One Of The Saddest Side Effects Of Eating Disorders
I was staring at myself in the mirror once.
But it wasn’t the typical self-critical stare, where I dissect every inch of my body with hatred. It was a different kind of stare.
I didn’t recognize myself.
Physically, I was aware I was underweight, but I was looking past the weight. Past the body. I didn’t recognize the person staring back at me.
You see, when I am underweight, I become a different person. For one, my anxiety levels are automatically elevated. While medication controls my nerves somewhat, I am constantly on edge and ready to crack. I become rigid in my routine, and any slight deviation is met with panic. I am constantly planning what my next move is, and everything I do is incredibly calculated. Things like: “I must eat dinner at exactly 6pm” or “If I chew a piece of gum, I must chew for at least twenty minutes”.
Conversations become difficult, too. I am overwhelmingly aware of how I am holding myself, or where I am placing my limbs. “Do my legs look big if I cross them in this way?” or “If I smile, can they see the weight gain in my cheeks?”. Listening is difficult because, like I mentioned above, I am constantly planning. Planning what time I will be home, so I can figure out when to start making dinner, so I will be able to eat at exactly the right time, for example.
Conversations are also hard to carry because malnourishment prevents the brain from being able to focus and concentrate. Sometimes, when people would talk to me, I would zone out. I was in my own little empty world, and everything around me would fade into background noise.
Sadly enough, when I am underweight, I lose my sense of humour. For those who know me well, you will know that I love to laugh. I love to be silly and to have fun - which is part of the reason why I got along so well with my psychiatrist in New York - we had the same sense of humour. When I discharged from the hospital, he told me to: “keep laughing”. I told him I was so happy that by feeding myself well for a couple of months, my laugh had come back.
What I’m trying to say with all of this is that eating disorders are Hell. They rob us of our personalities - they steal from us the very essence of who we are, as people. We become these cold, empty bodies, entrenched in the throws of the illness, unable to completely feel or express ourselves or relate to others.
And that’s SAD.
It’s not that I love who I am. Again, for those of you who know me, you know that part of what maintains my anorexia is that I don’t like who I am. But I like being SOMEONE. And the eating disorder takes all of the life out of me.
I think it’s important to remember that the physical consequences of eating disorders are real (and dangerous), but there are other side effects, like being robbed of our personalities, that deserve attention as well. Take a good, long look at yourself next time you are in front of the mirror. Are you there? Are you really there? And then fight back. Fight to regain yourself… your WHOLE self.
Wishing you all a great week xx