Blaming people for mental illness is one of those things that really bother me. I spend a lot of time perusing the internet for random information, and I stumbled across something that disturbed me on such a profound level, I felt ill.
First, a little history. I have a mild eating disorder. My best friend struggles with anorexia. I HATE people who shame or perpetuate shame on people with eating disorders. I have watched my friend survive on nothing but celery, hate very part of herself, even self harm for eating too much. It is heartbreaking.
And it is not a choice.
To me, anorexia is part obsessive compulsive, part addiction. It gets inside you and eats away at your core. It eats your self esteem, your body image, any love for yourself, and warps your perception of what beauty is.
What I stumbled upon yesterday was a WordPress blog promoting anorexia as a lifestyle. It was so disturbing, children were commenting that they wanted to be sixty pounds, and needed a “pro ana coach” so they could be proper anorexics! 14 and 15 year olds!
The human skeleton weighs forty pounds, and I weighed sixty pounds at about seven years old.
My friend’s battle took her to almost seventy pounds. It also put her in a coma and caused permanent organ damage and arrhythmia. She almost died. These young teens want to be even lower.
People don’t realize how damaging anorexia is, or even worse, shaming people with an eating disorder. It doesn’t work. You have to bring back the things they love to the forefront and encourage them to want help. This doesn’t mean screaming how disgusting they look, or how stupid they are for wanting it. It means making every effort to be there when they break. It means doing research and showing them the harm it can do. It means bribing them to eat, making deals, and comforting them when they cry over their food.
Forcing them to get help doesn’t work. Trapping them doesn’t work. Forcing them to eat leads to even more trouble in bulimia. It is a delicate balance of offering hope and love, praying to whatever power your believe in that they make it out of this alive, and trust. Most important thing is trust.
If someone trusts you enough to tell them they are going through this, you can’t destroy it. You have to be stronger than I was, and stick by them. I ran away, it became too much, and nobody kept an eye on my friend. I am haunted by guilt for something I could have stopped. Being severely depressed and suffering from my own eating issues didn’t help.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. After about eight years struggling with body image issues and binge eating, I am finally recovering. I’m starting to accept myself, see that beauty doesn’t equal hatred for oneself, or skeletal thinness. I had a teacher in highschool who got help and became a nutrition and cooking teacher. She taught me so much about health and acceptance. My boyfriend is teaching me to love myself. And I’m trying to help my friend make the same steps.