I don’t understand still what compelled me to speak and write this article. I guess because I want it to stop, and I can only do that by taking action, then sitting back and waiting for change to take place. Here’s the deal: stop glamourizing anorexia. Our media, our society, and even sometimes our mothers pressure us to be thin. I remember learning about eating disorders when I was in grade 7 and instead of feeling afraid or remorseful, I felt a sense of admiration for a girl who possessed so much self-control. I aspired to be her. I was a delusional 12-year-old. What did I know?
And then I did it. Seven years later, I became the girl I had always wanted to be. I’d become the Thinnest Girl in the Room – and if God forbid someone was smaller than me, I would prove my self worth by losing more weight. It became a competition for me. I began to play a game with my health; I began to play a game with my life.
I don’t know how it started; I don’t know when it started. There was certainly a difference of time between the time I developed an eating disorder and the time I admitted to the world – and myself – that I did. To this day, I still don’t understand what the disease was about. I still don’t understand what triggered it, and I’m not quite sure how I recovered. I’m not sure that I have completely recovered.
I miss the careless days of infanthood when the world seemed simpler. Food was something you ate, not something you exercised control over. You counted how many marshmallows fit in your mouth; not how many calories they cost you. You didn’t feel guilty or embarrassed or ashamed every time you ate. You didn’t know what the word metabolism meant. And you definitely never weighed yourself; that was the doctor’s job. You just lived. And that was that. You got sad about tangible ideas, like the fact that a car ran over your tennis ball while you were playing road hockey, or the fact that you had a raisin stuck in your braces since breakfast time, and you went to school, so unfortunately and blissfully ignorant.
After being in recovery for 5 months, I no longer have anorexia to the extent that I used to. After reaching a crucial weight, being hypothermic, losing my hair, developing deficiencies in several nutrients and an increasing depression, I decided to get help. I was ashamed. I had not accomplished the end goal. But now I look back and remember how I never had a weight goal; nothing was ever good enough; little was never little enough. But I did have a goal weight; doctors would ask me how far I would keep dieting until I was happy with my weight and I would respond, “0 pounds,” as impossible as it was. Impossible as it is.
After a few years, slowly, but surely, I forgot what it was like to be human. It got to the point that my disorder took control over me, instead of the other way around. I didn’t know how to go back. I didn’t know what ‘normal’ people did. I forgot what humans talked about, how they talked, what they wore, when they ate, what they ate, how much they ate, how they thought, how they lived or what they did for fun; what was the point of it all anyways? After 6 months of recovery, finally began to move past it.
But at times, when I get truly afraid, I want to go back to the safety and security of the world of an anorectic, and I’m not sure why. I remember how miserable I was, but for some reason I have a tendency to glorify those skinny days. I was tired, alone, cold, weak, but at least I was skinny, and I don’t know why that still means so much to me. To this day, when I get scared or anxious or worried, I problem-solve through starvation, and I know I’m not the only one.
The day I was no longer underweight, I was happy because I’d been ‘cured’ of anorexia, but I wasn’t. I was still as self-conscious as ever; I was just less obsessive about it. In a way, I was back where I had started. I was back in a body I disliked, and had never truly learned to love. I was back to being a woman. I began to face the same situations that had led me to this disorder. They were all still there, waiting for me, like uncollected mail from weeks of vacation. They needed to be dealt with. Anorexia hadn’t at all been a means of solving this problem, but a way of avoiding it.
I don’t know when I had developed this loss of self worth. I don’t know when I started measuring my happiness in measuring cups, and fat contents. I don’t know when I started measuring my intelligence by how fast I could read, or how quickly I could type or my popularity through the number of Facebook friends I had, or the number of parties I got invited to. I don’t know when I began to settle, when exactly I had given up my imagination.
I don’t know.
And maybe that’s the point: you don’t know. So don’t pretend to know. If you, or anyone you know is anorexic, bulimic or has disordered eating tendencies, you should get help from a professional right away. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Recovery is a process; I’m still on the train. I still count my calories, and measure my happiness by how little I consumed or how much I exercised or how tight or loose my clothes feel. I measure my importance by what other people think of me, and whether I am loved or not. I judge myself, and feel insecure constantly. Up till I got help, I thought that everyone thought this way. And I was wrong.
We are all humans. We are all insecure, vulnerable, little creatures. We all have aspects of ourselves that we are self-conscious of. But we do not purposely partake in self-destructive behaviour; in fact, we want to progress. Look around you and see what we have created so far. How sweet, it is.
Paras Memon, Online Contributor