I recently met a young woman who quickly let me know that she is a writer who published an on-line essay about her recovery from Binge Eating. You may follow this link on "Thought Catalog" to read about her courageous journey but I want to focus here on this excerpt --
Yesterday, somebody asked me what I'd done to lose weight. "I've been in recovery from an eating disorder," I tell her, point-blank. I see the confusion. Wouldn't that imply that you've gained weight? But I look nothing like the Girl With the Eating Disorder that society has often pictured. I do not stare blankly out from under lank hair with hollow eyes. My legs aren't sticks -- far from it, mine have always been muscular, and they will always touch. I do not wear a size zero, and I never will. I don't want to anymore, either, though I admit that once upon a time, that was my main goal in life. ~Ella Ceron (Thought Catelog, June 14, 2012)
The reason this is so affecting is because it captures what we all know as a society but don't admit or say, which is, thousands of people are suffering, dealing, and contending with, succumbing to, denying or overcoming eating disorders in secret, without being known, without being seen and without being suspected. Conversely, some women who are just skinny without being eating disordered at all are "accused" by friends or family of being anorexic or bulimic, which can be very stressful for anybody who is the slightest bit influenced by outside opinion (and who isn't?).
My own journey, which I've shared about in piecemeal on this blog, has evolved going into the depths of eating disorder despair and emerging into recovery for bulimia, compulsive eating and anorexia. I have swung all over the place with respect to habits and symptoms, participated in an abundance of approaches to recovery, and consider myself out of the dark, cold, windy woods of years past even asI don't yet dance full time in the green pastures of health. I'm here most of the time and am in recovery by the grace of a higher power every day, though it still feels like more of a battle than I'd like. That said, I am emerging heroic.
I share that so you know where I'm coming from and how it lines up with my current position about eating disorders, which are, they are a function of MANY MANY things (the biological, familial, spiritual) but what perpetuates, what definitely HELPS maintain and support eating disorders is our culture. Specifically, the way we form of a picture of what an eating disordered person looks like and if someone doesn't look like that, well, good luck believing s/he is really suffering. We don't like to witness people's legitimate suffering (the tendency is to judge it) so instead we look at and pry into the lives of celebrities, embracing bullshit and putting things like Chris Brown's brawl induced boo-boo on the evening news. For 3 days in a row.
Instead, I stand for paying attention to people and taking them in fully, not because you're necessarily going to solve or fix the person's problems but because when you see someone's pain, even silently, if you feel it, pick it up, sense it, generate some compassion for the person, just be present to them fully, you are helping them heal and creating an environment where the person can thrive.
The greatest gift you can give another person is your full attention.
Ella is incredibly bold for writing about her experiences and I respect, honor and SEE her in her power to communicate from a place of truth and authenticity. The more we understand people who binge, starve, purge, overexercise, distort their body images, seek drastic measures to control food and the more we convert understanding into LOVE, the better off we will all be and the greater likelihood we will heal and progress.
I really do stand for lifting the veil and acknowledging you don't have to look like a deeply under-fed, chain smoking model to claim you have a problem and need help.