NEDA 2022 and Understanding The Generational Trauma and Pain of Eating Disorders

“Females are the most beautiful, gorgeous creatures in the whole world. And I think that we are gorgeous no matter what size we are.” ~ Alicia Keys

Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders.

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Today marks the end of National Eating Disorder Awareness Week for 2022. While I think it is important to raise awareness to an illness that is severely misunderstood, it can’t be saved for just a week. Education, research, support, outreach, and the fight itself must be and is a year round endeavor. While I do believe recovery is possible, and I consider myself recovered, it is still a daily fight 365 days a year. And the healing that takes place is always evolving as I work to understand my own triggers, but also the traumas that brought me here.

Many people STILL think eating disorders are about food and being thin and don’t realize that it is an illness and a coping mechanism, much like other addictions are. I bet those very same people have at one time or another have had an unhealthy relationship with food as they went through stressful or painful periods in their lives. In fact most Americans have either experienced disordered eating practices or KNOW someone who has. It isn’t all about weighing ninety pounds or looking emaciated. Sometimes it is weighing one-thirty and purging. Sometimes it is weighing three hundred pounds and in a vicious binge cycle. It is also the people who are constantly yo-yo dieting, or the fitness fanatic who is endlessly counting carbs and ketos. It isn’t the rich white b*tch illness, like so many would say when unbeknownst to them I was in the throws of my disordered eating, it affects everyone, girls, women, boys, men, black, white, hispanic, asian, NO one is immune. It is a disease that does not discriminate between gender, race, culture, and religion. And it is a disease that is unique for each individual and their traumas. Eating Disorders have the second highest mortality rates of any psychiatric illness. Let that sink in.

Society and Eating Disorders

The last year especially as I have furthered my education, and talked to friends and experts in the field, my understanding of my addiction has deepened. I first want to say that no one is responsible for my eating disorder BUT ME. I take full ownership of my choices, just like I know I was the only person who could make the decision to get healthy. That said it is important to understand what leads a person to restrict, or binge and purge, or any other number of disordered eating habits. It IS different for everyone, but our history, our past, our genetic make-up shapes us either consciously or more often then not subconsciously.

The last several years have seen a huge push on the “danger” of social media and how it is further causing low self esteem and harm to people, and some officials even go as far to say it is the cause of eating disorders. Not unlike what I saw growing up in the 90’s when the blame was laid at Hollywood’s feet for promoting unhealthy body aspirations. First, I am not saying there is no truth to that. There is such a thing as “Thinspiration,” which is still (unhealthily I might add) paraded around by trainers and exercise gurus. And filters can give us a warped sense of self. It is easy to compare and contrast on social media, especially when it can be a highlight reel (it can also be really heavy as f*ck, as it understandably currently is).

But like the 90’s and early 2000’s it is much easier to blame Hollywood and now social media for body dysmorphia and have them be the scapegoat for the ills of society then to look at the underlying causes. To look at the intergenerational trauma that has not only been passed down, but that we ourselves have experienced and then internalized. As children how many of us heard adults talk about other’s bodies? How they looked, acted, what they ate? It is easier to blame others then look inwards to do the work, that we as a society have to do. This isn’t to say that our childhood were shitty, but it was learned and inferred behaviors passed on from generation to generation without ever realizing it.

Growing up with Disordered Eating

In many ways my having been home the past two years opened up my eyes to family dynamics I hadn’t truly comprehended and in many ways I realized how much it had impacted me and my decisions (again they WERE my decisions). Most if not all of the women (and some of the men) in my life have had some form of eating disorder or another. While my Mom never discussed my weight as a child, I would hear her and my aunts talk about weight whether it was theirs or others, and yes thinner was always better, the thinner you were the more perfect you were. Of course they didn’t always achieve that and I did see some men in my life who went in the other direction and binge ate to the point of obesity. I now realize that as an adult they all had eating disorders and disordered eating habits going from one craze diet to the next. In many ways it was and for some still is their way of dealing with childhood trauma, that they have never dealt with.

Growing up with that, I learned that food was self medicating. It was the ultimate Xanax. It was also the ultimate form of perfection, if you could sustain a diet, or lose pounds even when you didn’t need too you were succeeding at life. To have an “addiction” to sugar was a badge of honor, and to just not eat any was an even greater success and it would get you validation. Validation, I now realize, as an adult, was what certain family members were seeking because they had never gotten it nor did they know how to give it to themselves. In many aspects it was validation I yearned for. And another word for it would be love.

While my sister’s death sent me and my illness spiraling like never before, I battled with different eating disorders for years and even before I truly comprehended what it was or even put a name to it, I had a distorted view of food and body image. No, not because of some Hollywood actress, but because it was ingrained into me. At the time, society didn’t do mental health and neither did my family. We were the epitome of Keep Calm and Carry On and to admit you were depressed or anxious was to admit you were weak, and NO ONE did that. Heck there are still many cultures that don’t do that.

Recovery IS Possible

But you aren’t weak. And what is passed down to you, whether genetically written on your DNA or through generation of generations, however unintentional, you CAN change. Ultimately WE are the ones in control of ourselves and WE are the ones who get a say in out futures. We didn’t get a say in our pasts either with ourselves or our ancestors, but we CAN dictate the future. And that future says recovery IS possible, beginning now.

In order to heal, in order for recovery to take place, you have to face it. And you have to understand it. Which is why I write this. I take full responsibility for my choices especially when it comes to using food (or lack there of) as a therapy of sorts to deal, but let’s be honest really avoid all my shit. Being back home, and really understanding, as an adult, the family history and trauma has not only helped me heal further, but be able to finish the puzzle for a more complete picture. So often we put our elders on a pedestal and we don’t realize they are human as well. We all are, and it has helped me have more compassion and grace not only for my choices but also for those in my life and their’s.

Because ultimately eating disorders are about hurt people of all walks of life being in very real pain and not knowing how to deal with it. So they use either restriction or binging or both or some other form like over exercising as coping mechanisms to numb themselves. I did. For years. But I am also proof you can come through the other side. It is by no means easy. Being completely blunt, there were days I didn’t want to see that day. Heck there are still days where it seems I will have that devil on my shoulder speaking louder than the angel. But recovery is a choice. Health is a choice. One I strive to make every day for myself, because ultimately irregardless of what that voice says I know I am worth it. And that I am enough.

And YOU are worth it as well. 

You ARE enough.

And you ARE loved.

I am always here for anyone who needs an ear, some support and most especially a friend. Sending love to you all.💗💗

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