Isn't it Just Vanity? Inside the Head of an Eating Disorder
'Isn’t it just vanity, and attention seeking?’ I was often asked when I was ill. Unfortunately I think eating disorders are still generally regarded by many as exclusively a teenage girl’s problem; a diet gone too far, a fad, a phase, a silly attempt to look like a model. True, it does affect mostly females and it does start mostly in adolescence, but, it categorically isn’t restricted to those alone and it is not vanity or attention seeking in any way. It is in fact the complete opposite.
All genders, races, ages and classes can succumb to the disease, and to regard it as a fad is absolutely and entirely wrong. I’ve written before about the connection between models in the media and eating disorders, and my own experience with regards to that but, as all of this is, it’s complex. Models being extremely skinny doesn’t help, the constant presentation of a so called perfection, but that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about self loathing, it’s about not being comfortable with who you are and it’s about not feeling anywhere near good enough. We can see why this rears its head quite often in youth, when we all of us are trying to find our place in the world. An eating disorder is not about trying to gain attention, the only thing you may want people to notice is how unhappy you are. The skinnier you get, the louder you feel you are shouting. If somebody says ‘Goodness, you’ve lost weight‘ you feel a glory, an achievement, it makes you feel good. But not because you will fit into that teeny dress or look good in a bikini, but because you are succeeding in showing the world how little you think you are worth, by literally shrinking. You don’t want attention, you want to disappear, to become invisible because you can’t stand yourself, because you’re so scared that you are never going to be good enough. An eating disorder uses the physical to express the emotional. The physical body becomes the focus and obsession. The illness will often make you believe that if you get ‘physically flawless’, maybe like a model, that you will have hit perfection; and therefore find happiness. Having a body where you see no faults in it, is where you believe your happiness lies because then you won’t hate yourself, right? ‘When I have a perfect body, I will find happiness‘ is what I always thought when I was ill. I was always aiming for it, heading for a finish line that wasn’t there. I figured I would hit a point where suddenly I looked like Kate Moss and I’d find supreme contentedness. I remember saying my body was ‘a work in progress‘, as if I was apologizing for it in its current state. But what I should have been saying was, ‘I am a bit overwhelmed by the world and my depression, and I’m trying to find a place where I don’t feel like this anymore’. Some magical perfect place where everything is beautiful and nothing hurts. Guess what? It never f**king happens. That doesn’t exist. I know that now. You know how to find contentedness? Self acceptance. It’s as simple as that. Well, heck, that ain’t easy, self love is a hard thing to develop, but I’m working on it as we all need to. Instead of thinking ‘When I am skinny, happiness will come’, a sufferer should try to switch those words up and say ‘When I accept myself and my body, happiness will come‘.
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