Disease Burnout: I Am More Than My Eating Disorder . . .

October 21, 2011 Angela E. Gambrel

I'm more than my eating disorder and I urge people to look beyond the eating disorder and get to know the whole person. I'm actually quite interesting.

I live in a small town, and it was very noticeable when I first developed anorexia four years ago. The roller coaster of recovery and relapse also has been very noticeable, and each time I find myself having to explain either weight loss or weight gain. It's frustrating because I am more than my eating disorder.

It is important to me that I am able to talk to people about my eating disorder. I believe telling my story is a good way to educate others, and help friends and acquaintances who know or suspect that a loved one might have an eating disorder. I am happy to point them in the right direction toward resources that can help them and their loved one, and try to answer all their questions honestly and completely.

But many days, I feel like I am at a crossroads. Yes, I am in recovery from anorexia. However, I also am so much more.

Yes, I am Still Struggling with Anorexia

I still struggle with anorexic thoughts and behaviors. Some days I hate my body, and I am uncomfortable that I weigh significantly more than I did last year. I still count calories in my head, and become anxious if I eat something that I do not know how many calories are in it. I will occasionally skip meals with the thought that I need to lose a few pounds, even though my doctor assures me that I am at a healthy weight. Finally, I still sometimes question if I do want to fully recover from anorexia.

But I Am Healing

However, many things are different from last year. I eat the majority of my meals, and I do eat foods that I don't know the exact calorie count and I am better able to let go of the anxiety. I can look at my body and tell myself that it is a slender, healthy body. I remind myself that I was neither attractive nor healthy when I was emaciated.

I am ready to move forward, and I tell myself that I need to be healthy and recovered to create the kind of life that I want to live; that there is no life in anorexia. I remember waking up each day, wishing anorexia had killed me in my sleep and then pulling the covers over me until I had to force myself to face each day. I was anxious and depressed, and felt incapable of coping with life.

No One Cares That There's More to Me Than My Eating Disorder

Now I am moving out into the world again, but it seems as if the world doesn't want to let me forget that I once was actively anorexic. I do freelance writing for the newspaper I used to work for, and I inevitably run into someone who looks me over and then mentions my weight gain when I cover an event or meeting. I cringe inwardly. I don't want anyone to mention my weight gain. I want the people in this town and in my life to forget that I had anorexia, and allow me to move forward.

I know that perhaps I am not being fair. I know that having such a visible illness invites comments. But sometimes those comments can be unintentionally cruel or triggering, and make me want to dive right back into anorexia. I would never presume to mention someone's weight unless she or he specifically asked me a question, and even then I would hesitate.

There Is Much More to Who I Am Than 'Recovering Anorexic'

There is so much more to me than that I am a recovering anorexic. I am a graduate student in English Composition and Communication, and my studies include a variety of topics from children's literature to American Indian rhetoric. I love to read novels, memoirs and autobiographies, books about history and religion, and historical pieces about the medieval and Renaissance eras. I write poetry just for myself.

I enjoy old Jimmy Stewart movies, and love the original version of The Miracle Worker. My life would not be complete without music. I listen to Gregorian chants when I am writing and classic Elton John when I want to sing; contemporary Christian music when I need to be lifted up and Patsy Cline when I need to know someone else has had her heart broken in this life, too. I have degrees in psychology and writing, and I also studied religion and history in college. I took up archery last fall, and recently started yoga classes this year.

I wish people would talk to me about one of these subjects, or tell me about their lives and interests. I am tired of being known only for having had anorexia.

I am so much more than my eating disorder . . . And so are each one of you.

APA Reference
Gambrel, A. (2011, October 21). Disease Burnout: I Am More Than My Eating Disorder . . ., HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 25 from

Author: Angela E. Gambrel

October, 22 2011 at 6:21 am

I know and understand. It is 6 yrs ago, it took me 1 1/2yrs to reach my goal weight. People still will ask me if I am sick or losing weight. Sometimes I will say No. Sometimes I tell them that I have been able to keep my weight within #4s. I want to say (How is your weight doing?)
If someone asks me how I loss weight, I am happy to share my story.
Thank you.

Angela E. Gambrel
October, 24 2011 at 6:36 am

Thanks for your comments! I sometimes want to do the same thing — ask, How is your weight doing?t It has taken me these past ten months to maintain a healthy weight, although I am not yet at my goal weight.
Congratulations on reaching your goal weight and good wishes for your continued success with recovery!!!

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