even a bit rejected because, let’s face it, when one is consumed by something as big as ED, it leaves little time for anything else…sometimes coming across as uncaring, completely distracted, or rude.
I felt this passage was particularly useful because, as I have said many times before, one does not have to be underweight to be sick…
And of course many with restrictive eating disorder are not emaciated, but they are ‘weird’. They are not acting like themselves; they lose their train of thought. They seem rather scatterbrained but don’t seem know that they are. Some start to seem strangely automaton and uncaring, while others seem like they are complete emotional wrecks and being around them is like treading on eggshells all the time.
If you’ve ever been around a drunk who is trying to act as though she is not drunk, that is what is like to be around someone who is completely in the thrall of an eating disorder.
I never thought of myself like this but maybe I am? Cooped up in my office most of the day….rarely ever coming out or participating in the chatter of the morning and certainly never entering the lunch room other than to grab a water bottle from the fridge.
In the past, when I have been doing well and put on a few pounds here or there, I was almost offended when others would comment on how “great” I looked. It broke me down and made me feel so FAT and as if everyone was looking at all the disgusting pounds that were packing on by the second.
But that might not be the case…
…here are the things that non-ED people around you notice:
The eyes. Always the eyes first. I can even look at photos and tell you from the translucence of the skin (o.k. I’m a bit more trained at it than most). The skin of someone who is self-administering starvation is flat and opaque — there is absolutely no luminescence at all.
…life comes back in the eyes first.
The next thing that is really noticeable is lessened self-absorption — you can have conversations with them, they don’t lose their train of thought, they actually remember to ask you how you are doing and feeling….
So maybe it isn’t necessarily the weight that grabs attention, but more the demeanor?
That would make sense, because a few years ago, when I returned to my workplace after leaving an inpatient facility one of my female co-workers made the comment, “CJ you glow! You seem so vibrant today.”
Much less appearance focused and I liked that statement way better than “CJ, you are looking so healthy!” but sometimes those remarks are unavoidable. I am hoping that in the coming days I can remember Gwyneth’s insight and how much a person can positively change with increased nutrition, and replay that in my mind rather than a slew of negative self-talk.
But back to NEDA week and where I actually started this post…
Regardless of whether or not my fellow school employees notice, or are concerned with me personally, I was happy to share what this week is about and express my gratitude for our unity in color.
Even if it isn’t physically noticeable, there are TOO many out there who suffer, most of them in silence, and if even one non-ED person remembers that this week is all about NEDA, to me, that is progress.
As the theme of the week states, everybody knows somebody…
And to those of you who are struggling, and get set-back by comments made by those around you, please remember, people, especially those who really really care, want to see you LIVE, get better and be able to beat something that robs you of all pleasure in life.
They don’t intend for their “compliments” to make you feel like a balloon, even though I know from experience that’s often how they were interpreted.
They are just happy to have YOU back; a person rather than a sad, lonely, barely-existent, body.