Don’t Look at Them: What I Was Avoiding Posting For Eating Disorder Awareness Week


February 5, 2015 by rebelwithalabelmaker

I wasn’t going to post about eating disorder week, because I am planning to post for self harm awareness day, and I like to spread out the depressing.  I wouldn’t have posted, except for the example of a brave friend, and the hashtags #‎talkingsaveslives and #‎EDAW2015 hammering on my mind all week like rain on a tin roof.

I didn’t want to get depressed all over you.  Which is going to work out okay, because I am not in the slightest bit depressed about my battle with bulimia.  I was at the time, of course—I was young, and it is just exhausting to spend your life with your head in the toilet.  Who you are shrinks down to the tiny sliver of calorie calculations and will power and guilt.  It’s the starvation of your soul, not your body that gets you.  All the parts that used to be there—how you used to love to dance and climb trees and write poetry… they get layered over, and there is nothing exciting left draw any identity or strength from.  You’re just a number.  It’s like being in prison, except you feel like maybe if you work hard enough, the number will get small enough and someone will let you out.

I remember it well, but it doesn’t depress me, and here’s why.  Because today, it’s gone.  All of it.  It’s just gone.  I don’t know why—maybe it was the crazymaking of being a teen abating, or all the other things in my life, but today it’s gone.  I’m still fat, but not all that fat, really.  And I’m not particularly fussed about it.  Some parts of my body I’m not a huge fan of, but other parts I absolutely love.  And I’ve learned that when other people look at you, they look first for the beautiful.

I remember this summer, lifting something heavy down from up high with my trapeze-arms, and it was so easy and the thought “I just love my body” sprang, unbidden, into my mind.  Meaning I love it from the inside—what it does, the strength with which it’s fought back when needed, the way it seems to dance without my awareness or consent when the music gets too beautiful.  I like it pretty well from the outside too.  But more important than that, I just can’t wrap my mind any more of my life pouring myself into the exhausting, soul crushing work of whittling away at butt.  I can’t even see my own butt.  I’m pretty much done caring.

Not everybody has my experience of it ending, but lots do.  And even if it doesn’t disappear completely, it does get better.  So this is what I have to say to the people struggling in the middle of it… know it will not be like this forever.  Hang on.  Get outside in the fresh air and sunlight.  Think about the other parts of who you are.

Also, take back your own eyes and mind.

When I was 19, I read The Beauty Myth, and I took it to heart.  I decided to fight back, to limit my exposure to media containing those photoshopped cookie cutter perfect bodies.  To spend my time and energy looking at real people, connecting with them.  I went on a low bullshit diet.  None of those stupid women’s magazines, none of those TV shows, very few movies.  It took discipline, but not nearly the discipline that bulimia does.  And it worked (I’m sure it wasn’t the only factor, of course, but it was an important one).  Now, I can watch a movie and come home with a twinge of longing to look like that, but by the next day it’s gone.  And most days, I don’t think about it at all.

Let me be clear.  Most days, I don’t think any of it at all.  Not my body, not food, not what other people are thinking… I have a routine, it’s easy, and the results are good enough to get me through a pretty-privilege based world without too much disadvantage.  I haven’t been in this fight for well over ten years.  Not the bulimic fight, not the health obsessed portion counting “eating disorder lite” that is condoned because it’s not too messy looking from the outside.  None of it.  Gone.

I now know there is research—we all know there is research—demonstrating the link between the way our bodies are portrayed in media and the rate of eating disorders in society.  It’s not a perfect link—these disorders don’t happen to everyone, after all.  Like lung cancer in the hayday of cigarettes.  And what do we say our kids and one another about cigarettes?  We say “some profit-obsessed fucker is trying to kill you”.

It’s like that.  Some profit-obsessed fucker is trying to kill you.  Not trying exactly.  Just looking away from your suffering in indifference.

To you who is heartbroken, suffering, eroded… I want to tell you there is so much hope to be had.  I want to give you some of mine.  I want to tell you that you will get better, but so much more than that, I want to tell you that it is not you–some weakness, some brokenness–that made you sick in the first place.  If I could give you anything, it would be that knowledge.  And the searing, power-filled anger that accompanies it.

They know.  They know that what they do is overwhelmingly contributing to the suffering you are living with every damn day, and they are doing it all anyway.  They are spewing the same bullshit that tobacco execs did years ago about multiple factors and blah blah (after all, there is lung cancer even without smoking) and treating it like it is a weakness in you, caused by you.  Like you should be healthy enough to withstand this kind of toxic junk without getting sick and it’s your fault if you can’t.  We know that’s garbage, being peddled so that they can sell more crap.  But one day, one day we are all going to wake up and stop that bullshit in its tracks.

Until then, don’t look at them.

Be as strict with what you let into your eyes as you would be with what you let into your mouth.  Reject that way of thinking about your body, and any images that feed it.  Go on a strict no-bullshit diet for six months.  Or forever.  Every airbrushed model you see, think to yourself “some profit-obsessed fuckers don’t care how badly they damage me” and look the fuck away.

Don’t look at them.

After all, they’ve never bothered to look at you.

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