To coincide with Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’m doing 5 short, sharp blog posts, one every day, looking at questions you always get asked when you’re suffering from an eating disorder. Hoping that, in a small way, it’ll help get some understanding of this horrible illness out there. Important stuff. Very important stuff.
‘You must be really hungry?’ was something that so many people said to me during my 15 years of suffering from both Anorexia and Bulimia. When you constantly shy away from meal times, when those around you realize something is wrong and that you’re not eating, day after day, month after month, they wonder how you can bear the hunger, the emptiness. Well, let me explain a little. From my own experience that is. Yes, I was hungry. I was really hungry. I was starving. Literally starving my body and my brain. But, that was the whole point. Refusing food is a defiance, a protest. At least that’s what I believed at the time. It was my power, my strength. My power to control my body. My power to take control of how I felt, to make me a happier and more perfect person. Deliberate starvation is a silent scream. Screaming that you are unhappy, that you hate yourself, that you are completely and utterly lost. Your refusal to nourish and look after yourself is testament to how much sadness you carry. The hungrier you are, the more you feel like you’re winning the fight. The hunger high fives the Anorexic in your head. The hunger feels like you’re winning. The emptiness fills your entire body until you feel hollow and void. And, that is exactly how you want to feel. Surely that’s easier than dealing with your head, right? You get used to the empty. It becomes a familiar feeling, one that makes you feel in charge. The feeling of blankness quietens all the noise in your head. This, let’s please never forget is a mental illness. It is all about our head. The unhappiness in our heads manifests itself through food, that’s us expressing our anger, our frustration, our misery. An eating disorder uses food to deal with emotions. As the starvation goes on, your body tries to survive and that’s when your mental and physical state begin deteriorating in so many ways. Your mind becomes misted even more, you organs are under pressure and by then you are living in the very tight grip of an awful illness. An illness which very fast takes control of you and dominates every single thing you do. And, my strength now? That I overcame it. That I feed myself and take care if myself. That I no longer have the illness screaming at me. That I am well and have my freedom back. I have immense gratitude and pride for my recovery, that’s my power now.
So, ‘You must be really hungry?’ Yes, a sufferer most definitely is, but maybe ask them this instead; ‘You must be really struggling, you must be really sad and confused?‘ and I promise, that will be a question they are far more in need of being asked.