I have spent over 14 years hiding this "tiny" part of my life, and it is now, only after writing my memoir, that I've realized that by hiding, I've been chipping away at my heart. I decided that I didn't want to hide anymore. I realized in that moment that I should have SHARED my pain instead of hiding.
In retrospect, I can say that on some level, I saw what was happening to me. I was just truly powerless to stop it. That's not to say I wasn't in control. No, each hunger pang I endured proved I was in control. Each starving hour that passed between four o'clock and bedtime made me feel focused, disciplined. It was all the fuel I needed to resist another meal. The truth is, anorexics feel a lack of control in their lives, so they take control of one aspect -- food. Alas, this illusion of control can only last so long.
There's been a lot of visceral (read: ICK) reaction to the stomach-draining device that was just approved by the FDA. An alternative to traditional dieting and more invasive than traditional bariatric surgeries, the AspireAssist system is definitely a new way of preventing calories from being absorbed by the body.
I know this disorder has many causes, but the agony of starving oneself, the self loathing that comes with it, I wouldn't wish on anyone. Eating disorders are also difficult for families, who may feel powerless to stop it. Like any form of mental illness, intervention is key, getting professional help early and not playing down the severity of the behaviour.
By and large, we live in a diet-obsessed society, so my health nuttiness went unnoticed. Plus, like most individuals with eating disorders, I was a master at hiding all this dysfunctional behaviour for many years. I was also incredibly successful at outwardly presenting a well put-together front when facing the world. I had been a model student, a star employee, a good friend and doting auntie to my young nephews. Until it all came crashing down on me.
Eating disorders don't care if you're male or female, under 10 years old or over 50 years old. They'll destroy anyone who's ripe for the picking. When I speak at school or to parents about body image, the issue of media manipulation always comes up and for good reason. We are definitely influenced by what we see and hear in our magazines and TV screens, but does the media CAUSE eating disorders? I say no.
A few days ago, I came across a blog post in which the blogger made a comment about how each roll of skin on her tummy represented a happy moment with her family in which she enjoyed that chocolate cake at her child's birthday party or had skipped the Jillian Michael's exercise DVD that morning so she could sit on the floor and colour with her daughter. For the first time in my life, the realization of my sick mindset entrenched in the lost, wasted, hungry hours I chose in order to be the thinnest mom on the block finally beat me over the head with a barbell.
To be happy not only with the squishy parts of my body but also to simply have so much self-worth that happiness is not directly correlated to my efforts to control my weight is such a foreign concept, and yet, I can't help but feel envy for those who, like Pink, do not rely on their daily caloric intake for their sense of identity.
Fighting an eating disorder is lifelong. And I realize this every time I think my mind is finally free. This week when I was navigating Twitter, I came across a tweet claiming a product which guaranteed weight loss of 20 lbs in 24 days. As someone who has valiantly tried to accomplish this, I finally realized that an eating disorder, although a mental illness, is aggravated by the bacteria in the environment disguised in the shape of advertising.
I find it ironic that as we continue the battle against bullying in schools and amongst the A-list, it is in that very same cultural sphere that people use their cause as their weapon. Although I often disagree with comments made in the media, I more firmly believe that it isn't my place to call someone out for their opinion.
My journey to achieve the perfect body started when I was 14. The objective -- tall, thin, cellulite-free with smooth skin and beautifully toned abs -- you know the look. If 'thigh gaps' and 'bikini bridges' were in at the time, I would have added them to my list of things to obsess over. In some ways I came pretty close to achieving the "dream body" that I obsessed over in magazines but I never expected that I would lose everything important to me along the way.
Mental illnesses are like pack animals. There is never just one without others lurking behind corners waiting to jump on us -- their weight holding us down; their teeth ripping through the flesh of our throat until we are too weak to fight back. As we lay bleeding and broken, available treatment is more difficult to reach.
The absence of visible symptoms is not the most accurate measure of someone's recovery from this disease. Weight is a physical thing, but anorexia also resides firmly in the psyche. Anorexia is like having the person who hates you the most, the most irrational tyrant you can imagine, living in your head rent-free, trying to burn down your physical foundation from the inside out. It's an interminable abusive relationship that's nearly impossible to leave because it transpires in your own mind. Those voices can cause problems before the weight loss starts to show.
The moment I put on my dream wedding dress, I cried tears of disappointment and frustration. It was exactly as I had pictured, with a corseted top that tied like a ballet slipper in the back, shiny white beads on the front, and a flowing, silky train. The dress wasn't the problem. It was how I looked in it. "You look beautiful," my mother said, thinking I was crying tears of joy. In that moment, I knew I still wasn't "better." I thought I had recovered, and I thought this meant I'd love the way I look. I hate that my eating disorder tainted this precious moment that I cannot have back. I use this hate to empower myself. Today, five years later, I think I'm "normal."