“So what, you just don’t like food?”
This is how my boss responded when I confided that I was seeking treatment for an eating disorder and would need some time off work.
“You know, I just don’t get the eating disorder thing. I’d eat anything you put in front of me. They say you live longer if you’re skinny anyway.”
Really? REALLY?? Despite the fact that talking about it nearly brings me to tears every time, and that I had to work up my bravery all morning to tell you this, THIS is how you reply??
It’s 2014. Aren’t people more aware of the seriousness of mental illness? I’ve been a big supporter of Bell’s “Let’s Talk” Day, and Eating Disorder Awareness Week in the past few years, but I’ve never really stopped to think about how necessary it might be to raise awareness. I thought, this day in age, awareness wasn’t even an issue; people had to know how real and how debilitating mental illness can be. But apparently not. My boss is a prime example of how ignorant (and rude) people can still be.
Mental illness, eating disorders especially in this case, are not to be taken lightly. To put it in perspective, anorexia nearly killed me ten years ago. My body had deteriorated so badly, and my heartrate was so low, that I was immediately admitted into hospital and hooked up to a half-dozen machines.
After a three month hospital stay, I was healthy enough to go back to “normal” life, but now, even ten years later, I’m not truly healthy. Almost every single day since then has been a struggle; every calorie that enters my body has been a tiny battle. I’m constantly aware of what I eat, and how or if it might affect my weight.
After ten years of stress and anxiety over something as basic as food, you know what? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting anorexia and its evil little voice in my head control every day of my life.
I’ve talked to my parents and close friends, and I’ve been to several professionals already. I’m in the process of getting enrolled in an out-patient therapy program. I’m taking steps to make myself healthy, mentally and physically. It’s not going to be easy, and to be honest, I’m terrified, but I know it’s a HUGELY positive thing in my life.
So, when I went to my boss to try and explain the situation, at the very least I was hoping he’d be happy to hear that I was doing something to improve my health. I never expected to be trivialized, as if the struggle my life has been for the past decade was no big deal, a joke.
The more I reflected on the conversation, the more annoyed I got. Here I am, making one of the scariest decisions of my life, and you act as if I should just be able to get over it?
And I’m sure he’s not the only person around who is so oblivious. So I write this hoping that even one person will read it, and become a bit more aware of the issue. Please don’t be one of those assholes who says hurtful things simply because they don’t know any better. Inform yourself, even if it’s just from this article. And if you don’t want to take it upon yourself to learn, don’t. But please, don’t ever ever make someone feel as if their problems don’t matter, whether it be mental illness or something else.
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.