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The Truth About Life with Anorexia and the Struggle of Fighting a Disease that Doesn't Stop Fighting Back

Updated on September 25, 2014

Living with an Eating Disorder Isn't Living at All


It's Not About the Food: End Your Obsession with Food and Weight

Eating Disorders - The Only Disease Where Recovery Feels Like a Bad Thing

When I was fifteen years old I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, but my struggles began years earlier. I have struggled with my eating disorder now for almost two decades, and sometimes I feel like I am fighting a losing battle.

On good days, my brain feels like its 60% me, and 40% my eating disorder. On bad days however, its 100% my eating disorder and no looking back.

Eating disorders are unique illnesses because they cause the patient to fear life without the disease. I can't think of any other illness where patients fear recovery. This is what makes battling an eating disorder so difficult, and this is why eating disorders are the number one killer among all mental illnesses.

When someone has an eatng disorder, be it anorexia, bulimia, or binge eatng disorder, recovery doesn't mean getting better, it means giving up control and admitting defeat.

When I am in the throws of my anorexia, recovery doesn't mean health - it means getting fat, it means losing control, and it means being weak.

In the world of eating disorders, the only perfect anorexic is a dead anorexic. We only win when we lose, and reality becomes a warped, warped thing.

Inside the Mind of Someone Struggling with an Eating Disorder

Read This Riveting Memoir by Jenni Schaefer About Living Without Her Eating Disorder

Recovering from an Eating Disorder

Recovering from anorexia is a journey, and a long one at that. The sicker a patient is when they start the journey, the bumpier the ride.

Eating disorders are often a result of chaos at home. By controlling one's weight, and the food one consumes, a sense of control is gained that cannot be found elsewhere.

To recover from an eating disorder means relinquishing that control, and from personal experience, nothing is as hard as relinquishing control over food when you feel like that is literally the only thing in the world you have control over.

Patients will fight as hard as possible to avoid gaining weight or to prevent people from increasing their food intake. With every pound lost, the patient becomes more and more entrenched in the disease, and it becomes harder and harder to pull them out.

One in ten people diagnosed with anorexia nervosa die from the disease. Most of the other nine will likely suffer throughout their life bouncing back and forth between health and sickness.

I don't know if this applies to everyone with an eating disorder, but I personally don't believe that anyone can recover completely from this illness. Yes, we may find a common ground where we learn to survive - a place where the eating disorder voice is no longer overwhelming, but I don't think it ever disappears completely.

Voices in the Darkness - Eating Disorders and the Effects of Social Media

The Silent Voice of an Eating Disorder

Treating a patient with an eating disorder is not easy. In most cases, the patient will require inpatient or residential treatment if they want a chance (just a chance) at recovery.

Because of the nature of the disease, it can be easy to be deceitful and dishonest when others try to help you recover. More likely than not, you developed the disease because it felt like the only choice you had at the time.

Once the disease progresses, a nagging voice grows inside of you, telling you that you aren't good enough, you aren't thin enough, and that you will fail at everything you try.

The voice of an eating disorder is hard to ignore. The more malnourished you become, the louder the voice becomes, and any time the eating disorder feels threatened, it whispers in your ear that you can't trust anyone, and that their only goal is to make you fat.

When it comes to eating disorders, fat is the same thing as failure. Gaining weight is viewed as weakness. Recovery is viewed as failing, and admitting you need help just isn't an option.

If You Are Struggling with an Eating Disorder, Please Know That You are Not Alone


The Endless Struggle that Comes Along with Eating Disorders

I first entered treatment for my eating disorder when I was sixeen I believe. Its hard to remember at this point because of the number of treatment centers I've been to, and the length of time I have struggled.

In total I have had nine stints on eating disorder units inside various hospitals, as well as over twenty stays at long-term residential centers all over the country. When I was eighteen years old I was told that I would never recover from my disease, and that it was only a matter of time before my disease took my life.

That was nine years ago.

No, I didn't die, obviously. I have struggled however, and am still struggling today.

The hardest part about this disease is admitting when you need help. The longer you wait, the harder it is to recover, but the less you wait, the more you risk hearing from people some of the worst things you can say to someone with an eating disorder. Things like, "well, you don't look like you have an eating disorder" or "I always thought people with eating disorders were thin".

Hearing statements like that does nothing but fuel the eating disorder voice, causing it to nag you every time you try to eat a meal, or even a snack.

Imagine if every time you tried to eat something, a voice inside of your head told you that you didn't deserve that food.

Eating disorders are competitive, destructive diseases. Even when you are trying to recover, the eating disorder fights back, telling you that you have nothing to recover from and that you couldn't possibly be as sick as they say you are, afterall, you're fat.

Eating Disorders are Vicious Diseases that Attack Both the Body and the Spirit


The Body Image Workbook was Designed to Help You Overcome Negative Body Thoughts

My Life Today, as a 27 Year Old Anorexic

I don't want to sound like I label myself as an anorexic, but I do accept the fact that I struggle with anorexia, and that I probably will for most of my life.

Today I had to take a huge step and call my old doctor, admitting that my anorexia has become a problem again, after close to five years in remission.

Before I dialed his number, my brain was bombarded with eating disorder thoughts. "You aren't sick enough to see him, what are you thinking!?" "If you wait another week you can lose five more pounds."

My hands shook as I dialed his number, knowing that seeing him could mean that I would have to go back into treatment.

When you have an eating disorder, it can feel like the only thing in the world that you have. It tells you that it is your only friend, and that no one else could possibly love someone so disgusting.

Today I know that isn't true, and I know that I am loved. I have a terrific husband, loving parents, great brothers, and now I have a second family made up of my mother in law, my father in law, and my new brother-in-laws.

I accept the fact that I have slipped back into my illness, and I accept the fact that the journey in front of me is not a well paved road.

Despite that I know that giving in to my eating disorder would mean giving up things I am not ready to sacrifice.

I have cats who need me to care for them, and a husband who deserves a wife that is not entrenched in the grips of an eating disorder.

Am I scared? You have no idea. I'm even shaking as I type these words. Luckily however, I have seen the light of recovery before and I know what kind of life it offers me, compared to the paralyzing "life" ruled by anorexia. That is why I am choosing to ask for help, not because I believe that I need it, but because I have seen this tape play through before, and I know that if I don't act now, I may not have another chance.

© 2014 Kathleen Odenthal


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    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Ann thank you so much, I am speechless from all of the support HP has provided for me. I am eternally grateful for this safe place where I can share my struggles. Writing is cathartic, and catharsis is to purge. By being able to purge my emotions here, I become less likely to succomb to the pressures of my eating disorder. For that, I am eternally grateful.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Destructive indeed. I can only imagine and that probably only goes halfway at the most. However, writing about this will help many others to not feel alone and it will help many of us to understand what it's all about.

      You know, I hope, that the whole hubpages community is behind you, willing you on to overcome once more. You have courage and that goes a long way.

      I'd like to add to everyone else's here, my best wishes and my admiration.


    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Thank you so much MsDora for your kind words and thoughts.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Kathleen, seems that you have seen some really tough times with anorexia. I am glad that you have the courage to face it and expose it. Writing about it is also a way to rob it of its strength over you. I appreciate you sharing your story--well told-- and hope that going forward, you continue to take control. Voted up.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Jodah you know how much I appreciate your comments. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement, small gestures go long ways and I really want to thank you for everything you said.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Gondwana Land

      Kathleen, I take my hat off to you for the bravery you have shown in writing this hub. That is a big step in admitting you need help and reveal your struggle to others. I would never even pretend to say I understand what you are going through and how difficult it must be. Your hub went a long way to describe what it is like however. Thank you for sharing this important information and let me tell you that you aren't alone. As you say you have loving people around you, and you also have your Hub family here whenever you need support or just get something off your chest. Stay strong...and keep writing. I find that helps as a therapy for many things. All the best.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      So true, and this disease is one that wants us to feel like we are alone. Once we know that we are not, the journey to recovery starts to seem much less intimidating. Thank you for your kind comment.

    • goatfury profile image

      Andrew Smith 

      6 years ago from Richmond, VA

      What an intimately personal article. I'm glad you shared this, as I know for certain that several people I know are in the exact same boat. Simply knowing you're not alone is a major step toward managing this type of disorder.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Thanks so much Shauna!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      Bravo, Kathleen! You recognize you need help and you've reached out. You're beginning to combat the voices in your head. You are so brave! This is such an important issue. Bringing awareness from someone who knows, is worth its weight in gold.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Thank you so much Eric for your kinds words

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A very well done Hub on a very difficult subject and personal journey. It will touch many I am sure. It enlightened me so perhaps one day I can lighten someone else's journey.

    • Kathleen Odenthal profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Odenthal 

      6 years ago from Bridgewater

      Thank you so much Billy, I too have had my battles with alcohol and have been sober for many years now, so I know that struggle as well. Both eating disorders and alcoholism can be very self-defeating. Thank you for your kind words.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Articles like this one are hugely important. Telling of your personal struggles so that other might understand and be is a wonderful unselfish and giving thing for you to do. Is it hard? Incredibly. I have written often of my battles with alcoholism over the years....but it was necessary that I do it, for myself and for the people I have helped by writing about it.

      I applaud you and wish you the very best.


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