My WIP is about a 16-year-old girl whose little sister is diagnosed with anorexia. This has meant a lot of research into the disease which has meant looking through a lot of confronting information, pictures and websites.
The pro-anorexia websites are the most confronting of all. I wish I could reach through the computer and help the authors and followers of those websites. They’re in the grip of a truly dangerous disease with one of the highest mortality rates of any mental disorder. They are more likely to commit suicide and even if they don’t they are literally starving themselves to death. The things they write about themselves, their bodies and their hopes and dreams are shocking. They send me cold. But their thoughts aren’t alien to me.
What has also been confronting is that many of the thoughts expressed by those with the disease are thoughts I’ve had about myself. I do not, nor have I ever, had an eating disorder but I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t hate my body. I’ve spent a life time hating my hair (curly and brown), hating my skin (pale and (even in my thirties) prone to breakouts), hating my height (5’2″), hating my boobs (too floppy), hating my ‘hip-dips’ (how is there even a name for that), and most of all hating my flabby, spongy belly. I went on my first diet at 11 and have done battle with my body ever since, following diets, dying my hair, shaving, waxing and plucking, squeezing and picking, taking up exercises I hate and dropping them just as quickly.
You might identify with these thoughts too. Anorexia is obviously very complicated and not everyone bombarded with the ‘thin is beautiful’ message or who gets bullied about their weight and shape develops an eating disorder. In fact, most people don’t. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t negatively affected by the way society prioritises body size over health.
If you suspect that you or someone you care about it suffering from an eating disorder, I encourage you to seek help. Go to your loved ones or trusted people, see your doctor. The thing I’ve learnt from my research is it won’t just go away, it’s not just about ‘eating a sandwich and getting over it’, it’s about things going on in the brain that you can’t control without help. Don’t wait. Time is not on your side.
As for the rest of us (me included), let’s try to treat ourselves with a bit more love. For my part, my body is strong and healthy. It produced two beautiful little boys. My husband thinks I am sexy. It allows me to travel, to write, to learn, to see, sing and dance. It allows me to carry my elderly friends shopping into the house and to massage my mum’s tired feet. I still hate it most days, but I trying to learn to love it. We can all do that.