February 2 - February 8 of this year, 2014, is/was National Eating Disorder Awareness Week in Canada (other countries may have different days). Clearly, this is a big deal. But why? What's so important about eating disorders? Why have a whole week for awareness?
As a recovered patient with anorexia nervosa, this week is super important to me. It is the week when everyone should aim to learn at least one important thing about eating disorders. Of course, there is so much to know. Did you know that ED is the number one killer of all mental illnesses? Did you know that someone can have an ED even if they don't look thin? Did you know that EDs can cause damage to the body (on the inside) that tests and blood work may not even be able to detect? Did you know that most patients with ED do not get help until they are close to death? Did you know that recovery from ED is nowhere close to being a simple and quick fix? Did you know that ED is NOT just about the food, but about other factors, self-esteem, body image, and more?
I challenge and urge you to take a moment at least once this week to learn something new about ED. Since I have recovered, I have devoted much of my time to advocating for EDs and mental illnesses. This week, I want you to know that EDs are real, mental, and terrible illnesses. I want you to know that although having a week for ED awareness is great, we all need to be aware of ED all the time. If you or someone you know might be ill with ED, please DO NOT delay getting help, Sure, you might not feel ill now. But you will be sick one day, and ED will become stronger and stronger. I was ill with ED for seven years. Even as a smart student - and one who is studying to be a nurse - I still got sick with ED.. Coming from a culture where food is loved, I still developed an eating disorder. ED does not discriminate against anyone - young or old, short or tall, male or female, etc.
Finally, my message to everyone - with ED or not - is to learn to love yourself. Love your body for what it helps you do. Love your abilities and talents. Love your smile and laugh, and use them whenever possible. Learn to accept your weaknesses and to use them to improve your skills or knowledge. Let go of grudges and strive to be the best you can be. Do not compare yourself or your skills to anyone else. Be your own competition. Do not let anyone take you down or make you feel inferior. \Make goals and strive to achieve them. Do not let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve anything. Many healthcare providers told me that I would never recover - and here I am, fully recovered and healthy. I was bullied and hated by others - but here I am, writing my blog and for other organizations, and living a happy life. It is POSSIBLE. Recovering from ED - or from any mental illness (depression, anxiety, etc.) is possible - but do not give up. Wake up each morning and know that today will have some good in it. Refuse to let the world tell you that you aren't good enough. Because you are. Surround yourself with people who love you and who care for you simply because you are YOU - a special, beautiful, handsome, smart, and unique individual.
So, this week was dedicated to raising awareness about eating disorders! They are real mental illnesses and deserve treatment, attention, care, and support! Of course, we should strive to make this known all year long...but remember, regardless of what day of the year is, mental health illnesses are real, and they are not something to be ashamed of!