School was hard. “People are starting to talk about you, but it’s for the wrong reasons. People are noticing.” The kind words uttered in hushed urgency that one friend ‘in the know’ of her “dirty little secret”. Not another breath of life existed within the vicinity, but the secret was of such shame that even the walls couldn’t be cursed with such knowledge. Her eating disorder was becoming noticeable; eating in public had become most definitely forbidden and daily routines in which to avoid canteens, meals out or any social activity within which food was involved began to tighten their grip around her throat, mind and soul.
Despite the twenty daily weigh-ins she was compelled to complete her weight remained healthy, a shamefully healthy BMI. Mentally, mentally food was a gripping Chinese burn of the body and mind to be endured daily all the while friends and strangers alike bought and devoured tempting food under her nose and in her face, unbeknown to the simultaneous wrenches of desire and disgust. She, for as human as she still was, needed to eat whether she wanted to or not, whether she was allowed to or not. Her body would rebel in craving, desire, and dreaming before finally asserting nature’s need: she ate and she ate – in secret of course- with very little knowledge and even less control, never knowing just how much of what swallowed would remain in the digestive tract long enough for absorption.
Weight loss hit a plateau, the eating disorder commands and compulsions strengthened in their attempt to grasp control of every aspect within her body from each physical atom to all mental and abstract processes. In stubborn resilience despite her dire efforts the weight remained clinging to her frame. The bingeing caught up, consuming her, controlling her – body mass increased, expanding eternally and creating an internal hell of existence with each gained pound.
Living at the mercy of what bulimia wanted: bulimia wanted to binge and purge in public – she submitted; bulimia wanted to scavenge the bins for scraps – she submitted; bulimia wanted to eat frozen food – mush to her dismay, she submitted. Enslaved, her life revolved around trying to control the disorder, which began in a subconscious attempt to control her life, which she was losing grip of because the disorder was controlling her. Ultimately she had lost control and was fighting losing battles that eventually no one knew of. Perhaps though, people knew and they stopped talking about it because maybe it wasn’t so serious anymore; her weight wasn’t concerning, scary, or emaciated. Her organs weren’t at risk of collapsing due to starvation, and every bone didn’t stick at acute angles. Physically speaking, she was ‘too fat for an eating disorder’.
Depression set in and with that the desire to be alive or exist dwindled to a faint dim. The only alive desire was that to be someone else, anyone else, anyone but she: smarter, prettier, better, more this, more that and most of all, less of she. If she studied the chance may arise to be born again, recreate her self, become someone new, that someone else that she needed to be. All hopes for a life worth living were pinned on a ticket out town. That ticket was university.
Another failure: re-sits and re-submissions hung over in daunting gloom. “This work isn’t even to GCSE standard. I couldn’t even pass this at GCSE and this is your A Levels.”
Fuck. Shit. Bollox. Wank. ‘I can’t do anything. I’m hopeless. I’m stupid.’ Motioned in a circular skulk, like predator upon prey, throughout her mind tainting every other thought, desire and aspect of her being, but the real kick in the teeth, the real failure was that she was seeing a therapist for an eating disorder that too, she was failing at, diagnosed but still too fat for the affliction. The demoralising drone of existing continued the pace. Bingeing. Purging. Rinse. Repeat. Isolating became isolation and the internal loneliness of silent suffering devoured her whilst she tried to plaster on a brave face. Reality, fantasy and pretend blurred into one.
Perhaps, she was considered by her teachers as a bad statistic of the year, a poor achiever and a defective anomoly on the grade board at graduation. Perhaps she was disapproving because the priority of attending lessons became drowned in hospital appointments, food wrappers and vomit, or maybe hiding from school and the pains of home amongst the shadows of the woodland seemed strange, the behaviour of an undesirable, or just a plain old bad representation for the educational institution. A bad rapport developed between herself and teachers: an off attitude, a snide remark on attendance and plain rudeness brewed a frustration in a complex suffocated by silence.
“So shit, this media project, what do I do? I have two weeks to do a 3 month project.” The time to develop wonderful creative ideas was a blessing she didn’t have. The time and energies to research and organise a whole video project were another denied blessing. What did she know about that she could base a project on? Of course, the only thing she knew: eating disorders.
Teachers viewed it; her secret was somewhat more out than ever as now she was inadvertently admitted to her “dirty little secret”. Head hung and ashamed she continued as per usual to remain on the down low, to dance between the shadows of society, creeping through the navigations of her mental hell.
At the other end of the half lit corridor, her Head of Year and main teacher of bad rapport was walking in the opposite direction. Head hung, she tried to skulk past unseen but the gaze of judgement burned through her protective invisibility shield of ignorance. Their dislike for each other was mutual: she, as an undesirable student statistic and Ms.D, as a perpetual bank of unwitting snide remarks, “Oh you submitted your UCAS application? I didn’t expect you would have, I didn’t expect you to be going to university. Have you even had any offers at all?”
Ducking her head and trying to pretend to look anywhere but at Ms.D to pretend she hadn’t noticed the only one person passing in this narrow and silent corridor. That was it though, the corridor heaved with the pressure of such silence even a muttering could be heard, a muttering of, “she’s not anorexic!” – then as she approached, “About your project, are you OK?” An obligatory enquiry, “I’m fine”. An accumulating panic of mortifying shame and embarrassment rose within her as fight or flight chose to scuttle back to no-where – safe, and out of sight. Her secret was safe only with her.
This is important because the short film project addressed eating disorders in general, of which there are numerous variations from Anorexia Nervosa Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. The result being that sufferers come in all shapes and sizes. I have sat in waiting rooms of national eating disorder service clinics and always there are some people of whom you wouldn’t glance at twice or suspect as being a sufferer should you see them in the street. You cannot judge an eating disorder on face value alone. Besides, a major picking in her comment was that I never claimed to have anorexia. I was bulimic, and the attitude of, “too fat for an eating disorder” is not only sticking and belittling for an individual already suffering great mental turmoil, but additionally the importance lies within the danger of such attitudes within an educational setting.
I am just thankful the corridor was empty that day.