Why I need to educate my workplace this ED awareness week

Trigger warning: Eating disorders, body image.

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I’ve suffered from bulimia for nearly 5 years of my life. Before that, it was restrictive eating that morphed into binge eating disorder, and as it’s eating disorder awareness week, I’m here to chat about it again. But this time, I’m not really here to talk about my eating disorder specifically- as I’ve written SO much about that in the last few months.

[You can read more about it here if you’re interested:]

Dear diary… here’s the reality of being a bulimic

Dear diary… I still have foods I fear

I’ve reached a turning point

Life after an eating disorder

Instead- I want to share why I’m actually raising awareness in a place that I feel really needs it; my work.

I work in a company which is about 80% young people, twenty-somethings and people who have grown up talking about, hearing about and being open about mental illness.

Although we’ve still got a way to go, the conversations are starting to open- particularly with my generation and the majority of the time I find that work is a great support network of friends and people full of understanding, sympathy and support. Whenever I’ve vocalised my issues in the past or had to bring up the fact that I’ve had anxiety and OCD-  I have several friends at work who are aware of my eating problems (since we’ve been out for meals together in the past) and they are nothing but wonderful.

Instead- the problem is coming from the slightly older people in my office. The other 20%. The people who either don’t understand mental illness or the people who’ve never had an open conversation about it- preferring to keep things private. Although there’s nothing wrong with this and I’m not trying to point the finger, a situation occurred last Friday which leads me to want to raise awareness in my work-place and open up a conversation, in such an important week.

I was having a weekly catch-up with a member of senior management when he brought up that I’d caught the flu the week before. He commented on the fact I probably didn’t look after my body properly, commented on my diet, exercise and basically made me feel like a total failure. that I’d caught a bug that about 8 other people in my office had. That alongside other things started waves of anxiety flowing and ended up in me crying in our meeting and him sitting there stunned and confused about what had just happened.

It was just a careless comment, I’m sure there was no malice intended- but it sent me on a spiral. I hesitate to say it triggered me- but I ended up sobbing my eyes out in the bathroom for about 20 minutes and having to do a lot of coping tactics to stave off a panic attack.

To me, this person had just insinuated I looked fat (oh that fucking word) and unhealthy. It felt like I was being criticized and told that I was a whole host of things that I thought about myself- and it didn’t feel good.

But how were they to know I had an eating disorder? I’d never told a member of senior management, I hadn’t vocalized it- and they weren’t aware. I hadn’t talked about my anxiety, I hadn’t explained that I have terrible self-esteem and shitty mental health that can be tipped at the slightest of things and I hadn’t spoken about it openly enough to give a reason for the fact I just wanted to grab my things and run home.

So I pulled my socks up, put my big girl boots on and told my manager. Shit, it was hard. It’s hard to admit that something you think you’ve almost beaten is still a demon that sits on your shoulder. But it’s important.

So this week, I’m not going to write more about my ED on this blog, as it’s just not enough anymore. Instead I’m going to brave and tell people. I’m going to put my words into actions- starting with the workplace.

I spoke to my friend at work and together we’re putting forward a request for company wide mental health training, I’m talking more openly about it- and ya know what else? I’m kicking that ED in the butt, by ignoring all the things that it wants me to think.

Rach

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