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I didn’t choose to have thyroid problems. Neither did my mom, nor either of my brothers.

I didn’t also choose to have an eating disorder. This, like other conditions, also runs in my family.

Even though research suggests that 50-80 percent of eating disorder risk is genetic and heritable, many people still believe that those who struggle are at fault in some way. But eating disorders are not a choice.

An invisible illness

Regarding hypothyroidism, no one ever said to me, “Why don’t you just make your thyroid levels go back to normal?” But, in my eating disorder recovery, I often heard, “Why don’t you just eat?”

Even after I broke my foot because I was walking too fast down the stairs while carrying heavy luggage on a moving train, no one asked, “Why did you break your own foot?” And certainly no one said, “Why don’t you just walk?” as I hobbled with three broken metatarsals.

My mom and dad didn’t choose to have the cancers that put them in two different hospitals at the same time. In regard to their lengthy treatments, people never asked, “Aren’t they over that yet?”

But, with mental illness, friends and family can lose patience. Mental illnesses, including eating disorders, can be excruciatingly painful for all whose lives are touched. When I finally sought help at age 22, yet was still struggling in my late 20s, friends questioned my mom, “Isn’t she better yet?”

My brain was hijacked

I wasn’t better, because my brain was hijacked. If you’ve never had the experience of being taken over by a mental illness, then it’s impossible to understand. Before I realized that I was prone to mental illness, I used to wonder why a certain friend didn’t just quit drinking. Then, I entered my own recovery.

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