To My Neighbor: You Don't Have to Suffer from Your Eating Disorder Anymore
I see you walking back and forth — multiple times a day. Even late at night, when most people are snuggled warmly in bed watching Netflix or reading a book, you are outside — walking and exercising.
I pass you in my car and you don't give me a second glance. You are alone and seem preoccupied. With what — I can only imagine. Maybe you are thinking about what you are going to have for dinner or when you will walk next. There are many thoughts that can preoccupy your tired mind.
You are on a mission. Rain, sleet, snow and extreme heat you are still out there, walking along. You wear a full-dress uniform, the same, day in and day out to keep your body insulated.
You are not a mailman — but that would be a good guess.
You are also not a soldier of the Queen’s Guard — but that would be closer.
You are a soldier of life — a human-being like all of us.
You are my neighbor — my neighbor that has an eating disorder.
I am not judging you. Quite the opposite, in fact, I know you so well. I was you. We don’t personally know each other, but I want to open my arms to you. I want to hug you and let you know that you are not alone.
I once had the compulsion to walk as well. I mean, I would do anything to burn calories, to numb out, to cope.
I want you to know that you don't have to walk. Walking doesn't make anything in your life better. It won’t make people like you more. It won’t make your marriage better. It won’t let your kids go through this world problem-free.
Occasional walking is healthy but you, neighbor, take it to the extreme. And anything taken to the extreme becomes not healthy.
Have you ever thought about what you are missing when you are out walking?
You are missing quiet moments at home snuggled up with your kids.
I have seen your son walking alongside you. He probably wants to do other things with you besides walk. He is trying to meet you, his dad, where you are comfortable. He is trying to walk in your path, to see what it’s like and why you do it so much.
No one around you may understand, but I do. Maybe some people praise your tenacity. Perhaps some people think you are on a health kick and are really dedicated. Maybe your family is mad at you for walking. They think it's selfish — when you are just trying to survive.
I see you looking down at your phone when you walk. You are ashamed. You make no eye-contact. There is no pride in your step. You are defeated in your stride. You don’t want to be doing it, but you can’t help it.
Men can fall victim to eating disorders, too, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.
You can get better. This doesn’t have to be your life. We are all soldiers. If we march together, we can rise out of the darkness.
I am your neighbor — just one person who will lend you a hand and help you march out of the fire. And I know there will be many others.
You just have to let us in.
Dani Sherman-Lazar is an eating disorder advocate, Vice President of a transportation company, and a mother to two daughters. Her book Living FULL: Winning My Battle with Eating Disorder is available for pre-order on Amazon. Find Dani on her blog: Living a Full Life After ED.
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