Anorexia is a common mental illness that just simply isn’t fully understood by today’s society. Many people believe that others ‘choose’ to suffer from this for attention when in true reality, this is actually a very serious mental illness. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as ‘An emotional disorder characterised by an obsessive desire to lose weight by refusing to eat’, and I guess you could say that’s the general gist of it. The disease affects people not only emotionally but also mentally and psychically, leading to extreme isolation and most commonly, depression. Anorexia is not discriminative by any means. It affects individuals of all ages, race, genders, class.. anyone can suffer from it.
Unfortunately, Anorexia carries the highest death rate of any mental illness due to the extreme psychical consequences which is truly heartbreaking and although treatment is available, it’s not the easiest, or can it be fixed overnight, in fact, a large number of people will be in recovery for the entirety of their lives.
What doesn’t help, is the media. If they aren’t writing an article about how a certain celebrity may have put on a pound or two, then they’re presenting us with perfectly airbrushed images of people that they think we should aspire to look like, and especially with the younger generation being so influential, they look at this, and think that this is normal. It’s not. It’s really really not. Although, there is a good side to the media. So many celebrities are now coming out and speaking out about their struggles with Anorexia. Troian Bellisario, Mary-Kate Olsen, Lady GaGa, just to name a few.
I used to be one of the teenagers. I’d look at the girls in the media, who to me, looked a perfect healthy weight, yet a headline next to them would read something along the lines of ‘So and so gains a few pounds’, or something like that. I’d know just by looking at the picture that I was perhaps the same weight as them and didn’t understand that if they were fat, does that mean that I’m fat too? I’d look around at my friends, and realise that I was surrounded by, in my opinion, the most beautiful women, and I’d look at myself and didn’t understand why they’d want me around them. Why they’d want to hang around with the ‘fat girl’. Or at least that’s how I saw myself. I was told for years and years by other people that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I wasn’t good enough and that I simply wasn’t enough. It completely destroyed my mentality, my outlook on life and my trust for other people.
I used to count every single calorie that entered by body, hoping not to exceed a certain amount and I’d beat myself up about it every time that I did. Nobody realised for years. In fact, I’m sure some of my friends still don’t even know what I was going through at that point.
I don’t weigh myself religiously anymore. I don’t skip meals in the hope of losing weight. But recovery don’t just happen straight away. I think I’ll always struggle with the battle between the eating disorder and myself. I still sometimes stand in front of the mirror and pick out my flaws and my tubby stomach, but as long as I fight harder than the disorder to win the battle, then I think I may just be okay. I’m learning to love myself and that’s all that matters. Beauty isn’t measured in pounds.
Anorexia is not a fashion statement, nor is it for attention. Being silent about this disorder is helping nobody, in fact, we need to bring more awareness to this disease, so that those suffering with it, don’t feel as alone as they do. Someone close to you could be suffering and you don’t even know about it, and if you, yourself, feel that you are struggling? You should never ever feel embarrassed or ashamed to ask for help. Asking for help is the most brave and courageous thing that you could do. It could save a live. Do not let a mental illness stop you from living your life and reaching your full potential.