Anorexia, the disorder of the 70’s and 80’s lived on well past its use by date. Adolescence became a time of shrinking rather than a time of growth. I’ve spent decades progressively unravelling the, ‘Whys.’ Why is like an expensive fragrance, revealing itself slowly, bewitching you and enticing you to want more.
‘Why,’ is more layered and complex than I’d ever imagined.
So I began to write. The words jumped onto the page haphazardly, one memory often triggering another. My beauty was fading and I didn’t want to resort to plastic surgery. Words like, ‘You look fabulous for a woman your age,’ just got my goat. Qualifiers are not my thing! Like most, I sought internal resolution.
Anorexia divides you.
It sets you at loggerheads with yourself.
It erodes your confidence and taints your trust.
And it lives underground, for years.
Normal weight = healthy. But is that the truth? In the late 70’s, people living with anorexia still fell through the cracks. Horrid pun. Although anorexia was included in the first DSM, in 1980 a new eating disorders section was created in the DSM-III. I digress. Young, busy newly married, my life whizzed along. Subconsciously I believed that I had this thing in hand.
Sometimes the past surfaced, in times of stress, often triggered by arguments. Despair and disparity took me by the shoulders back to the vulnerability of adolescence. The emptiness was so deep and painful no amount of ‘kiss and make up’ could touch it.
I wrangled with the myths. I wanted to understand the fundamental question plaguing me, ‘How did a big hearted, intelligent person like me ascribe to anorexia? Most didn’t resonate with me.
- She does it for attention. No I had a loving family and some close friends.
- She is a control freak. If anything I gave away my power.
- It’s all bout weight and food. It seemed to be but I loved food.
I really tripped up on the control issue and any references to self-esteem left me reeling. Self-esteem or lack there of was a cesspool, swirling, slimy and scary. The truth: I had difficulty being me. Difficult emotions and life events fazed me. Anorexia kept me busy, distancing me from the unmanageable feelings when they welled up inside.
I came from an open, close and emotionally demonstrative family. Sensitive, I thought I had emotion under control. My conditioning cast me into, ‘good girl mode.’ So I actually had great difficulty asking for my needs to be met or standing up for my well-being. Looking honestly at communication scattered my premise of who I had been
Accepting Anorexia as a mental health diagnosis also shook me to the core. I realised, my own prejudice. Me, a health care provider! Mental health = health for other people but not for me. Declaring myself terrified me. Would I be judged as harshly as I was judging myself? I did it anyway.
Clearly some of my belief systems were off. They derailed when I descended into an ED. I needed to bring them to light, evaluate them and decide what to throw away and what to keep. Writing helped. Words made me think about it all deeply. I had to be able to bring the reader along with me. For the story had to make sense, I had to make sense of the mess.
It’s been exhausting. There is only so much I can manage in a week. But after a life time of running away from difficult emotions, I’m out of stamina and forced to accept the learning that’s come from my unhealthy association. I’ve become more courageous in articulating my needs. I finally understand that I’m important. I put my needs out there even when I know they may not be received.
My friendship with my anorexic shadow is being replaced by a friendship with myself, looking for some lightness in life. Being one’s own best friend is vitally important to one’s wellness i.e. mental health. So I write this story of me coming into alignment with me.
Kindly share your story or thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.