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I Don't Need to Cut Myself, My Eating Disorder Is Self-Mutilation

I have an eating disorder. But the moment I am asked, "Do you cut yourself? Please lift your sleeves and your pant legs so I can check," my spot on the treatment totem pole for my eating disorder drops considerably. Because I don't cut myself. I never have.
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I have an eating disorder. I suffer from EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified), which is not only downplayed if not completely neglected in the medical community in regards to treatment and harshness of this disorder, but, if not coupled with a form of self-mutilation, such as cutting, it is further more disregarded.

I don't like having an eating disorder. I want to be cured. I want to put food in my mouth and not immediately strategize how I will purge it. I continue to seek treatment. However, with each doctor, psychologist, and psychiatrist I am sent to; the second, third, and fourth opinions I have sought and continue to seek; the questions asked to verify the severity of my condition are not only unrelated, but unquantifiable.

The very fact that I am sitting across from medical professionals of various specialties should speak volumes about my desire to heal. However, in the grand scheme of mental health disorders, because I am not so weak and fragile that I can stand upright without assistance, any priority in the level of care I will receive is determined by the amount of co-morbidities the specialist can check off.

All doctors have recognized my various disorders and are taking action towards improving my mental well-being. However, the moment I am asked, "Do you cut yourself? Please lift your sleeves and your pant legs so I can check," my spot on the treatment totem pole for my eating disorder drops considerably. Because I don't cut myself. I never have.

It is at this moment of my appointment that the notebook in which my psychiatrist has been scribbling without looking up, is slammed shut, or my family doctor, who is typing out the referral to the next professional I will be passed onto, suddenly removes his fingers from the keyboard. These now predictable behaviours are followed by, "Well let's continue with the Wellbutrin, and make sure you see a psychologist."

By now I know I am not imagining this. My eating disorder would be more impressive, and as such worth trying to seek some kind of treatment, if I had red scars hidden in my armpits. I am sad for those who do have to resort to cutting in order to offset their mental pain by creating a physical one. My heart breaks for all of us who know that we are not functioning normally but desperately wished we did.

However, when I admit to purging -- to forcing myself to vomit as I did as a teenager, or to the daily use of handfuls of laxatives -- my physician's frantic note-taking or hands flying across the laptop's keyboard should continue. It should not come to a halt because I have now fallen into a less severe category of mentally disturbed individuals since I don't own a razor blade or hide a piece of sharp glass in one of my folded pairs of socks in my dresser drawer.

Although arriving at the ER with an arm dripping blood from elbow to wrist because the knife accidentally slipped when only a small slice was intended -- although any act that compromises major veins and arteries, and could potentially puncture internal organs is catastrophic and necessitates immediate psychiatric care, admitting to a medical professional that you've taken an entire box of laxatives is just as tragic.

The agony experienced as your intestines twist into knots of excruciating pain; pain that lets you know you're not actually numb despite the tragedies life has thrown at you; because as you lie in your bed, waiting for the next wave of stomach cramps, a prelude to your body emptying all the bad stuff; all the garbage that has clung to you for years; all the memories you have tried to forget -- as you moan, crumpled in the fetal position wondering if you will actually survive this time because surely you won't; the pain has gripped all your innards, and even though you feel this so you know you are alive and capable of more than just sadness, or worse, nothingness; you also wonder if this will kill you.

I have admitted this to medical professionals. After a blood test meant to determine that my electrolytes are all in balance, I'm told "your heart could stop if you do this again." And because my behaviour is currently limited to controlled abuse, and not visible to the general public, I can still be swept under the rug of lost souls, an inconvenience to a doctor who has more urgent patients than a crazy woman who likes to shit.


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