Anorexia: Physically and Spiritually Dying
I told Derek not to visit me because I couldn’t throw up when he was there;
I almost failed my comprehensive exams because I was so hungry;
I spent my year at Oxford with my head in the toilet bowl;
I wouldn’t eat the dinner my friends cooked me for my 19th birthday because I knew they had used oil in the recipe;
I told my family not to come to my college graduation because I didn’t want to miss a day at the gym or have to eat a restaurant meal.
I would swear I did not miss the world outside. Lost within myself, I almost died.
During her recovery from anorexia, Abra Fortune Chernik filled three and a half Mead marble notebooks – five years’ worth of reflection on how her eating disorder had tangled her life and thwarted her relationships. You can read more on her struggle in “The Body Politic.”
I had always known that anorexia diminished women physically, and too often led to their deaths. But I hadn’t stopped to realize that the disease shrank them socially, emotionally, and mentally, too – leaving their world revolving solely around their bodies and their food – or the lack thereof.
I hadn’t realized that anorexia meant both a physical and spiritual ridding of the self. And yet it surely does.
As my body shrank, so did my world. I starved away my power and vision, my energy and inclinations. Obsessed with dieting, I allowed relationships, passions, and identity to wither.
The name of her piece, “The Body Politic,” tells us that anorexia is not just about Abra’s own struggle, but the struggle of women who live in a world that seems to applaud their constriction, and perhaps even their disappearance.
A push toward constricting women, or “disappearing them”?
In an earlier piece I talked of political pressures to deny women life-saving vaccines, cancer screenings, tests for H.I.V., emergency abortions to save a woman’s life, and nutrition programs, along with decriminalizing domestic violence. Women’s control over their bodies is being increasingly constricted by attempts to limit access to contraception and the right to choose.
Applauding women who sufficiently shrink their bodies, minds and souls is perfectly consistent.
And perfectly deranged.
A rerun for the holidays.