Tag Archive: Anorexia is a Disease


I’m not going to write about all the reasons why I was the least likely host site for Anorexia to burrow into. You’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that nobody could believe it, me included.

However, just ONE of the reasons why I am an unlikely candidate, is the fact that I have always been regarded as being “a block of sense”.

It’s true, I have suffered with lifelong anxiety, something which has only really been acknowledged in more recent years, but as a general rule, certain phobias aside, I really am an incredibly pragmatic, diplomatic, rational thinker.

I don’t mean that I can do all the lateral thinking puzzles that MENSA books torment people with. I don’t have an endless chain of resolved Rubik’s Cubes.  And I don’t sit down everyday to complete the Times Cryptic Crossword, just for kicks.2000px-Rubik's_cube.svg

No.

However, I DO have a high proportion of common sense and very level head.

I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet, and again, you’ll have to trust me when I say that arrogance isn’t something that has been a strong feature of mine, but at the end of a long chat last week, a struggling friend looked at me quizzically and asked, “how did you get to be so wise?”.

At the time I shrugged it off, but later I heard it echo and I wondered… How come I have all this wisdom, and yet, can’t apply it to myself. How is it that I can see lights in other people’s tunnels, yet my own is the darkest shade of black? How can I have such insight into the pain carried by others, while I stumble in blind circles? Why can I feel what they feel, but not what I feel? How is it that people are consistently impressed with my intellect, my ‘wisdom’, when all the while,  my Anorexia is behind the scenes calling the shots.

It was my friend’s question that spurred me to write this post, because I want to illustrate something of the devious nature of an Eating Disorder. I’ve heard it suggested that sufferers of this illness choose to be thin in a ‘supermodel wannabe’ sense; that it’s vanity. I’m here to set the record straight. On the contrary, my illness makes me uglier, far less attractive.

I’m writing to explain that I CAN’T EXPLAIN how it is that my rational mind understands that I can’t be fat. It sees the figures on the scales at weekly weigh-ins at the unit. It hears the calculation of my (stupidly low) Body Mass Index, and yet, the Anorexia wraps itself round it all, and perverts it, twists it and denies it.

Lots of people ask the question, ‘do Anorexic’s see themselves as ‘fat’? It’s a massive (no pun intended) concern for those seeking understanding.

I know I’m not fat. Many seasoned Anorexics KNOW this on some level. I do however, feel that I look ‘normal’. I don’t see ‘underweight’. I don’t EXPERIENCE ‘thinness’.

So, I’m shocked beyond belief at a picture my dad takes of me.Picture altered to make background less recognisable.

I can’t recognise the scrawny person in it. She can’t be me. surely?

This is what I want to purvey. This is what I want to educate people about, because I think it’s the hardest aspect for those who watch, to understand. A person may have an IQ higher than the year they were born, but their perception of themselves can be as skewed as the government data on employment. Even with this photo, and the fact that I’ve lost weight since. I still cannot compute that I really look like that.

Such is the complete distortion of an otherwise rational mind. It’s one thing to know something in your rational mind, it’s another to experience it as ‘being real’. In this sense, I make the (somewhat controversial) assertion that Anorexia has an element which is akin to psychosis. This is where the illness becomes a mental health problem, rather than a ‘state of mind’.

 

 

Anorexia: A Lifestyle?

AnorexiaMonday’s Telegraph newspaper marked the beginning of Eating Disorders Awareness week with an article about ED websites: More specifically, ‘Pro Ana’ sites.  (For the uninitiated, these sites are sites set up to encourage those who want to starve themselves. They share tips and tricks about hiding food, fighting hunger, effective purging, dealing with interfering parents / loved ones and often sporting photographs of skeletal bodies to give ‘thinspiration’ to followers).

I skimmed Sarah Rainey’s article , too tired of the topic to want to engage with the politics and the emotion held between the lines of the pro ana blogger, the parent of a (nother) very bright, talented ‘whole life ahead of her’ dead Anorexic and a range of ED specialists and organisations.

One thing however, leapt out at me.

This:

“Anorexia is a lifestyle, not a disease”.  (A quote Rainey takes from a ‘pro ana’ blog).

It’s something I’ve heard many times in various forms and generally from sources who, clearly, have no understanding of the pathological nature of Anorexia. Without wishing to state the obvious, I find the implications of the statement upsetting because it embodies the attitude that somehow, Anorexia is a choice one makes.

For me, this is an absurd idea. However, as I have previously tried to explain (here), I think there are different types of Anorexia and it is possible that, for some people, devoting their time and energy to becoming extraordinarily thin, is a lifestyle choice, in much the same way that a total devotion to anything may lead to radical lifestyle choices. All well and good (excuse the irony), and perhaps in this instance, starvation is a choice… just another way of living. But, can a disease be a lifestyle?

Unfortunately, what the article I read didn’t point out, was that if this is a choice, it can’t be Anorexia or Bulimia or EDNOS. A disease, by its very definition and nature, isn’t a choice… Nobody CHOOSES to suffer with a disease. True, it can appear that way with some mental illness’, but nobody makes a choice to become sick. People don’t choose to die from malnutrition any more than they don’t choose to develop leukaemia. And this is where it all becomes very complex… because CHOICE plays a large part in the distortions that characterise this illness so vividly.

A person suffering with Anorexia, believes that they have CONTROL of their weight and their body. They believe in the choice element. They believe that they are IN CONTROL. In fact, the extreme opposite is true. It is the disease that controls them and the disease which distorts their thinking. The disease ROBS the Anorexic of choice. It STEALS their capacity for logical thought about their weight. It DILUTES the ability to rationalise their fear of weight gain and to recognise that they are no longer in control of their mind.

I understand the Pro-Ana blogger’s statement in the light of those who wish to diet, but “choosing an Anorexic lifestyle” is an oxymoron.

One last point, and perhaps the most important: Luckily, there IS some element of choice.

It is reserved for those who are in the grip of an Eating Disorder (or addiction, I think) and it is this: The sufferer may choose to remain in the half life that it forces on them. They may CHOOSE to give up the fight for wellness. Just as somebody who is diseased with cancer may choose to stop treatment, an Anorexic or Bulimic can CHOOSE not to fight the illness.

RECOVERY or NOT is the choice. A lifestyle of recovery is agony, but a lifestyle led by the choice NOT TO recover, is to submit to the power wielded by this dreadful disease.