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Easter and eating disorders

For those suffering from psychological disorders that impact upon eating habits, annual festivities such as Easter can be incredibly challenging, writes Sophia Hatzis.

Easter time. You’ve come again.

You bring so much joy to so many people. You bring families to the same table. You make little children squeal with happiness as they hunt for those eggs left by the Easter bunny. You bring love, light, laughter and meaning to people all over the world.

But not everyone looks forward to you.

This Easter weekend can cause many people, like the Sophia from many moons ago, crippling anxiety. For some, the thought of facing their family at a table full of food is the most terrifying situation imaginable. So much food. Nowhere to hide. All eyes are on you. What you eat. What you don’t eat. What you avoid. What you don’t avoid.

There is laughter around the table. Conversation. Your Dad is telling your little brother to sit up straight and use his knife and fork properly. Mum is pouring Nanna another glass of white wine. And everyone’s onto their second and third helpings. You notice them looking at you from the corner of their eye, every so often. They know something’s wrong. They just don’t know what to say. You sit there, your heart moving from your chest to your mouth, wishing you were anywhere but here.

It was not too long ago that that was me at the table. Sitting with my hands clasped in my lap, hoping that it would be over. Hoping that no one would ask me why I wasn’t going back for seconds. Praying that no one would put any more on my plate. Begging no one to comment on what I was and wasn’t eating. So many things outside my control. Everything is out of control. So much discomfort.

It was not too long ago that I dreaded the Easter weekend like I dreaded Christmas. The plethora of Easter chocolates lining the supermarket shelves taunted me. I wanted, more than anything, to be like everyone else. To sink my teeth into a warm hot cross bun and unwrap a Lindt Easter bunny with that adorable little bell around its neck. I wanted nothing more and yet nothing could have seemed more impossible. Not without punishment. Not without penance.

I envied those around me. I envied their lack of anxiety. I envied their ability to go back for more, with nothing but a smile on their face. No fear. No guilt. I just wanted to be normal.

This will be me forever, I thought. Every Easter will be like this. Every dinner. Every party. There is no way I can be normal again. I cannot be like these people around me ever again. No way in the world.

And yet, here I am, looking at that shadow of my former self, knowing that I will never be that way again. Here I am, able not only to sit down at a family meal without anxiety but to enjoy it as well. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could eat chocolate again without guilt or shame, but I can. I did today. And I did yesterday. The guilt and the shame is now joy.

When your disorder is strongest, it will make you believe that you will never be able to have a normal relationship with food again. It wants you to believe that you will never be well again. That your eating disorder is just part of who you are now, so you may as well accept it. You think that your future is a forgone conclusion. Food will always be the enemy. Your lover and your abuser. Recovery, whatever that is, is simply not possible.

Well, I’m here to tell you that your disorder is wrong. Very, very wrong.

Because I was there. I was just like you. I know the feelings. I know the hurt. And I know that it doesn’t have to be your forever. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to work hard, and I had to ask for help. I had to cry, and I had to fail. I had to feel the anxiety, and I had to push through it. I had to challenge myself and I truly had to be brave. Just like you will have to. But getting better is not impossible. Your future is not a forgone conclusion. Sitting at that table will get easier.

Eating that chocolate, one day, will get easier. That doesn’t mean you have to do it now. That doesn’t mean you have to force yourself into doing something that will bring you more harm than good.

But positive change won’t happen on its own. You will need help. Probably a lot of it. But you are stronger than you think you are. And you do not have to live this way forever. Food will become your friend again one day. Something you can enjoy with others. Something that brings you together rather than tears you apart.

This post originally appeared on Sophia Hatzis’ blog, “The Beauty Breakdown Project”.

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