Anorexia: Physically and Spiritually Dying

I wouldn’t sit with daddy when he was alone in the hospital because I needed to go jogging;

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.

Abra continued:

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.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 30, 2016, in body image and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Ooof. This is so tough. I really have to applaud anyone for sharing their struggle. It’s deeply personal and often painful but it does help so many others.

  2. I have a friends at whose story is one of being slowly tortured to death by a system that will not let her take her own faster way out of life. Anorexia has become the only tool she has for killing herself.

    My friend is an Aspie. She has been hospitalized for the past ten years and mis-diagnosed until last year when they finally realized she wasn’t being difficult, she was being an aspie. By then it was too late.

    Every method certain to trigger Aspies has been used on her. She lives in conditions that are extremely triggering for Aspies and her responses are extreme. Yet she shares her life with others with the hope that maybe someone out there will find comfort in her words.

    She has gone all the way to our supreme court to be granted a quicker way out. But alas. They even go so far as to revive her when she has managed to find something to harm herself with. Slow torture until revival is no longer possible.

  3. Oh! I’ve seen anorexic girls and, you’ve said it just right- they are dying, physically and spiritually. Fitness and healthy body should be the mantra, rather than a zero size!

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