Eating disorders are taboo in my household. I guess that’s my fault or maybe it’s my parents; maybe they just can’t stick such a callous label on their darling daughter.
Writing this is going to be tough, having people read it is going to be tougher but having it change people’s perspective of the bright, happy soul that I outwardly am is definitely going to be the toughest.
Faltering through eating disorders is not something I readily canvas. I think that might be because the story is so intensely overdone. It’s the self-conscious teenage girl who restricts food inflexibly, exercises persistently and weighs herself religiously. It’s the girl who loses 15kg from her already lean frame, eventually becomes bulimic and gets her bony ass kicked into therapy. It’s the girl that then drops the purging and tackles binge eating disorder, who gains 30kg and quickly flings herself to the beginning of this tragic story.
I was prompted to write this blog after speaking to a mother at work. Her daughter was on 24 hour “suicide watch”. 35kg at 17 and painted with deep red lines on her wrists, arms and inner thighs, this young girl was described as an “anomaly”; someone her mother no longer knew or understood. The distress was so raw, “how can I watch my daughter go through so much pain, knowing I can do nothing to help her”. This cut the mother deeper than any incision her daughter had ever made on herself.
Such naked insight made me cower. It made me reflect on my own experience with an eating disorder; on the anger, frustration and deep sense of being lost that defined my relationships with others, but most importantly that defined my relationship with myself.
I remember being furious at my mum for forcing me to eat a piece of the lasagne she cooked because she knew it was my favourite. I remember screaming at her for monitoring what I ate like I was a child, and I remember feeling guilty for throwing away the sandwiches she prepared for me on the way to the bus stop every morning.
I remember fighting with my sister because she refused to eat the chocolate I bought to fatten her up. I remember taunting her and calling her a “stupid anorexic bitch” because I couldn’t embrace the title myself and I remember how she detested me for always stealing the spotlight; even on her birthday when I refused to eat any of the cheesecake she had bought from the patisserie I used to love.
I remember my dad shouting at me for disrespecting my mum, I remember him accusing me of lying, which I did and I remember the disgusted way that he looked at my gaunt face. He saw my collarbones stick sharply out of my chest, he saw the way that my hair had thinned and how my tired eyes bulged from my head. I remember how enraged he was by how my soft features had become hard and I can still picture his face the exact moment his fist smashed the windscreen of the car we were in.
I remember crying that day. I remember crying because I knew I had hurt him and because I knew he would never understand why. Mental illness is irrational, how could I explain it to him if I couldn’t even explain it to myself.
I hated it when I gave in to hunger, I hated it when I had to bend over a toilet bowl to hurl the contents of my stomach and I hated the loss of control I felt when I started to binge. More than all of that I hated feeling stone cold and emotionally numb. I hated feeling distant and lost and misunderstood and that is why I think education should not be limited to year 9-health class. Mothers like mine and like the one at work whose daughter engraved her skin with lines of hate should know about the internal battle their daughters are fighting. They should be able to understand how warped their cognitive processes have become, how unrelenting their eating habits are and how underneath all of the drama, they are just scared. They need to know that they are not alone, that they are going to be loved no matter how high or low the numbers on the scale happen to be that day.