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  • Writer's pictureIona Stuart

How My Epilepsy Affected My Eating Disorder*

As someone with epilepsy, many people have witnessed some of my less glamorous moments, and so this part of my life tends to be really rather obvious – I’m a Loud Epileptic, remember? But the thing is, there are so many conditions out there that are not so easily seen; in fact, I’m pretty sure that almost everyone I know has some degree of something that is totally invisible. This is especially true when it comes to mental health, and I am certainly no exception.

Believe it or not, I’ve struggled with disordered eating for a number of years. I think that this is something that surprises people to hear sometimes, as my weight (being the physical indicator people usually associate with eating disorders) fluctuates quite a lot, and never really drops low enough, or goes high enough, to make any noticeable difference to how I look.

This was something that I didn’t talk about, or even really recognize, for quite some time. I feared that people would judge me because of my other medical problems and would say that my seizures were worse because of my eating disorder – because I’m not taking care of my body.

And now, at this point in my life, I am definitely able to see that. However, as much as there is certainly an argument for how my disordered eating habits affected my epilepsy, there is also the irrefutable fact that my epilepsy definitely had an influence on my disordered eating habits.

This may sound strange, but let me explain. I have struggled with odd, terrifying, wonderful sensations for years, and I never knew what caused them. No one understood, and I couldn’t explain, and I felt like I was going crazy. And, to be perfectly honest, a lot of other people made me feel that way, too.

To some extent, I’ve always been the kind of person who’s susceptible to unhealthy coping mechanisms. I’ve always had this strange inbuilt need for control and order, and during these years of undiagnosed seizures, I felt utterly helpless. I had no control over my mind, over my body, over my life. There was no structure, no safety net, and no sort of organization to keep my world in line. But then I discovered that I could control food, I could control what I ate; no one could put food in my mouth but me. It was a way of making my body do what I wanted, setting a goal to work toward, with a plan of how to achieve that goal. It made me feel like I had purpose, and that I was capable of doing something.

But, of course, it doesn’t work like that. All it ever did was stop me from participating in things I should have enjoyed, made a lot of situations unnecessarily uncomfortable, and put strain on important relationships with others. What I have learned – and believe me when I say that this has been a very recent discovery, and one that I can’t really take credit for – is that self-love achieves so much more than self-hatred ever will.

So, I guess all I can really say at this point is, please try not to judge people solely on appearances. And to anyone who is struggling with something like this, please know that you’re not alone, and please don’t let the thoughts that you’re ‘not sick enough,’ or ‘aren’t really doing any real damage’ get in the way of seeking help.

And don’t do what I did and keep it a secret for years from the fear of being judged – of being seen as less than capable, less worthy of support and trust due to a perceived inability to look after yourself – because you are worth so much more than your brain may let you believe.

*edited repost from original website

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