I Have an Eating Disorder. No, Not that One. Or that One.

I've been off about food for as long as I can remember. For most of my life I was very thin. People who didn't know me very well often thought I must be anorexic, which I, of course, knew was ridiculous and I was very offended that people had it so wrong. ARFID is commonly misdiagnosed as anorexia, I now know, not that I was ever diagnosed. No one was ever concerned enough for that.

Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. As I am no longer underweight, and have some ability to try new foods (sometimes), I would say I have a mild case. However, I do not eat healthy and my eating habits and schedule interfere greatly with my daily life. My chief concern is that I'm pushing myself toward diabetes and haven't the capacity to correct the problem.

For a long time I just described myself as "picky", then "weird about food" or "food-weird". Other people, particularly when I was a child, thought of me more as "annoying" or "rude". When I became an adult I realized that I am actually afraid of food, which hadn't occurred to me until it did. I noticed that I truly, physically recoiled from new foods in particular.

Any food that I'm not familiar with just isn't really food to me. I read someone describing people with ARFID as not being able to tell the difference between what is and isn't food, like offering us a new food would be like asking us to eat a plastic bag. The idea that I can't distinguish food is a little knee-jerk offensive to me, but really, emotionally that is basically what its like. Its the automatic assertion that I would not eat that. On top of that, I don't want to eat it, and I'm sure that I shouldn't. Again this is an emotional reaction, not an intellectual one.

Day to day its just difficult to eat. Even foods that I'm used to, foods that I like. I'll sit on the couch and go hungry. I can't do anything else, as I need to eat, and I need to focus on deciding on what food I'm willing to eat, that I'm able to swallow. It takes a while, sometimes it takes so long that I know I'll have to eat again very soon so what's the point in getting started on doing anything when I know I'll just have to stop to eat. There are other mental health issues at play here, and they feed into each other (absolutely no pun intended).

In my research on the subject, I came across one website that claims, quite matter of factly, that occurrences of ARFID are growing because there are so many specialized diets. I don't see how that could be anything but utter nonsense. But it does effect things. In a social sense it makes things easier, as people are more forgiving and less interested. People are so used to abnormal eating habits at this point that mine get less attention. I blend in a little more, and I'm not the sole person that food plans need to be adjusted for. However, in the physical-ability-to-eat sense it makes things much more difficult. I have food allergies and other bad physical reactions, which makes the pool of foods available to me even smaller. I like few things, and half of them (or more) I can't or shouldn't eat.

It is nice to finally have a diagnosis; it is also difficult to not be a little bitter about not having had a diagnosis all my life. ARFID did not officially exist until 2013. I keep going over memories, mostly of trying to communicate the issue or avoiding it as best as I could, and thinking: if I could have just said "I have an eating disorder". I can now, at any rate.

Now I face the void of treatment available for a disorder that very few people know about. Even people who specialize in eating disorders are, obviously, completely focused on anorexia and bulimia which are extremely different and sort of backwards and inside out of what I deal with. Regardless of what kind of eating disorder, treatment programs are prohibitively expensive. I was extremely excited when I first got the diagnosis - now I can get help. But not really. Maybe. Probably not though.

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