If you ask my husband what is one of the most memorable times that we disagreed during the height of my eating disorder he would say it was when we were discussing day-to-day struggles. His perspective as someone with a mental illness is far different than mine.
We were having an argument over how stressed I was about a simple daily task. He said to me,
Gah, why does everything have to be a struggle, Brooke? Life really does not have to be this hard.
Feeling super offended, I snapped back at him, “Every day IS a struggle; you’re just living in denial. Every day is a struggle.”
Does everyone struggle like this?
Little did I know at the time that struggle was my truth, but it isn’t that way for everyone. Even though there are struggles in life, people can actually live through day-to-day existence without struggling through every second. People who are not mentally ill understand that truth.
In spite of that, it seems impossible to those of us are battling an eating disorder. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, getting dressed or eating breakfast can be utterly impossible.
My experience was with anxiety and anorexia with purging tendencies. With that daily battle, the struggle was REAL for me.
The same goes for someone who suffers from binge eating disorder, bulimia, addiction, suicidal thoughts…
The list goes on. Nothing seems easy when your brain is so full of chatter, static, and opposition that you can’t think clearly, much less grasp reality.
This was my struggle
I couldn’t do any normal task without the ED voice in my brain screaming loud as hell. When I would pick out my clothes in the morning my eating disorder voice would berate me with put-downs such as: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”…
And then that same dialogue would repeat when I looked in the mirror to do my make-up or fix my hair. That would sound like: “you are not good enough”, “you look awful”, and “if you use a behavior (run, crunch, restrict, purge) this will all be better”…
And then it came time to eat breakfast… You get my point.
The eating disorder voice was on repeat and on full volume almost 24/7.
Even now in my recovery, when there are times of change or unknown, I can feel my brain slip back into the self-criticizing mode.
But here is the difference between then and now. Before, I would listen to the belittling. I would use a disordered behavior to numb out or unhealthily cope with stress.
Now, I recognize when ED is loud. When that happens I fact check with a loved one and I use opposite action to fight the disordered part of my brain.
It is simple, but not easy… yet it can be accomplished with practice, support, and time.
The struggle can end
I realize now that my husband was correct… life does not have to always be a struggle. It is hard for someone who has never experienced mental illness to understand- and maybe we can be thankful for their inability to empathize.
Yet, the world needs to be informed. When people can understand, they can then give sympathy and help instead of isolation and judgment to those struggling.
For me, and millions of others in the world, mental illness and struggle ARE the reality. Where I can agree with Derrick and also give hopes for those who endure this painful reality is, with time, treatment, support, possibly medication, the struggle CAN end.
It CAN get better. It just takes you, the sufferer, fighting to live free.
Keep up the fight, Warrior. The struggle can end.