With friends like that, who needs enemies?
Last week, I learned about the existence of something that I found deeply upsetting. (This is gross hyperbole, by the way.) And I had to decide if I wanted to write about it here. Because I didn’t want to give it publicity. Or help steer people toward it.
But I realized pretty quickly that I needed to write about it. Because it exists. And my responsibility is to tell my truth. Not to shield others from reality.
This thing I’m referring to is something called Pro-Ana. As in pro-anorexia. As in “all for starving yourself as a means to be as thin as possible in order to be beautiful.” There are people who refer to anorexia as Ana, and often personify the disease. Like I’m hanging out with my friend Ana. She’s the only one who understands me.
Obviously, this creates a visceral reaction in me. When I looked into it, I immediately became an unsettling mix of angry, nauseous, and down-right terrified. And that kind of knee-jerk response makes me want to spout off. It makes me want to say cruel, sick things. It makes me want to lash out at these people, and verbally attack them where they are weakest. Because I know where they are weakest. It is where I, too, am weakest, and most afraid.
But I’m not going to do that today. Today, I am going to talk about disease. I am going to talk about the ways eating disorders affected my spirit and my mind. The way they ruined my life. Until I found out how to deal with them. I figured out how to control my eating disorders. Not “myself”, or my weight, or my eating. I did eventually get control of all of those things. But first I had to get control of the disease. The spiritual, mental and emotional sickness.
I’m not going to spout about health and beauty. Because to focus (attack) on health and beauty is to imply that I would like to deny people their own standards and opinions, their own choices, and their own rights to live as they want to live.
And the terrified girl inside me does want that. Wants to say that pro-ana should not be allowed. Wants to vilify the people who are creating blogs and websites promoting eating disorders, giving tips and tricks for how to be better at starving and/or purging, and glorifying extreme weight-loss with pictures and stories.
But I don’t get on my high horse when it comes to smoking, or drinking alcohol, or drug use. I have respect for healthy people’s life choices, and sympathy for people living in addiction.
But eating disorders revolve around obsession. They eliminate even the opportunity for satisfaction. And they lead to deeper and deeper self-involvement that leads, not to self-love, but to self-loathing.
I have been morbidly obese. But I have also been a bulimic, an exercise-bulimic, and a laxative abuser, among other things. I have less experience with anorexia, but I have some. I have gone through short periods of starvation. And I have gone through periods where I restricted to the point of shutting down my body. Eating only egg whites and raw vegetables. Not eating any fat. So that I stopped getting my period. And ended up so bloated that people started asking me if I were pregnant.
I went to a gynecologist when my period didn’t come for 3 or 4 months. She asked me how and what I was eating. I was secretive and dishonest. I wanted my period to come back. I wanted her to fix me. Even though I knew that the problem was the way I was and wasn’t eating.
She could never understand. I had been so fat. I could never go back there again. I needed to lose more weight. I just needed her to make me start menstruating again. It was none of her business what I was or wasn’t eating.
She put me on birth control pills. That made me get my period again. But it didn’t stop the bloating. And it didn’t stop me from feeling out of control, and crazy. It didn’t bring me the peace I wanted. I wanted my period to come back because I wanted to be assured that I was ok. But I was not ok.
So then I went on a 6 day green juice fast. I had nothing to eat for 6 days. I drank 3 green vegetable juices a day from a juice bar. That made me feel fantastic! It made me feel powerful, and in control and like master of my weight and body. It made me lose all of the water that I had been carrying in my belly. I think I lost over 15 lbs in those 6 days. And that triumph was followed by the darkest period of my life so far.
It led to uncontrollable bingeing. It led to the most damaging bulimic acts I would ever commit. It lead to the deepest self-hatred I have ever experienced. It lead to self-enforced isolation. It lead me to distrust everyone. I was delusional and crazy. I was miserable.
And I felt trapped. I couldn’t see any way out. I felt doomed. Either to perpetuate this horror of bingeing and purging and exercising and starving and striving. Or just plain giving up and gaining back the 150 lbs I had lost. And living in shame for the rest of my life.
One thing that my eating disorders did was allow me to convince myself that a certain weight would bring peace and happiness.
Of course, I might reach that goal. I did. A few times. And I would be happy. Maybe even satisfied. For a moment. But then I would either want more, or I would be tortured trying to maintain what I had accomplished. I’m saying it was never enough. I was never good enough. I was looking for perfection. And I was positive that if I were only good, better, worthy, I would attain it.
That is what my eating disorders did to me.
I can’t go on anymore today. It’s too big a topic for me to be able to handle in one post. Even having had this week to think about it. I’m feeling how scrunched up my face is at this moment. This has been painful for me. But important. I’m glad I got to write it. And I will probably write about it again in the future. But for this week, put a fork in me. I’m done.