This blog, Skinny-Truth, has been a tremendously positive experience for me in so many ways. I do not regret a single word. I have become comfortable talking about my experience with anorexia, however, when asked what kind of writing I do, I sometimes find myself hesitating. Depending on the situation, I will gloss over my blog and go with a more general, "Oh, I write mom blog-type stuff." Because I have learned, the word anorexia can be a conversation killer.
Jane Doe: What do you do for a living?
Me: I am a writer.
JD: Nice. What kind of writing do you do?
Me: Well, mostly I write about my struggle with anorexia.
Que the silence, enter subject change.
Anorexia is a taboo word that is known to be used in high school hallways, or in my case, grocery stores, restaurants, or the gym, lurking quietly behind lockers (or piles of bananas) with stolen glances or muttered whispers. Saying it outloud is like dropping the F-bomb in Sunday mass, it shocks people
And I get it.
In those first sessions with Kirsten and Gretchen, the word anorexia rolled off their tongues so easily. Even in their voices, Kirsten's soothing and Gretchen's motherly, the word sounded harsh to my ears, full of sharp edges. To them, anorexia was an illness. A disease that called for compassion and understanding, like cancer. To me, it represented weakness and failure, the word causing a wave of shame to cascade down my body like a cold shower.
Although by the time I reached out for help, I knew I was unhealthy but being referred to so casually as a person with anorexia not only made me flinch, it kind of pissed me off. Like when I used to argue with my husband, and he said something stupid like I "always" overreact, or I "never" admit when I am wrong, and I calmly begged to differ telling him exactly why he was is wrong, and I was right. ( Now we don’t argue much because we both just agree I am right.) In these early treatment sessions, I wanted a chance to discuss, plead my case, and tell K and G why I thought they were wrong.
"I don’t think I’m fat," I said, "I’m not dysmorphic."
"I eat food," I pleaded, "and never once have I thrown it up."
"I just love to exercise” I argued, “it's not about my weight”.
I wanted to argue. I wanted to be angry, so I could use it as an excuse to convince myself that these professionals had me wrong so I should quit them.
But neither Gretchen nor Kirsten would engage, instead of answering with neutrality;
That may be true.
I imagine it feels that way.
Would you consider a different perspective?
God, they were frustrating and nearly impossible to argue with. And although they continued to speak matter of factly of anorexia and how it related to me. I could not (would not) bring myself to do so.
I bring this up because I realize in my writing and speaking opportunities, I now speak freely of having been a person with anorexia, but even now the word can catch on my tongue. Like a sip of scalding coffee, the word anorexia and what it represents is sometimes still difficult for me to swallow. But now, when it gets stuck, it is no longer because I feel embarrassed about my struggle. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Instead, now when speak about anorexia, I feel overcome with emotion; Gratitude, love, pride, and joy for having overcome this disease. Mixed in with a little regret and sadness for the years I missed out on so much while in the midst of it. But no matter the feelings that emerge I no longer live cloaked in shame for having struggled with it.
And that in itself has been worth fighting for.