5’7” & 90lbs: Anorexia
I was inspired to speak about my experience on this podcast because of an episode they did last year with someone who had recovered from anorexia/bulimia. It was so comforting to hear from someone who had gone through the same things I was going through. I think it’s extremely important that people hear from someone who is currently living with an eating disorder. Instead of it being a secret, shameful thing that is hidden or an elephant in the room-- eating disorders should be discussed openly just like any other illness. My eating disorder has played a huge role in my life, affecting not only my physical and mental health, but also my relationships, school, work, family and friends--yet it is not everything that I am. I think part of my fear in talking openly about this is the notion that people will stop seeing me for who I am.
So many people are dealing with eating disorders of all kinds, but are afraid to talk about it because of the prejudices, assumptions and stigma associated with them. Eating disorders are not just wealthy, upper middle class teenage white girls dieting in vanity to achieve a slim figure. I think by now society is aware that this is a misconception, but we still have difficulty talking about eating disorders as openly as we do about other illnesses. Anyone can have an eating disorder. People suffering are often embarrassed and ashamed of their symptoms like purging, excessive exercise, body-checking and restricting. They are seen as responsible for them--like they’re making an active choice to engage in these behaviours. But these symptoms are no more of a choice and no more shameful than the symptoms of any other illness.
I feel pretty embarrassed and ashamed about many of the things I said on the podcast, but I recognize that talking about it is what will reduce the stigma surrounding the disease. While I can only offer my experiences and perspective--which are always changing-- and acknowledge that everyone’s experience is different, I hope that talking about this will make others feel they can do the same! When I was asked what I would say to someone going through an eating disorder or to someone who knows someone who is, I was pretty stumped. Everyone is so different and I think it really speaks to the taboo nature of the topic that even someone with anorexia does not know how to approach a friend or loved one suffering. My advice to both people who are suffering and to those who know someone who might be, is to talk openly, respectfully and honestly--instead of keeping quiet and making assumptions. Most importantly, please try to have compassion for yourself if you are suffering and for friends and family who might be. Despite the urge to blame someone or see them as responsible for their illness, realize that eating disorders are not lifestyle choices, but are real illnesses that call for understanding and care.