I’m Jess. I’m new here- so hello! Nice to meet you. I’m a college student who, among other things, has eating issues.
That sounds vague, doesn’t it?
See, the thing is, I don’t like *that word*. I’m guessing that a few of you might have the same problem I do with those five syllables. I don’t have any issues with my speech or reading, but when it comes to that word in any of its forms, I shirk away. It doesn’t roll off my tongue. It doesn’t even make it off my tongue. It’s ‘food stuff’ or ‘my eating’, occasionally tiptoeing into the aforementioned ‘eating issues’. Most of the time it’s a mere ‘you know…’, accompanied by a vague hand waving that is somehow supposed to represent the word ‘anorexia’.
Now, I want to say right now that I’m not saying anorexia is any more dangerous or important than other disorders. Not one bit. Bulimia, EDNOS, compulsive overeating- even the hideously vague ‘eating issues’- are all of the same importance. I’m just talking specifically about anorexia at the moment, as that’s what’s personal to me. But people struggle with different words too- with saying ‘bulimia’ or ‘eating disorder’, ‘underweight’ or ‘restricting’ or ‘purging’.
In my case, I have to wonder why the phrase ‘I’m an anorexic’ seems to have been neatly cut out of my vocabulary.
Maybe I’m just using a different dictionary to the usual type. In my mental dictionary, it reads a little like:
anorexia nervosa [n] 1. eating nothing at all.
2. being severely emaciated.
Similar to what Kat said about the ‘typical’ anorexic, I believe that all of the implications and suggestions that the word anorexia brings to mind are dangerous. I’m prepared to bet that if I asked one hundred random people to define ‘anorexia’, quite a few would describe it as ‘that thing where girls get really skinny’.
I’m not going to romanticise or personify things here. Anorexia is a psychological illness, signs of which include a refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, a fear of becoming overweight, distorted body image, restricting food intake and physical issues such as a lack of periods. Yes, it may be the underweight girl drinking a Diet Coke for lunch. Equally, it may be the seemingly normal girl eating a seemingly normal meal. Who says it has to be a girl? It could be a boy, a man. A forty-nine year old man with a wife and daughters and a job and anorexia.
And I fit those criteria for diagnosis. I do. Yet the idea of saying ‘I’m anorexic’ makes me physically wince. If I am sneezing and coughing and my throat is sore, I don’t think twice about admitting to people that I have a cold. This is another illness, yet it is different. Nobody has ever looked at a person and said ‘ahh, but they don’t look like /insert person here/, so they can’t really have a cold’.
What am I trying to say in a rambly, long winded way? I am trying to say that these words- anorexia, bulimia, eating disorder- carry so much more importance than they should do. And we let them. We let them stay whispered, an indication of a problem, something that we can apply to models or skeletons. But when it comes to admitting that we might be described with one of those words? Oh no. Not us. Not me. I just have a few, er, eating issues *strange hand gestures*.
I’m not saying that eating disorders are something to be proud of. I’m saying that they’re illnesses- nothing more. If we treat anorexia or bulimia like a god we do not speak the name of, then we’re only setting ourselves up for yet another goal we’ll feel we haven’t reached.
I have anorexia nervosa. You may, you may not. Either way, it’s regardless how much you match the bone thin women strutting their stuff on magazine covers.
I hope my first (very long- I'm like that, sorry) post was okay. See you guys around!