Community//

When You Don’t Look Like You Have an Eating Disorder

Make up on, dressed to perfection, made the grades, had the friends, and yet behind it all... I was dying. Dying from an eating disorder. But I looked fine. So how bad could it be?

I looked the part and played the part well: All-American southern belle.

Make up on, dressed to perfection, made the grades, had the friends, and yet behind it all…

I was dying.

Dying from an eating disorder. But I looked fine. So how bad could it be?

That’s what I hear all the time now. “McCall, I don’t have a feeding tube. So it is fine. I am not in the hospital. It isn’t ‘that’ bad.”

Little do these folks know I was the QUEEN of Not That Bad. But I never had to convince anyone it wasn’t that bad because no one knew.

I was so good at convincing myself and hiding all of the purging, the diet pills, the laxatives, the adderall, the diuretics. If no one can see it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Wrong.

This is what my eating disorder ‘looked’ like:

I looked the part and played the part well: All-American southern belle.

Make up on, dressed to perfection, made the grades, had the friends, and yet behind it all…

I was dying.

Dying from an eating disorder. But I looked fine. So how bad could it be?

That’s what I hear all the time now. “McCall, I don’t have a feeding tube. So it is fine. I am not in the hospital. It isn’t ‘that’ bad.”

Little do these folks know I was the QUEEN of Not That Bad. But I never had to convince anyone it wasn’t that bad because no one knew.

I was so good at convincing myself and hiding all of the purging, the diet pills, the laxatives, the adderall, the diuretics. If no one can see it, it doesn’t exist, right?

Wrong.

This is what my eating disorder ‘looked’ like:

The picture of me with the lobsters was taken on my 29th birthday…one week before admitting to treatment. That’s the funny thing about mental health. There is no ‘look’ to an eating disorder or to depression (i.e. Robin Williams). You can’t see anxiety, bi-polar and yes, an eating disorder.

Eating disorders are complex illnesses that carry so much stigma. I carried my shame silently for fifteen years, surviving on the “I’m fine” and “I’ll be better when…” scenarios. But no move, college degree or job would heal me from my eating disorder.

The only thing that was going to heal me was medical and professional help…just like every other illness. No one heals cancer without medical intervention – the same goes for mental health.

My years abusing diet pills were written off as a college phase. My sudden wedding weight loss was just ‘the bride diet’. No one took the numerous signs for what they were: red flags that I was suffering from an eating disorder. And I did a really good job putting on a happy face that everything was just fine in my world.

Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God above for my recovery and my life. Because I know the fact that I am alive today is a miracle. That’s right – a miracle. Now if you saw me back in college, social chairman of my sorority going out and having fun, you might say, “What? No way it was ‘that bad’!” But alas it was. What you saw was a cover up, a lie, a girl trying to survive the only way she knew how. 

Here is what you did not see: 

The girl bargaining with God to let her survive the night because she took too many diet pills and could see her heart beating out of her chest.

The girl still laying in bed at three o’clock in the afternoon because she could not bear to put one foot in front of the other because her depression was so bad.

The girl laying on the floor cursing herself for being ‘so bad’ at lunch and being weak for needing food.

The girl who ran around the track over and over until her IT band gave way.

What you did not see was the girl who was dying.

The severity of my illness did not suddenly hit me one day. It took time to heal and then look back at my struggle with healthy eyes to see its severity. 

I will never forget when my treatment therapist said, “McCall, you don’t get it. One more purge. One more run. One more anything and your heart can give out.”

It was the first time I truly heard what she had been trying to tell me all along

This. Was. Serious.

My underlying message in every talk I give is this: be kind to one another (yes, everyone knows I adore Ellen). But it is so true. We can never ‘tell’ if someone is struggling, which is why we MUST be kind. 

And if you are struggling, in ANY way, talk to someone. Get help. Reach out. I often wonder what my life would have been like had I not waited fifteen years.

I think it is safe to say I am pretty happy and fulfilled doing what I am doing and knowing I am doing what God put me on this earth to do. And part of His reasoning (at least I hope) is to help spread the message that we all need help at some point in our lives. 

If you feel there is the slightest inkling that life isn’t *quite right* then reach out! There is ZERO shame in reaching out. You can find professionals in your area on www.findEDhelp.com.

I was surrounded by family and friends who loved and cared for me and yet, I felt alone for so much of my life. Know that you are not alone. You’ve got an army of us that have been through it all and are proof that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. 

Take good care of yourself today and Dare to Love Yourself…always.

    The Thrive Global Community welcomes voices from many spheres. We publish pieces written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Learn more or join us as a community member!
    Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

    You might also like...

    Community//

    I Survived An Eating Disorder and So Can You: With Limor Weinstein & Victoria Evans, Intuitive Eating Coach

    by Limor Weinstein, MA., LMHC., FAED
    Community//

    “Talk To Yourself As You Would A Child Or Friend You Love” With Bianca L. Rodriguez And Jessica (Tyner) Mehta

    by Bianca L. Rodriguez, Ed.M, LMFT
    A table full of delicious food
    Community//

    How Food Gratitude Saved My Life

    by Adrienne MacIain

    Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

    Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

    Thrive Global
    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - MARCUS AURELIUS

    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.