“I turned to my right – she wasn’t there. Something’s not right. Someone has left. She faded faster than a shadow ever did. Then it struck me: she hasn’t been around for a long time. We should have known; she was lighter than air. Lighter than a balloon, thinner than a string. We should have known, long ago, that the cannibal inside of her would have consumed her soul. We had tried our best but she sucked stronger than any blackhole. She was so hungry she practically ate a fourth of us up as well. She wouldn’t be able to feel it, though, because by then her stomach had already digested itself. I don’t think she knows, either, because it was eating into her brains. I couldn’t even cry, didn’t and wouldn’t try. She was so thin I couldn’t see her because she could fit between my eyes. She was so weak her voice was so soft it couldn’t reach my ears. I could hear from her of her no more. When was she gone, why did she disappear? I couldn’t love her because there was nothing there for us to love. Then the cold, selfish, evil thought struck me like lightning – She didn’t love us, because she couldn’t be and wouldn’t be there for us either. The saddest part that stabbed my heart was realizing we were so apart. Perhaps she will love us and come back some day, the day she realizes she too wants to stay. And on that day we will be here with open arms as we always have tried our best to be.”
If you had read my previous post about how dieting can consume a person’s social, emotional and psychological life, you wouldn’t have been taken aback by the above poem/prose. I am (quite obviously and logically) neither a fan of depression, anorexia or any eating disorders.
I recently came across an article, (link: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/aug/06/sisters-eating-disorder-missed-breakfast?CMP=share_btn_fb) which added fuel to the anti-ana fire within me. Of course, many other articles, videos, books and documentaries may speak much more informedly of eating disorders, going on about how it is both physical and emotional suicide, but this article, extending into the perspective of an anorexic’s family, struck my heart like a perfect chord on the strings of a guitar and was what ignited the spark in me to compose this article and speak up about the deadly ‘disease’.
Eating disorders come in all sizes and it has been argued that we should not only be placing attention on the deadly thin girls who live up to the stereotypical image of an anorexic. A person could be struggling with obsessive dieting or exercising habits and still camouflage within the crowd, look average or maybe even above average. Anorexia, some say, is a concern as long as it harms an individual in his or her lifestyle and hence happiness.
Personally, anorexia as a medical term includes the symptom of being underweight and thus we cannot escape the biological aspect with scales and numbers. However, the term “anorexia” has still been overused, glamourized even (in pro-ana communities), because one indeed has to be underweight (by the scale) in order to be confirmed as an anorexic. If one is not underweight but fulfils the criteria for all other anorexic-like behaviours, then one can be labelled as EDNOS (Eating disorder not otherwise specified) which may or may not make the patient think she is “not even worthy to be called an anorexic” but would be more factually accurate. The issue hence lies with the underlying connotation behind the label “anorexic” which we cannot deny, entails the criteria of being underweight, and should actually not be compared alongside the term EDNOS. Both anorexia and EDNOS are equally serious medical conditions that require attention and cure – no one exceeding the other in “success” of being anorexic, whether or not the patient had really intended to look deadly thin. This means that it does not matter if the patient has or has not reached a certain look or weight or even how he or she reaches that look or weight, but as long as he or she has a pursuit or interest of looking skeletal and follows it with great devotion, then he or she has an eating disorder. This is why we can label a person being “in the early stages of anorexia, currently diagnosed as EDNOS” if he or she fulfils all the criteria for anorexic behaviour but is not underweight. A little bit like how you differentiate HIV and AIDS – HIV develops into AIDS at the third stage; likewise, EDNOS can develop into bulimia, anorexia or exercise addiction, and should not be taken any lighter than its later stages. All of them are mental struggles with not necessarily conspicuous physical symptoms and anyone could develop them. They are indeed contagious and everyone should be wary of them.
In conclusion, anorexia is a religion. It is the worship of Ana, an imagined “God of Fatlessness”, a projection and pursuit or interest of the skeletal version of the self and it is followed with such great devotion that one faces the risk of death. Anorexia is not just an obsessive compulsive disorder. It is not just a possibly contagious illness. It destroys the body, destroys the soul, destroys minds and destroys relationships. It is almost like a zombie apocalypse and it threatens everyone to join the walking dead. It is a religion that ought to be banished and banned.