Proud2Bme | Undiagnosed but Not Without a Voice

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Undiagnosed but Not Without a Voice

By Alexandra Bohannon--Not having a formal diagnosis made my journey through my eating disorder and to my recovery much more challenging. Four years ago, I was at my lowest weight during my struggle with anorexia. It was Christmas and I was at my nana’s house. I had been performing my typical strategy of avoiding mealtimes, which was quite easy due to the number of people.

Trigger warning: Descriptions of eating disordered behavior.

While at her house, I stepped on her old scale, the kind the doctors have in their offices. I weighed myself. When the number came up, my first thought was “I bet I could be smaller.” Then, I burst into tears. I remembered that the last time I weighed so little, I was in the seventh grade. I was 20 years old at the time.

I was 5’3, so I was technically underweight, but only by a few pounds. I felt like I needed help, but it seemed so difficult to get. I had talked to a counselor at my university earlier that year—they were at capacity for patients and, despite me telling them about my food struggles, they had no open slots. At that point, my weight was not low enough to cause alarm. They recommended some other counselors that I could see, but none of them accepted my insurance. I continued my downward spiral.

Whenever I went to my mother, crying, telling her about my anorexia, she hugged me and calmed me down. But one of the first things she said to me was, “I don’t think you have an eating disorder.” Perhaps it was a coping tactic to deal with a child telling you that she is mentally ill, but we didn’t discuss the topic again. I never told my father.

When the spring semester started, I called the counseling center as soon as possible to be sure that I got one of the few slots. During my intake, I told them that I was turned away due to capacity and that unless I saw someone at the counseling center, I would be unable to see anyone due to my insurance. I went to my first appointment that month, and I am still thankful for this.

However, despite my weight being so low, always being cold, having no period and being afraid to eat, I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder. I worked with my counselor on a lot of anxiety issues, but we never fully discussed my anorexia. I never saw a dietician, despite wanting to; I had no way to pay for it with the insurance I had. I knew I had to gain weight, but I didn’t know how, and I was terrified of doing so. But in my heart, I knew that recovery had to happen. 

My staunchest supporter at the time was my boyfriend. Without him, my recovery could not have happened. We started working together to stop thinking of food as a negative—a poison or toxin—to food being fuel and being good. He showed me how to look at my body in a positive way. My recovery started with him being a strong ally, and I am always full of gratitude for him.

Over time, and with relapses along the way, I entered recovery. I still feel like I’m in recovery, despite weighing much more than I did at 20. The struggle of not having a diagnosis is one I do not wish on anyone. My ED recovery journey had the potential to not end as well as it did. Being your own advocate—especially on top of suffering from this illness—is challenging.

Two days ago, I got back from my nana’s house, where we celebrated Christmas. We shared a holiday feast, in which I participated fully. I didn’t touch nana’s scale. The temptation is still there—it may always be there—but it does get better. Recovery can happen with or without a diagnosis, with the help and support of those around you—but never stop fighting for the treatment you deserve.

For recovery resources and treatment options, call the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at 800-931-2237.

About the blogger: Alexandra Bohannon is a graduate student at the University of Oklahoma getting her Masters of Public Administration degree. She currently works on women's leadership programs on campus. In her spare time, she can be found podcasting on the GoodTrash GenreCast, playing video games or doing yoga.

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Proud2Bme is an online community created by and for teens. We cover everything from fashion and beauty to news, culture, and entertainment—all with the goal of promoting positive body image and encouraging healthy attitudes about food and weight.

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