I believe that we need to change the way we look at eating disorders. The only way to begin fixing any issue is to to attempt to understand it, even just a little bit.
Suffering is not beautiful. Pain is not an alluring thing, and yet why do we glorify it?
It’s different creating something beautiful from pain, heartbreak, or loss; art, poetry… in order to better understand it, in order to create something divine from abhorrence, situations in life that are inevitable..
But sugarcoating an illness as being a beautiful thing? Something else entirely.
We need to stop lusting after bones; we need to stop making suffering, internal torment, a beautiful thing. It’s not.
I feel like this euphemistic view stems from misunderstanding. Eating disorders are stereotyped, and are so looked down upon; they are not seen as mental disorders, illnesses that cannot be helped. They are assumed to be about vanity, and perhaps this is why they are glossed over and twisted into something mistaken as aesthetically appealing. But it’s this assumption, thing seeing it as something entirely different than what it is, that is creating an illusion around a serious problem.
On average, 4 people die every single day from eating disorder-related complications. That’s in Australia alone. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, with a 15-20% death rate of all sufferers. Almost 1 millon Australians were reported suffering with eating disorders last year, and this is a gross underestimation of those that go unreported and undiagnosed. And yet only 10% of sufferers get any help at all. Last year over 1,800 people died from eating disorders in Australia – a figure higher than the 2011 annual road toll. There is only one specialist inpatient eating disorder unit in Australia, with only six beds. How does an illness so prevalent with such a high mortality rate have such little care? Misunderstanding.
This is the first time I have ever spoken, or rather written; so openly about the illness that cast shadows over the past years of my life. For over half my years on this earth, I wasn’t able to express my pain in any way other than hurting myself through starvation; and in turn, hurting those around me. I’ve heard so often of the physical repercussions of eating disorders, however I haven’t come across many of whom speak honestly about the psychological implications, even though it is a psychological illness.
Because it’s something bigger than you. The insurmountable pain is impossible to elucidate. After all, weight loss is merely a symptom of the deeper psychological problem. It’s yearning to translate the palpable self-hatred onto a canvas more tangible.
You want to waste away into absolutely nothing and never have to feel anything again; and yet it’s not about the weight at all. The weight simply becomes the appropriated choice nexus of the issue. Because it, at least, can be controlled. And a starving body is a wonderful distractive aberration from any of the real, underlying issues. Let’s pretend it’s solely about weight and vanity and leave what really hurts to a far darker space, where no one can see it. It takes a deep-seated, ingrained self doubt and disgust to starve yourself, to slowly kill yourself. To truly, intrinsically believe that is superfluous in your case; that eating to maintain your life is somehow not necessary; that you honestly do not have a being worthwhile enough to warrant preservation through nourishment. You want to somehow translate your deep personal resentment and inadequacy onto something; and your body is an facile target. It is easy paint your hurt in spaces and sunken cheeks and protruding collarbones. To want to be skeletal. To want to be emaciated. To want to starve yourself into utter oblivion. All you want is to want waste away, to fade into nothing. To disappear. It’s easier than just dealing with the darkness.
That, is the honest truth.
Tell me, what’s beautiful about that?
If you or a loved one is suffering from an eating disorder, please contact The Butterfly Foundation at
1800 ED HOPE / 1800 33 4673 Monday–Friday 8am to 9pm