This articles deals with the topic of eating disorders and may be triggering to some people
The Beacon, an online publication for the Orthodox Jewish community (and, incidentally, the paper I helped start two years ago), is tackling an important issue this month, with first-person narratives and various other articles related to eating disorders. The issue was prefaced with a thoughtful Letter from the Editor explaining the importance of the topic, and the importance of openly discussing the topic.
This happens to be a topic that I feel personally strongly about; for seven years, I suffered the torture of my own eating disorder. To me, my eating disorder was shameful, something to hide. I told no one, and I was miserable. I felt so alone that when I finally was hospitalized, it was a relief to talk about it with other patients. To discover that my eating disorder was not a silly, superficial preoccupation, but a truly debilitating disease that affects and kills millions of men and women, was terrible in some ways, but a relief in many others. I was not alone, I had nothing to be ashamed of, and I could fight this. And I did.
Three years later, I’ve fought back against my eating disorder with everything I had. Nothing was as important to me as making sure I wouldn’t end up back where I had been, bent over a toilet of my own self-induced vomit. Nothing was worse than that feeling.
I feel my story can help others, and so I share it with others. I talk about it with friends and strangers, and I write about it. This past week, I happen to have written about it twice. I wrote about it for the Beacon, in a response I had to many articles that discuss details of eating disorders without warning the reader that triggering sentences might lay below– triggers like weight numbers, calorie numbers, ways of purging, etc. Those who fight or have fought eating disorders find these can set off an unstoppable train of negative thoughts that can lead to eating disorder symptoms:
I am Orthodox and I, too, was once anorexic. I was also bulimic, and a fun blend of both at various points in my life. So I wholeheartedly support the effort to bring attention to the prevalence of eating disorders in the Orthodox community. However, what anyone who has never suffered from an eating disorder does not know is how carefully this must be done, and why. Read more…
Coincidentally, I also wrote an article last week about overcoming my eating disorder, and how it has led to a very real and very complete happiness. I wrote about this in my blog on the Forward’s website, Just Married, about my first year of marriage. In this post, I explained how being married is the completion of a dream I once thought impossible in the throes of my eating disorder. I felt I could never achieve the level of health required to be in a working relationship:
When I had my eating disorder, I was afraid I would never be able to get married. It seemed impossible to me that I would ever stop being caught in the miserable cycle of my eating disorder. Marriage, to me, meant having a family, and I was terrified to raise children; I was afraid that if I had kids, I would inevitably give them eating disorders too, when they saw how unhealthy I was. I didn’t want that for anyone. The fact that I’m married today means that I believe in my ability to stay strong and fight my eating disorder permanently, that I believe I can raise happy, healthy children without worrying about scarring them with my own pain. Read more…
I write this blog post here because the stories of those who have overcome eating disorders should be shared with as many people as possible. Eating disorders are the most fatal psychiatric illnesses, and they are curable.
If you know someone who has or might have an eating disorder, or you yourself have one, please visit any of the sites listed on this helpful page.