This might seem like a bold, hyperbolic claim, but it just so happens to be true: I have no regrets about my eating disorder. Of course, there are some behaviors I am not proud of, relationships I have worked fiercely to restore, and memories I still flinch at. But in terms of actual regret, I simply think it's a wasted emotion. While I have absolutely no desire to relive those 15 years of battling anorexia, this formative chapter in my life transformed me into who I am right now—a person for whom I feel genuine love and respect. So if you'll indulge me for a few minutes, I will unpack why I have no regrets about my eating disorder.
On July 16th, 2022, the new three-digit Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Hotline went into full effect. The transition from a 10-digit number to the more convenient and memorable 988 is a positive step toward adequate and widely-accessible mental health resources for all. Moreover, the hotline is no longer solely for suicidal individuals but open to anyone facing a mental health crisis. The overall messaging behind this change is perhaps the most impactful. We hear you; we see you; we'll show you not only through our words but through our actions.
Many individuals, including myself, can take notice of subtleties later when they are no longer the object of verbal abuse. It shocks me as I look back and replay many of these instances in my head. There were several reasons why, however, I never recognized it as abusive, which led me to remain in the same situation for years.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is the first major mood disorder I suffered from as a kid. However, I did develop early symptoms of bipolar disorder as a teen as well, and that later led to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder is a very extreme form of what is commonly known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Untreated, I don’t have minor bouts of irritability or sadness during my period--I have full-on depression accompanied by suicidal thoughts. The way I treat my PMDD is with birth control pills.
We all experience cycles or patterns of behavior that we want to change. Those of us who have experienced binge eating disorder (BED), or eating disorders in general, know the pain and frustration that is felt when you are trapped in a cycle of disordered, destructive eating. It is especially frustrating when you try to recover and leave behind your old cycles and patterns and you realize you're still stuck in a binge eating cycle.
I didn't get a say in my birth. My mother and father took the executive decision to procreate without my input, and I landed on the scene in the April of 1985 before I could register any objections. Upon my arrival, the doctors deduced a few things: I was a boy. I was healthy. And, given the amount of wailing and thrashing, I appeared mildly inconvenienced by this whole birth scenario. For nearly 32 years after that, the doctors didn't miss much--except to diagnose me with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Before I knew anything about borderline personality disorder (BPD) or antidepressants, I knew that pharmaceutical drugs were bad. Or, at least that's what I was told growing up. I learned from a young age not to trust therapists or doctors. Doctors wanted to poison your body, and therapists wanted to poison your mind. Why would I think that? Well, because then it would be easier for them to control you.
Something I have found about having chronic anxiety is that this often leads to avoiding triggers, which includes avoiding conflict. For example, you might find it difficult to set boundaries in a relationship, or you might find that you've been putting off having a difficult conversation with your supervisor at work. For me, this might look like walking away from arguments or being as diplomatic as possible in an interaction with someone to avoid some sort of conflict.
Many individuals are familiar with the fight, flight, freeze, or appease response to trauma. However, one thing I have learned after years of exposure to verbal abuse is that this automatic response can lead to detrimental procrastination in other areas of my life.
I'll admit, it's difficult sometimes to separate a discussion of mental health from a discussion of race. It's difficult to separate a discussion of anything from a discussion of race, for that matter. During my mental health journey, while adapting to the nuances of navigating my illness, it was not lost on me that race itself was another nuance to navigate. This is just one example of a very long list of factors that felt completely out of my control. Although difficult to accept, realizing that I couldn't fix everything opened me up to more healing and more peace throughout my mental health journey. I realized I didn't have to feel guilty for compartmentalizing race and my mental health. This can be applied to any factor that may feel out of your control and cause added strain on your pursuit of mental wellness. It's okay to let go and prioritize yourself.