Friday, 25 July 2008

The vice-like grip of eating disorders

Eating disorders are scary and real. From the time I was in high school to the time my sister was in high school, the instances of eating disorders in the uptight all-girls school I attended had quintupled (ok I don't have stats but the increase was alarming). I can't imagine how it must be now, with the size zero insanity dominating the media.

I would do anything to prevent any future spawn of mine (if they will ever exist) from developing an eating disorder. That goes for boys and girls. It is such a misconception that guys do not develop eating disorders. But it seems almost like an epidemic. Will I have the power to prevent it?

I started young in my adventures with food deprivation; I was 11 years old when it all began. I was too young to care about fashion or looking good. I don't actually know what the hell started me off. It was so long ago. One thing I have noticed that I have in common with many sufferers is an extreme lack of self esteem. Once you start starving yourself your esteem hinges on the size of your bones in comparison to everyone else's, and it becomes a game you have to win or be destroyed by consuming self hate.

Eating disorders are mental illnesses, and they turn you into something ugly and shameful.They change you. Many anorexia sufferers describe their anorexic side as a voice in their heads and this is exactly how I experienced it. The voice became so much stronger than the real me that I forgot what it was like to be me. I became this self-obsessed, shallow, sick monster instead. A person who would lie, sneak, steal, do anything to please the voice.

The mind of an anorexic is a vacuum of twisted mundanity. I would spend hours staring at my classmates' wrist bones, checking that mine was still the largest. Other hours were spent listing what I had eaten, what I wanted to eat, what I could eat. To avoid eating, various ridiculous lies and pretences were upheld to fool family and friends.

Most of the time you are so weak that you can't think straight anyway. I suffered from insomnia for 8 years because I went to bed hungry each night. I had to stop doing sports because I was too weak. My love of sports is what saved me from full blown anorexia - I never got to the hospital stage, because I realised just how far from the real me I had come when I couldn't swim a lap of the pool any more.

So after a year of starvation, I compromised with myself and created my very own personal eating disorders that varied greatly over the years, from bingeing like a maniac and then starving myself, to eating only breakfast, to eating only a sandwich, blah blah blah. In 8 years I did not eat supper.

For 8 years my head was filled with selfishness and pettiness. If I thought I was gaining weight I would go into full on panic mode, even crying. I was a shadow of the young girl I once was, who cared about things that were actually important.

This is the part of this mental illness that I hate the most, what it made me become. I don't think I will ever fully regain the initial me. I have become withdrawn, shy and timid. I think I have also damaged my impulse control and my energy levels to some extent.

University was the turning point for me. It somehow clicked in my head that people would be friends with me no matter how I looked. And I discovered FOOD, which I must say, is fucking AMAZING. There were so many things I had never tried, so many things that blew me away.

I still have a love affair with food, (as well as some issues that will never fully go away), and I feel that today I have a better relationship with food than most women I know, including those who never had an eating disorder. In fact I am somewhat of a hog, but I sleep like a baby!

The reason I am so scared of any young kid developing an eating disorder is mainly because of the mental effects. Such a drastic personality change is difficult to correct. I think all sufferers must know what I mean when I say how ugly you become inside, how shameless and manipulative. And how shallow. And the worst part is, the only person who can pull you out of it is you. You have to be ready, and some people let it go too far and die before they can pull themselves back into life.

Food is awesome, and life is worth it, and I want no kid of mine to think otherwise, ever.

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