Don’t blame the patient!

Many people have asked me similar questions: 'How can you openly speak about your ED?' or “Are you scared that people will judge you for having had an ED?” Others ask, “What if you are not hired for a job because of your history with ED?”. So, I feel it is time to start sharing my answers!

1) I can speak openly about ED because I am not ashamed of it. I am no longer sick and am working my way through a solid recovery. I speak about it because so many others are scared to do so. EDs, like other mental illnesses, have so many stigmas attached to them, and this should not be the case. An illness is not someone's fault. It bothers me when people are scared to speak about mental illnesses because this reinforces the entire stereotypical stigma associated with them. I am frustrated with the lack of understanding and empathy that people have towards illnesses. Moreover, many people do not know about ED. They know what anorexia is, for example, but they do not know how serious, harmful, or painful it can be. I want to help raise awareness. I want the world to know that eating disorders are real and serious illnesses. Along with this, I want to give people hope that recovery is possible and that ED does not have to be the end of your life. By speaking about it openly, I hope to give people strength and courage to continue their fight, or to help others.

2) If people judge me because of my history with ED, then they have the problem, not me. I reiterate, ED is a mental illness. I am recovering, and that is all that counts. Any person is vulnerable to becoming ill, just like I was. If someone were to judge me for my illness, they are not worth my time. It also means that they are simply too immature to understand that any disease is a serious matter, and the patient should never be blamed. My history with ED does not make me weak; it makes me stronger. It shows the world that I have endured my battles and have come out better for it. People who judge me because of my history with ED do not understand that my journey has made me a stronger and wiser person. Unfortunately, some people are never happy with others. They will never truly be pleased - some people will always find something wrong with you. My place on earth is not to please others, but to glorify God in what I do. I believe that my journey with ED has aided me in helping others, raise awareness, and thank God for His mercy with me.

3) In relation to my personal experience with an eating disorder and how it may affect my career plans; I am a nursing student, soon to be a nurse, and yes, I had an eating disorder. The fact is I became sick, just like anybody else could have. I am no longer symptomatic, and I am healthy. My experiences with ED made me realize how much help people need, especially patients who are ill. This has taught me that patients need empathy, good care, and hope. That is what a good nurse does. I can now empathize with patients even more so than before, and I understand the value of good, compassionate nursing care. My history with ED’s, I believe, gives me an advantage in my work because I now understand what kind of care patients need. I also have a better understanding of how serious mental health issues are, and I can now help patients afflicted by these issues.

So, while people may fear that my history with ED is a weakness, I view it as strength. People who judge others because of their history, illnesses, or weaknesses do this wrongly and unjustly. It is time we looked past these superficial things and realize that we are stronger because of our experiences. I choose to not fear, but share what I have been through.

Marina Abdel Malak is a student in Nursing with interest in mental health and eating disorders. She has her own blog at http:www.anorexiarecovery1.blogspot.ca, where this piece originally appeared. She is recovering from anorexia nervosa.