I contemplated about sharing this with you. I know some people don’t like it when you air your dirty laundry in public, while others are quick to advise you against it. Personally though, I don’t want to put up a perfect persona online. I don’t want to live a double life, just because I’ve not seen you in person. Who I am here, should be who I really am every day. So, I decided, I want to be human with you. I don’t want to be just that author you follow online, I want to be a person. After all, many of you have been reading my works for years. Some of you I’ve spoken to via emails and social media. It’s only fair that you know who I am and my imperfect life–the facets that often don’t translate through the screen between us.
But before I begin, let me just say I never knew I would admit to this one day. I didn’t think it would happen to me. And when it did, it was so subtle that by the time I realised it, I wondered why I didn’t see what was happening. Thankfully, I eventually saw it. And I’m currently working on beating this demon: orthorexia.
Orthorexia isn’t a clinically diagnosed eating disorder, as it often manifests in the form of anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. For a while now, I’ve struggled with binge eating. But when I looked up the symptoms, I found that I didn’t exhibit much of them. After further research, I learned that I have orthorexia: the obsession with healthy eating.
You would think such an obsession is a good thing, right? Well, not until you hear the many stories from the many members of the fitness community. It’s not a widely known eating disorder but it exists. And the health repercussions, mentally and physically, is crippling in the long run. I’m just glad I noticed it before I experienced the full blown side effects. I’m glad I noticed it to begin with. But, what was/is it like with orthorexia?
As someone with orthorexia, I restricted my diet to a point where I didn’t consume sugar, carbs, gluten, and fruits. I didn’t eat certain types of vegetables, because they were considered high on the glycemic index scale. I found myself reading all nutritional labels and googling the nutrition content of natural foods, before I consumed them or omitted them from my diet. Whenever I failed to adhere to my ‘clean’ eating–after binging because the cravings got too hard to bear–I would rebound with more food restrictions and more exercise. It was an endless cycle–binge, restrict, binge, restrict. Yet oddly enough, when people say I was obsessive or too restrictive, I couldn’t see it. I was blinded until my binge episodes scared me into finding out what was wrong. And only then, I saw the problem.
It’s strange how some of us don’t take eating disorders or any mental illnesses seriously. Maybe because we’ve never experienced it and understood what it means to have one. We cannot comprehend what is so hard about eating that piece of vegetable or climbing out of the bed just to brush our teeth. It’s not that we are indifferent–we just don’t have the experience. And often, we think we won’t ever fall into this rabbit hole. We think we’re immune to this illness. I thought I was immune. But I guess… I’m just as human as everyone else.
I’m currently in a recovery phase, reintroducing the foods I previously banned into my diet. I also changed my eating schedule to be less restrictive. I’m giving myself the freedom to include more foods and enjoy the foods I like. I’ve told my friends about this, and I have my mother to hold me accountable–relinquishing control and listening to her advice. And though it hasn’t been easy–the fear, regret, and guilt still lingers–I know I can win this battle.
If you have a mental illness, know you’re not alone. If you think you might have one, quickly seek help and take action. If you don’t have a mental illness, be aware that it can happen to anyone–don’t ever be ashamed or critical if it happens to you or someone you know. We’re not gods. But when we beat our demons, we come out stronger and more powerful than before.
I hope this sharing–as daunting as it is to hit publish–doesn’t come off as an airing of dirty laundry but encourages you to live unashamed. After all, our imperfections make us who we are. We all struggle. We all fall. We all break. But we’re all warriors, overcomers, and fighters too. Whatever you’re going through, don’t give up and lose hope. Let’s conquer our demons together. Let’s stand victorious… and live to tell the tale.