Warning: contains images relating to eating disorders, may trigger.
Given the chance to write about mental illnesses left me wanting to run away with some kind of ‘girl-you-can-kick-it’ type letter of endurance. However, that has been done before and is probably much better than anything I could create. So instead I’m sending you a link to my favourite one, whether you want it or not. I don’t always agree with the points that are brought up but I believe it is important that a little, cross-section of celebrity culture brings them up – so there you go, take it or leave it my friend: http://www.theconversation.tv.
What I find more important to write about (breathe in – I honestly just did it!) are my illnesses and their relation to other people, my constant encounter with anorexia and depression (and anxiety if your going to be pernickety, but I think that comes hand in hand with anorexia).
Truthfully, tears are streaming down my face as I start to write, as I am too aware of the stupidity behind the glorification of ‘skinny’. There are unbelievable levels of mental, physical and emotional pain involved in anorexia and other comparable diseases. For months, I struggled to hear, smell, taste or concentrate, as my brain started to shut down. I became an animalistic version of myself with absolutely no control over my feelings and thoughts, enduring physical pain from starvation as my organs came close to failure.
It truly disgusts me that ‘skinny’ images are utilized in advertising, we are all so used to seeing images of people, of models, such as Kate Moss and Alexa Chung alongside subliminal messaging suggesting life would be better if we could achieve that body image. My anorexia was far more physically threatening than the levels you find in modeling, but the industry’s promotion of scarily thin women is still dangerous. It is ridiculous that our society, which at times seems governed by the importance of health and safety, allows a multi-national profession to enforce a restricted diet on their workforce, which makes them both physically and mentally ill. Moreover, this industry is affecting too many girls my age, who worry obsessively about what they eat and how they look. They become engulfed by it, influencing others around them. It hurts me to see friends and family affected by a concept, an illness, that really did ruin a part of my life.
Being model thin is not very attractive; it is definitely not something we should aim for let alone promote. Life becomes very cold and emotionally draining. My mood swings affected friends and family, making me difficult to be around. Having no fat made it sore for me to sit or move, it made me cold all the time, and my hair became frazzled from the lack of nutrition (- also from the peroxide hair dye, bad choice, but then again, I was unable to think…). To any young girls who aspire to this kind of lifestyle, I want to ask you to think again. To think about how important being healthy is to your standard of living and your happiness. Personally, it’s not worth it, and having a healthy body weight makes you look so much prettier.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding anorexia and bulimia. In truth there is a lot of stigma surrounding most addictions. Others who have never experienced an addiction often advocate it to that person’s vanity or stupidity; suggesting that you chose to abuse yourself provocatively to get noticed. This is not the case. Most addictions stem from an inability to let go of mental pain as opposed to a desire to be the focus of attention. In fact I recently found out most stem from an overriding sense of shame. In reality they have very little to do with the addictive behaviour itself, but come from a series of problems that may not be instantly recognizable. On top of that, I found most people do not appreciate how little addicts are able to understand and recognize their condition. I’m not sure why, but clearly there is a far greater physical affliction in the brain than most doctors understand. In these photos I had a bmi of 14.1 and did not realize there was anything wrong with me. I honestly thought I was a dress-size eight.
From reading this, I would love to think you go away with a greater understanding of the physical impact surrounding mental health so you can relate it to illness as opposed to the product of an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact you have to question whether there are many people in this world who have a completely healthy lifestyle?
Mental illness is the leading cause for too many deaths; and anorexia has one of the highest death rates. You’re stupid if you think you will never be affected by anything like this. You can never leave someone to sort out addiction on his or her own. Rising from it takes a lot of help, courage and time, and there are no short cuts. I often find people are too afraid to ask many questions regarding intense illnesses like these, which is a probably the safest approach as you can never be one hundred per cent sure about the true state of someone’s mental health, and questions can make things worse. However, an inability to speak to someone about his or her illness does not provide an excuse to sweep it under the carpet.
One thing I did find from anorexia is that true friends will stick by you and tell you exactly what they think you need, regardless of whether you want them to or not. I am so grateful to the people who cared about me and wanted to learn about my problem and how they could help. This aspect of a person separates the good from the bad, and the demi-gods from the rest of us. Knowledge about mental illness is the only way you can reduce stigma and help others.
So can we please learn to embrace the need for fat, for a body with a bum or a bit of a tummy. Can we stop complaining about that constant diet and that little bit of weight you will put on over Christmas. You need fat, you need the ability to loose and gain weight, and there are so many other factors such as kindness, intelligence and moral ethic that are important in a person. Overreliance on image perception often leads to stupid and false discrimination of others, and an added hatred for oneself… we don’t need any more of that in our lives. Please learn from my mistake and stop hating your body and more importantly… stop hating yourself.
You are so much prettier for having that bit of fat you hate.
If you want to share your story on PsyBites email Sophie Smart at firstname.lastname@example.org