I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that we all know (or rather, as I’m about to explore, think we know) about eating disorders. There are a couple images that spring to mind. One, perhaps a very thin young woman, most likely with bones protruding, staring at herself in the mirror – the reflection in the mirror is of a much larger woman. Another, Cassie from Skins, proclaiming “I didn’t eat for two days so that I could be lovely!” or maybe that South Park episode with the “Bulimia: twice the taste, and no calories!” The image of the bulimic is probably faceless, because she’s slumped over a toilet. And yes, these images are gendered.
These are images that, even after over a decade of some kind of disordered eating, still spring to my mind too, when I think of eating disorders. There’s something grotesque yet fascinating about watching or imagining an unknown individual fight what was once inherent and natural, fight impulses and deemed rationalities, live in constant paradox – think of how much we like to indulge in the ‘other’, watching Life on the Dole, Embarrassing Bodies, Supersize Me or Biggest Loser. When I’m single I watch romcoms; when I used to fast I’d watch the cooking channel. It’s this image of eating disorders (and when I say eating disorders I mean anorexia and bulimia – how often do we thinking immediately of Binge Eating Disorder or EDNOS?) that helps perpetuate myths about them, reduce help-seeking, glorify certain aspects but stigmatise others, and overall, just makes everything so downright confusing. Not to mention, such images prey on an individual’s own understanding of what they’re going through, which ultimately effects identity, health, and [I would argue] tightens the hold of an eating disorder.
Are eating disorders about the body? About weight and numbers, counting calories and fat content? Are they about control? Are they purely biological, are some people genetically predisposed to a disorder? Is the body just the artefact and the metrics a tool for something bigger? Do they only effect women, and white young women at that? Are they feminist or anti-feminist; is it wrong to project political ideals upon a diagnosable, medical condition that can kill? Are they biological conditions, psychiatric conditions, or symptomatic of society; can they be all of the aforementioned? For all the research that has been done on eating disorders – clinical and non-clinical – we have very few answers. What I find The Worst about this isn’t that we have no answers, it’s how researchers have gone about looking for information.
Twelve is going to be a big year for you. It’s nice to meet you, by the way. I think you’d recognise me. That wouldn’t sound silly if you’d seen me a couple of years ago, because I don’t think you’d have recognised me then, honestly. I’m Katya, I’m 23. I’m currently sitting in the middle of an empty room in an empty apartment, drinking cava. I keep trying to lean against the radiator but it’s too hot. I am very tired because this is the end of a very long two months. I am single, though not quite alone – you’re single too (but not for much longer! Ditch the eyeliner, even if you tight line – which you definitely cannot do yet and are still pretty piss poor at – it’s gonna make your eyes look smaller than they are, and you don’t want that because they are lovely), and you’re definitely not alone. Bonnie and Christina are still two of my best friends. They’re going to stick by you through everything. Christina will remind you of this, she is a rock. Bonnie will cry in your kitchen when you tell her things you never shared in school. They love you so much, and without judgment.
There are so many things I want to tell you not to do, so many people I want you to stay away from. Things not to say, even to wear. Twelve is the peak. Continue reading
This post has been started and left unfinished so many times. Talking about mental health is something that I do often, and am pretty passionate about. But, even as someone who is happy to allude to their own experiences, I still talk about it in fairly abstract terms. I think I constantly make the assumption that, in some way, my history (and current battles) are somehow obvious, or that because of my research and career interests, people should make some kind of natural connection and go, ‘ah, she cares because it’s personal’. But people aren’t always like that, and also, for someone who wants so badly to preach and advocate, I am shockingly private about my own mental health except for with maybe two or three girl friends.
Looking even at this blog, which is meant to be a pinnacle of transparency, you’re going to hear an awful lot more about smelling good and bathbombs than you are my actual, real-life experiences. Even when I pat myself on the back for being vaguely open by sharing creative writing or poetry, that’s still mental health talk in the abstract. I’ve written and shared pieces of creative work that seems to look at how other people have peeled me off the floor. Those were old pieces that I shared, and I shared them as if they were still relevant.
A couple weeks ago I had a conversation with someone about working hard. They had a talent, and I said that I didn’t; at least not one that I had to really work for. This is so telling. I thought straight of academia. I coast along, I don’t work hard. I thought about skills; I decided I didn’t really have any. And I left it at that. That I had not worked hard at all, at anything, not ever. It took about five hours for it dawn on me that that was such a fucking lie. I have worked so hard, and constantly have to work so hard, to stay even vaguely afloat. Especially, especially, especially at the moment. To tell that voice in my head to go fuck itself. To eat and sometimes to stop eating; to wash, and sometimes to stop ‘exfoliating’ in the shower by scratching; to not weigh myself; that no, the world would not be better off if I were no longer in it; and that no, physically hurting myself is not ever a good idea. It is exhausting. I am exhausted. I have spent months worth of hours in doctors offices, in therapy. It takes energy to be put together, to be dressed and to be funny, to make quick jokes and laugh loudly, to have my eyebrows penciled in. Sometimes it isn’t hard at all, but most the time it feels hard to do anything at all.
Keeping on keeping on gets hard. Sometimes everything can feel like an uphill slog. Sometimes the hill has the angle of a rock climbing wall, and sometimes you’re wearing roller skates. At the moment, I feel like I am trying to climb a rock climbing wall (without the harness and someone below me with a belay), with roller skates on (not easy for rock climbing), and probably something awful happening to my hands. Maybe blindfolded too, just for good measure. So. Falling, that’s how I feel. Fall off said wall, back first, no clue what I’ve got to land on. This post is as much for me as it may be for you. Here are five tips on how to try and keep it together.
This is a very old piece of prose. Written around the end of 2012, and all very much in reference to real life events. There’s a hefty trigger warning on this, for fairly graphic descriptions. There’s something utterly compelling and masochistic about writing about and reflecting on my experiences of self harm, much in the same way there is when partaking in self harm, I find.
here in this waiting room, in my
summer blue dress and they
in their black
with their jackets wrapped
the bird bones that I
used to have too.
I will float above and watch them.
Listen to their delicate
chirps of conversation,
their little smiles on
the pale doll mouths,
elephant in the room,
distanced from their world
alien to their structure
and power, too.
They’re there, across from me,
the black hole in the
room and it’s all I can
do to not stand and
run to them, to beg them
to suck me in,
to siphon off the blubber
that crept on
when I was busy trying to
scraping the bottom of the barrel for reasons,
scraping the bottom of a 2l carton of light vanilla
trying to find reasons.
Ah ED communities on social media. I am too old for this and too old for hashtagging nicknames of disorders that kill people. But I’ll do it anyway, because that’s how you find the similar ones, so you can all lump together and pretend to be supportive, where every like on a photo says: yes you deserve to recover! yes stay strong and make it through your fast! yes keep taking those laxatives!
It’s a sick place, but also a safe place, where we can all be sick together. A little instagram world where everyone’s told that they’re beautiful, and even if you’re bigger there’s a waif saying “I wish I looked like you, #goals!!”, and dangerous behaviours are rationalised and supported. Then the odd outsider swooping in to tell you you’re “not fat, you’re stupid” or that they’re praying for you (yes, thank you very much, such good it’s doing me).
Sometimes I play with the idea of making a proper little tumblr again. Not as bloggy as daypatience was (the tumblr I kept whilst going through the day patient hospital program), more like schlank or tinywrists (tumblrs I had in 2010-2011, when I dropped down to my lowest weight). Ribs and protruding bits that you didn’t know existed. Pictures of watercolour deer. Don’t need that anymore – I went and got one painted on my damn body. Fondly remembering getting hundreds of notes on my ‘before and after’ picture, and times when my progress shots were stolen and used to make ‘motivational’ posts.
There’s something inherently childish about this whole thing. It’s a “look mom what I can do!” and the pestering and whinging, the repeating mistakes because it hasn’t really sunk in that you’re doing something that’s going to hurt worse this time. The selfishness, too. And, more literally, the strops and tantrums, crying and silent screams and balled fists, the hiding under the duvet.
Regression is strong with me today.