“You are clearly a lot better now then” people have said as they’ve looked me up and down. I will say it until I am blue in the face, a mental illness is an illness of the mind, you cannot tell if someone has a mental illness by looking at them.
The above sentence is usually said to me in regards to my eating disorder, unless I am skin and bone then I am ‘doing better’ in other people’s minds but this isn’t true. I may have reached a healthy weight and then began slipping downhill again. I find it so very triggering when I am relapsing with anorexia and am also being constantly told by people that I look well when I’m not doing well at all. It feeds the relapse. If I have reached a healthy weight by binging and purging, am I healthy? No. If I have stuck to my meal plan and gained weight but spend every waking hour planning my death then I am not well either. You cannot tell by looking at someone if they are mentally well or not.
Depression has no physical effect on the facial muscles, smiling is still possible. Someone with depression may be smiling but that doesn’t mean that they are well, that they no longer have depression, it simply means that they are smiling. Some people are naturally ‘smiley’, I know I smile inappropriately and am often smiling in situations where I really shouldn’t, it doesn’t mean I am happy or okay or anything. It just means I am smiling.
When I have comments like, “You are clearly a lot better now then” thrown at me I find it very difficult to deal with. It makes it hard to say, “Actually no, I’m not well at all” and I end up feeling isolated and like I have to bury my illness deeper and hide it even more but it also makes me feel guilty. I feel like I should be better and I feel shame that I’m not. It can feel quite hopeless to be in that position, I gained weight but still have anorexia, it made it feel never-ending.
I also find that I’m quite sensitive and when people comment on my health or my wellness then my illness often translates it into someone calling me ‘fat’ and I feel disgusted by myself. I don’t think mental illness is something you can guess at. Weight gain does not equate to wellness. You cannot look at someone and know how their mental state is. Ask other people how they are, if they are feeling better rather than making guesses based on appearance.