Posted on: 03 March 2018
It’s eating disorders awareness week, and as I am writing this blog post, I am fighting strong urges to binge. That is a hard sentence to write. Fighting is the right word to use here- I am battling my inner bully, fighting a war against the self-destructive impulses that sometimes overshadow every part of my being. This is a war that I will win, eventually- and an important part of my victory will lie in opening up and talking about this.
Binge eating. The thought of it makes me feel disgusted. It is a dark shadow cast across my life, a dirty secret, something that I hide away, and in the process, end up hiding many parts of myself that I deem to be too much and too repulsive for other people to see. For me, this process comes from a place of disconnection to my body, and I think this is a phenomenon that lots of young women are experiencing. The feeling of not fully inhabiting one’s body, but rather of our bodies merely being object. Objects to be seen and judged, viewed on a screen and ‘liked’. When I binge, I am not in my body. I am not respecting the incredible gift I have been given- a fully functioning, healthy body. I am taken over by the strongest urge to stop caring, to create disorder- I fill myself up physically to try to stop the endless voices in my head that tell me I need to be smaller, prettier, stronger, better.
If you met me, I could guarantee you that you wouldn’t think that this was something that affected me- I look healthy, I am confident and come across as happy. And most of the time I am- I am lucky, my being has not been fully consumed by an eating disorder, rather, I would say, I have disordered eating.
But that’s what’s so hard about eating disorders- they are invisible, and easy to hide away. The bodies and minds of our friends and families become engulfed by a silent illness that is so easy to lie about, to hide away with a smile. I am a functioning member of our society- I am a friend, a daughter, a student. Yet my binge eating has made me really good at keeping secrets. I often crave to be alone when I am feeling sad or vulnerable because I don’t think anyone will want to be around me, and I turn to the one thing that feels good in the moment- a binge. I know it makes me feel bad, and yet I do it anyway, as somewhere in my mind, a voice is telling me this is how I deserve to feel. In my worst moments, it’s not something I think about consciously at all.
In a society that values thinness, binge eating is painfully embarrassing. But that is why I am writing this- I am hoping that by opening up about this, I will have to look it in the face for what it really is, and begin the healing process. I am talking about binging in the hope that it may make others who are suffering from this feel a little bit less alone.
The main message of eating disorders awareness week 2018 is ‘Why Wait?’. The BEAT website says that, ‘on average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help’- in other words ‘almost three years, 37 months or 1,043 days’ of our precious lives are taken up by the shame and the pain of keeping eating disorders a secret, by suffering alone. This message of opening up is similar to what Freda is trying to do in breaking down the silence surrounding menstruation in society- by opening up and talking about these things, the perceived shame barrier will be broken down, and we can all get on with the healing process in our lives- whether that’s bleeding unapologetically or facing up to our demons and making food our friend again.
So this eating disorders awareness week, let’s make an extra effort to have open conversations with those around us. To be brave, and vulnerable, to speak about what most scares us- the things we do and think when we are alone; when we are with our one biggest critic: ourselves.
I truly believe that the first step to tackling the eating disorders and mental illnesses that affect many people in our society is by taking away the shame and the stigma- having an eating disorder is much like any other illness, no one is to blame, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
If you need to speak to anyone about eating disorders, these are a couple of the resources that are available to those living in the UK:
National Centre for Eating Disorders
MGEDT (Men Get Eating Disorders Too)