Anorexia + the unicorn syndrome

“The unicorn syndrome” is a phrase coined by people struggling with eating disorders. It’s the belief that you will be a unicorn — other people need food, but you don’t because you’re strong and special.

It’s just a lie the eating disorder tells you.

It’s just a lie my eating disorder told me.

It also told me that I won’t get sick, my teeth won’t fall out or break, and that I feel most alive when I’m restricting simply because adrenaline gives me a false sense of energy levels.

3 mini tissue packs that say "be a unicorn in a field of horses", with purple accent color against teal/dark green (I'm colorblind and cannot tell the difference in this photo)

My family enabled my eating disorder

Instead of accepting the diagnoses I told them, they accused me of making things up for attention and said that my “real” mental illness was something else.

Every. single. time.

The only times they acknowledged my literal diagnoses were to use them against me, either directly to my face or to discredit me in the perception of others.

I’d say, “I’m starving. I need help. My brain isn’t working right because I’m so hungry. I need you to help me eat.”

They’d respond, “Why are you always so dramatic?! You’re not starving; you’re bored.”

If an inner critic is born during childhood from the people who were supposed to love us, and is based on their harsh and critical remarks, then my caregivers created the breeding ground for my eating disorder.

Because that’s precisely where it comes from. All of it — every single aspect of my freaking eating disorder comes from them.

It wasn’t full-on like Jennette McCurdy’s mom. Tiny remarks and ounces of criticism piled up over the years until my inner critic developed into this beast that I was only worthy of love if I was “perfect”.

And in order to be perfect, I couldn’t be a burden.

In order to not be a burden, I needed to be as quiet and small as possible. I had to fit the clothes I already had so I wouldn’t stress my caregivers out about how I needed new clothes.

If they didn’t fit, I was taught to “suck it in”.

I received love for how beautiful they perceived my body in the moment, so long as I accepted their comments and allowed them to do with me what they wanted.

Some relatives tried to warn me

My paternal aunt…sigh…she tried so hard. Nothing she said to me about how bad my eating disorder was affected me, though.

The eating disorder says, “This won’t happen to you…and if it already has, what’s the point in recovering if the damage is irreversible? Will they truly like you without me? Will they truly love you without me? You need me.”

And you know what? For me, that was true.

When I first began eating disorder recovery, my family didn’t like it. Most of them still don’t like it.

Charlise is the only person today who doesn’t discuss diet culture with me beyond trashing it — and who wants me to recovery for myself.

So…the lies my eating disorder told me wound up being true…just like the fears I had about unmasking my autism.

With my abandonment wound…I don’t yet know how to articulate the depth of the pain I’ve experienced over the last two years. I only know I can never trust most of the people I’ve cut from my life ever again.

It would have been better, for me, if they had died — and perhaps themselves, too — before they caused me such irreparable heartache.

I know I am not a unicorn.

There’s a part of the eating disorder community insisting on using the unicorn syndrome to empower people by saying they will beat their eating disorder.

I find that harmful. I’m not a unicorn. I no longer believe I can survive off the bare minimum and water alone.

I am not dramatic — my body is dramatic. Because it’s starving.

I used to think my ability to eat so little and function anyway set me apart from the people who couldn’t.

Then I turned 26, and my body stopped working the way it used to. I didn’t realize all the glaringly obvious signs of my eating disorder — the very things people criticized and reprimanded me for, like my hair falling out and being all over the floor — was because of my eating disorder.

A lot of my mental and physical struggles are explained with my eating disorder, so much so that my symptoms of narcolepsy and other conditions have been dismissed as “starvation syndrome” for now.

As I’ve been in remission once before, I was amazed at how many symptoms disappeared.

It’s almost like…I thought I was a unicorn, that anorexia was on my side, until I entered the stage of recovery where a person feels alive and capable of moving their body however they please.

I thought my eating disorder hadn’t effected me like it did those other people, yet it did — and I was only capable of noticing one I felt what it was like to walk about without fearing that each next step would be my last.

No one is an eating disorder unicorn.

Love this post?

Support me by subscribing to my blog and/or buying me a cuppa:

Leave a comment