Sunday, 3 November 2013
I am a hybrid - formally diagnosed with two of the many permeantations of eating disorders. For many sufferers of bulimia - outward appearances can be deceiving - dangerously so. Many maintain a weight at or even above what a body mass index chart might suggest. So on a daily basis you may be passing someone overtaken by their internal demons - and have no clue. Clearly we understand or think we do - the physical clues for someone living with anorexia but even then you would be mistaken thinking they are wholly a parade of skeletons. And you would not be alone in seeing a televised interview of a sufferer and thinking to yourself "but she/he doesn't look that thin" - because even I must admit my guilt in this area. I have the symptoms, traits and behaviours of both groups - and my weight over my long road - has fluctuated wildly along the way. So my point, if I have one, is that appearances and labels, as always, are deceiving and not an accurate barometer of one's well-being. And sadly a by-product of my own disclosure is learning just how many of the men and women I know carry some form of negative body image and food issues around with them like a loaded knapsack every day. It is pervasive, debilitating, a land-slide of judgement and self-hate. An eating disorder? Maybe not...but disordered eating? Very much so. Many groups and organizations are actively trying to change the dialogue - preach body love and acceptance - but most people understand what a mountain of deeply ingrained thinking and cultural resistance stands in the way. The labels are just another way of dismissing people, denying their unique story and dignity and casting them off as some imperfect whole. We are all so much more complex than a textbook description - so much more than any flaws or short-comings. Yet we give ourselves permission to attach all sorts of bias to our thinking around anyone struggling with mental health and addiction - blaming and shaming in a way we would never dare inflict on a patient suffering cancer or some other disease of similar ilk. The commentary in our society reflects that on a daily basis, disturbingly so, as does the fact that we blatantly drop these issues to the bottom of the priority list in favour of emergency fixes. It is time to smell the coffee, feel the pervasiveness, get over our pre-conceived notions and face facts. We are here and you can't afford to wait until our funerals to acknowledge we deserve so much more.