More than one person has said to me “I wish I was anorexic”.
In that moment, I don’t know how to respond. I freeze with fear. A fear that the person who uttered those words will follow the anorexia path. Perhaps they expect that when they’re skinny and in control of their food and their body, they will be content.
“Sometimes, I just wish I was anorexic,” a friend once told me. She laughed after she said these words, as if the thought of developing a fatal mentail illness was hilarious.
I was paralysed by anger and disbelief.
I felt like screaming. I wanted to tell them that they’ve got no idea. No idea at all.
But instead of screaming or crying or hiding away to sit with my feelings, I laughed back. Maybe I laughed because I didn’t know how else to handle it.
I hate the word anorexia. To me, it’s a dirty word. The word sounds as brutal and unforgiving as the illness is. The ‘x’ slides of the tongue like the hiss of the snake. That word followed me everywhere and if I’m being honest, sometimes it still does.
I asked my mum once why she thought people said this. She said alot of women would joke about wanting to develop an eating disorder. Why? Because an eating disorder is linked to traits they wish they possessed: self-control, compulsion to exercise, unwavering focus. Of course the end result is what they desire most. The “thinness”.
I’m sure most people think that anorexia can be turned on and off like a tap. That as soon as you get “thin” enough, you’ll just stop your behaviours instantly and maintain the thinness.
So, to all the women and men that have ever “wanted” to be anorexic, I want to tell you what anorexia did to me.
- made my hair brittle and fragile, so much so that when I ran my fingers through my hair, it would fall out in clumps
- made my palms turn a yellowy/orange colour
- turned my skin yellow and at times translucent
- made my bones more susceptible to fractures and breakages
- made me bruise easily. I would often find purple and yellow welts all over my body
- made my hands, feet and other exteriors cold
- made me lose my period, which may have long term consquences for my reproductive health
- made my heart beat get so low that I was close to experiencing complete heart failure
- made my farts smell unbearable
- made me lose my concentration and focus completely
- made me feel faint and dizzy constantly
- made me irritable, angry and sullen
- made me so thin that my rib-cage, collar bones and hip bones protruded
- made me so weak that I couldn’t get out of bed
- made me isolate my friends and family to the point where I decimated my social life
- made me hungry all the time. I woke up hungry, I went to school hungry, I went to sleep hungry. The hunger completely consumes your body and your state of mind. You are constantly focused on food and your own starvation.
- made me more self-conscious about my body than I had ever been. At the peak of my illness, my self-confidence was at an all time low.
- made me more susceptible to illness and viruses. I contracted impetigo three times in the space of two months. It was painful and extremely uncomfortable.
- destroyed my libido. My sex drive became non-existent
This is only the beginning. There are probably more physiological and psychological effects that I have missed.
I will never forget that dizziness. Everyday I woke up on the verge of fainting.
I will never forget the horror of running my fingers through my hair and watching it fall out.
I will never forget being hosiptalised and having a heart rate so low that I was monitored throughout the night.
I will never forget the cold. I avoided hugs from my family because when I touched them they’d gasp. It was like touching ice, they’ve told me since.
I will never forget being hungry all the time. Food was constantly on my mind. I was utterly consumed by thoughts of what I ‘could’ eat, when I would eat and how I could avoid uncomfortable food situations.
What do you think of when you think of anorexia? Maybe you think about the unwavering self-control. Maybe you consider the thinness. Maybe you think it’d be easy to just…stop.
I hope when you think about anorexia from now on, you think about my list. I hope you think about how anorexia turns you into a person you never thought you could or would ever be.
I hope you think about me and how recovery from anorexia has been the best and most important part of my life.