During my most recent relapse, I happened to have a check-up scheduled with my nurse practitioner. Blonde, hippie-dressed, and very Cantabrigian, she is wonderful; however, she knows very little about eating disorders. She breezily asked, “How are you doing with your eating disorder?”
My hands gripped the table; I was starving but frustrated because the scale said I was two pounds more than I was the day before despite engaging in behaviors. I wanted to cry out, to tell her how much I was hurting, but instead I answered, “Not so great.”
She turned to me with a quizzical but concerned look. “So you must be purging again.”
I could have flipped the table over with the force of my anger. I have actually never engaged in that ED behavior, and I’ve never been diagnosed with bulimia. I have been diagnosed with both anorexia nervosa and ED-NOS. Broken down, the second diagnosis basically means I met some of the criteria for both anorexia and bulimia but not all. So, I became irate when she assumed I was bulimic because I knew what she meant: I was too weight-stable to be anorexic and restricting. My eating disorder was so furious when it heard this, but my healthy self was too. I wanted to tell her that women at a weight of 134 could be starving themselves too.
See, our culture has been so inundated with images of Mary-Kate Olsen and Renee Zellweger that we forget that the time to worry is not when a woman is skeletal; it’s before. My nurse practitioner was right; I wasn’t 75% of my ideal body weight, as I was four summers earlier. However, I was teetering on a precarious balance between health and disturbance. I had dropped 16 pounds in the previous two months by starving and then bingeing . And she wasn’t listening close enough.
In the picture above, I am smiling and appear happy. But my eating disorder was raging when it was taken.
It’s interesting, too. When I am at my most disordered, I tend to get the most comments from people. Comments like, “You look amazing!” and “You’ve never seemed so confident in your life.” It must be my raging false ID that blinds people as to what is actually going on.
The point of this post is to remind everyone out there that anorexia doesn’t always look like the skeletal, Karen Carpenter images we see on the internet and on TV. For example, I know some fellow “recoverees” whose period stops when they hit 125. This weight may appear healthy and beautiful to some, but may be damaging their body on the inside.
It’s different for everyone. Ask, and don’t assume.