A Queer Woman’s Journey from Anorexia to Recovery - Amy B.
This is a story of eating disorder recovery from a queer, gender-nonconforming woman’s perspective.
I spent many years in and out of treatment before I was able to maintain my recovery.
The moment I chose to surrender my eating disorder and dedicate my life to living in full recovery was the moment I realized that this mission would only be possible if I were living in my full truth. Thus far, I had not been living this way — in my truth.
The concept of being who you are may sound “simple” enough, but I didn’t know who I was until way after I started my journey in eating disorder recovery.
For me, being “me” didn’t just mean breaking out of eating disorder habits, it also meant breaking out of the closet.
From Winter 2012 to Spring 2015, I made quite a few rounds through the revolving doors of Eating Recovery Center. Each time, I’d come in slightly more hopeful that I would reach full recovery, but until my most recent stay, I always left feeling unfulfilled. In treatment, when someone would ask me what was missing in my life to help me stay in recovery, I’d simply shrug my shoulders and stare blankly.
It’s incredibly frustrating to not know an answer to a question about your own self.
But the truth was this: the Center wasn’t missing something, I was.
Before my final stay at Eating Recovery Center, I had begun to question my sexuality. I assumed that even if I was gay, it was a separate issue from my eating disorder. But I did not discuss this in therapy.
It wasn’t until shortly after discharging in April 2015 that I began discussing my sexuality with an outpatient therapist. Now, not only was I questioning if I was queer, but I was also wondering if that might have anything to do with my eating disorder.
About a month into therapy, I began dating a girl for the first time. I can honestly say that I had never felt more happy and secure in any relationship in my life. And just like that, I had my answer to the question that had been weighing on me for so long. I found the answer to the question, “What are you missing?”
It sounds bizarre and completely ridiculous but, after I came out, it almost felt as though my eating disorder vanished. I wondered if I could have avoided all those years of struggle if I was just able to say I was gay.
After maintaining my health for quite a while, I decided to delve into the deepest question, “What did my anorexia have to do with my sexuality?” After stumbling across a million different thoughts, I came to realize this: my anorexia was never about the food, numbers, or even control; it was about shedding my femininity.
As I realized that I was attracted to women, I felt that I must shrink all of the things that made me a woman. I wanted to shrink my breasts, my hips, my thighs — all of it. As senseless and confusing as it seems, this is what I thought was necessary at the time.
While there is a great deal written about queer men and eating disorders, there is very little research on queer women and eating disorders. The limited available information generally states that lesbians are more likely to struggle with binge eating disorder than other eating disorders. From my experience, both in personally struggling with anorexia and in witnessing it in others, this was not always the case. So, I dismissed it.
I dismissed that my eating disorder was connected to my sexuality — due to the fact that there was nothing to be found on queer women and anorexia.
My hope is that people will conduct more research on health issues — particularly eating disorders — relevant to the LGBTQ+ community. I’d especially like to see studies on anorexia & queer women.
I also hope that those who struggle like I did can realize that coming out as gay is way better than living in the throes of an eating disorder.
Throughout my time in treatment, I met several women in similar situations that I was in. I watched many of them come out and embrace their true selves, and then absolutely rock recovery.
How freeing it is to know that we can take such tremendous strides forward, once we start accepting our true selves.
Amy is a storyteller, dancer, and LMT in Denver, CO. She's an advocate for mental health, equality, and the LGBTQ+ community. She's recovered from her own battle with anorexia, and believes in sharing her story, and spreading awareness.