Quite a few times on here, I've told you some really shitty things I've done. I was brought up Catholic, so maybe I'm still a sucker for Confession. Regardless of the reason, I want to tell you yet another shitty thing I did in my past, and try and explain how it happened. And this is it: I nominated myself as bouncer to the exclusive club of Eating Disordered and attempted to refuse entry to anybody I didn't see as ill enough.
But I'm going to backtrack a little bit. I'm going to start off telling you about my evolution of thought on self diagnosis.
When it comes to physical illness, I think you're really best off not googling your symptoms. Sure, there are times when it's responsible to do so- checking what to spot when it comes to breast cancer, for example- but generally, don't google whether your headache is a brain tumour. Mental illness is different. With mental illness, I think that you're best to be as aware as you can. With mental illness, a lot of the times I think that you can self diagnose because pretty much any sort of diagnostic test is based on how you rate your mental state, no fancy equipment necessary. It's not necessarily true for every condition, but generally you know if you're depressed or anxious or starving yourself or whatever. And, maybe most importantly, self diagnosis enables people to articulate better to professionals what's going on for them.
It was maybe 9 years between the start of my eating disorder and my actual diagnosis. There were a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is that I was very, very young when I started and so when my symptoms were brought to my doctor's attention, it was diagnosed as something else. But I knew I had an eating disorder. My behaviours started when I was 8, and it wasn't long after that that I realised what was going on. I didn't understand the implications, of course, but I could put a name to it. I'd self diagnosed 7 or 8 years before my official diagnosis and it helped. It helped knowing that it wasn't my fault, it was a genuine illness and when I was ready, I could get help.
For whatever reason though, once I got the diagnosis, I became really bloody cocky with it. I disregarded the fact that self diagnosis had benefited me so much in my earlier years and I started to become really elitist. I needed to be great at something, and having an eating disorder was something I could execute brilliantly, so I'd get arrogant over the fact that I had that diagnosis. It was fucked up, but I can understand how I'd got to that place. I wasn't at all pro-Ana, I did my best to direct other people to recovery, but only if they had that diagnosis. Only if I deemed them worthy. I was constantly so angry at anybody I saw as playing at having an eating disorder and I loathed people who self diagnosed and had the audacity to claim the disorder as their own, when it was my thing.
That's hard to admit to, because it made me horrible. Horrible. I decided it was my place to pick out who did and didn't have an eating disorder, I judged people for doing what they had to, and, what I now consider even worse, I made diagnosis into something it really shouldn't be- an achievement.
The thing is, the thing that recovery has really shown me, is that eating disorders are way more of a spectrum thing than a binary one. Eating disorders are different for everybody, in behaviours, attitudes, thought processes- everything. And the degrees in which people are affected are all different. It's not more impressive to eat less or to vomit more. It's not more impressive to have been ill or diagnosed the longest. It's not more impressive to have been tube fed the most or at the lowest weight.
We do what we have to do. And I'm sorry that I made it into more than it ought to have been.