Friday 17 March 2017

Who is forcing you to starve?


You may or may not have heard people say: " You chose your eating disorder!"          
 In my previous blogs, I have stated that you do not choose to have an eating disorder, and I am standing firm on that ground.
I do not keep it a secret that I myself have struggled with anorexia for many years, and I am always very honest about my experience. And I always will be.
However, I am aware of the fact that my honesty could encourage other sufferers to torture themselves even more, as that is the nature of the disorder. Therefore, I will always be careful what and how I am going to say.

 I can tell you that I still remember the day when I've made a decision that I am not going to eat anymore. So, you can say, I've chosen to starve myself. You are right! That is exactly what I did, but little did I know that I was already in the grip of anorexia.
There was that inner "voice" that told me that I did not deserve to eat, nor did I deserve to live. This voice have been living inside me as long as I have known myself, this internal voice have told me from a very early age that I was not good enough.
This voice was like a dictator giving me commands for the first 24 years of my life. It was ordering me to believe in certain thoughts, and it helped me to hold onto certain comments that I heard people say about me, so that I could hate myself and continue hurting myself. All those negative comments became the part of my inner voice. I believe that "the voice" have served a very important purpose; and that was to destroy myself! I chose to believe that I was worth nothing, I could see no evidence that would support it otherwise!

It was about few months after I 'declared' to starve myself, when my class had to watch a movie called: Schindler's List in the cinema (in 1994), around that time I begun to look obviously ill. After that movie my classmates, friends and family started comparing me ( my body) to those who were deprived of food and water, and as a result were starved -even to death- in the concentration camps.
I was told that it was wrong to starve myself when there is nobody forcing me to not to eat. I even heard people say : " How dare she can choose not to eat when there are people starving in Africa. What about those who are tortured and starved against their own will?" It was few months later when I was hospitalised finally, and and every morning I was weighed.  One of those morning the nurse who weighed me picked my arm with two fingers, like I was a dirty cloth and with disgust on her face said: " Do you think this is how you should look in your age?"

 Little did people know that there was my very own prison guard living in me; "threatening" and convincing me to believe that I must obey "the voice" that told me not to eat, because I don't deserve food.
And no, I did not feel proud that I could starve myself (what made me feel good was that I could diligently do what anorexia told me to do. It felt satisfying when ED "told" me: "Well done for doing what I've told you to do.") It felt good that there was at least "someone" who would acknowledge my achievements.

But did I think that I was a hero or that I was above everybody else, because hey, I can starve myself... NO, I did not!
I was crippled and disabled by the illness. I lived a sad and lonely life...well, I did not live.. It was just an existence and I longed for it to end!

Did those comments about people who starve as a a result of human cruelty or poverty or disaster, made me fell good....? No, those comments felt painful and created an incredible anger toward myself, I hated myself even more. What I thought was :" How could those dear people die, and I live? I should be the one who dies. I don't deserve to live but they do!"
Did I like being compared to thin and dying people? No, I did not ( hence the hiding in over sized clothes)! I would have been more than happy to have my food shipped to those people who were starving in the world. I would have given anything to change with other people's suffering. I wished I could remove others pain, because I believed that nobody in this world deserves to suffer but I.

When you are in a condition when there is little or no food and the body begins to starve your instinct kicks in, the one that drives you to survive. You want to feed your body, you don't want to feel the symptoms of hunger: cramping and pain in your stomach, dizziness, irritation, headaches...etc. That is why you look for food at all costs. And often you eat whatever you can in order to eliminate the symptoms of and to survive.
But when you are struggling with anorexia ( or a period of time when you starve yourself), that instinct only makes matters worse! As much as you want to nourish your body, you equally want to follow what the eating disorder is ordering you to do; starve. That itself creates a tremendous tension. But because you do believe that you have no place, no rights to be on this planet, you carry on to obey "the voice", and starve yourself.
And as hard as it may be to believe, that is how it is. In the case of an eating disorder sufferer there is no external force, ( per se) that deprives him or her from the right to exist and tortures to death, but the illness from within is that force.

Let me make it clear, eating disorder is an illness, and as long as we oppose to believe that, we will not be able to help those who are suffering.
Helping a person who is struggling with anorexia is very challenging. And it is a lot of work.
The best thing that anybody who is willing to help can do is to offer compassion and love.
However, my question is, how can that be achieved from a judgemental point of view?
Those who are battling with anorexia ( or other eating disorders) do not believe that they are ill. From their point of view they are not good enough, and they deserve to be punished. They often have these thoughts: " If you would really know what I did, do, think etc. You would agree that I am a terrible person." Therefore, not feeding themselves is justified and seems the very normal thing do.

Whether you are a counsellor a medical professional or a family member or friend; remember, when you look into the eye of the person who is struggling with anorexia, that person wants to believe that she/he can be loved and worth your time and attention. They judge themselves more than anybody else does around them.

 I hated myself for doing what I did during my illness. I did not understand myself, I was puzzled. I thought I've gone crazy. But at the same time I felt guilty when I didn't exactly followed the inner "voice" but just the same I felt guilt and shame when I did follow "the voice". I so wanted to be a 'good' patient who gets better easily and quickly... I so wanted somebody to tell me that what was going on with me was okay. Even if my actions were "sick".
I longed to hear ( wanted to believe ) that I was worth being loved, and I was worth fighting for, because I was more than my eating disorder! I wanted to know how I can get "the voice" to stop in my head.

I have recently read an article where the prisoner's ( in the Holocaust concentration camps) painful body was compared to those of whom are suffering from anorexia nervosa, and how "insane"it  is that in our "free and wealthy age, people are willingly starving themselves." ( So, I guess this article was describing me when I struggled with anorexia.) And I agree it is "insane" that in this "free and wealthy age" people can feel so unloved and have so much self-hatred that they believe that they are not worth to live and choose to starve themselves to death. I think it is tragic!

I personally know and respect the writer of that article. However, my question is; how helpful it is to publish an article like that? How would a person who is suffering from anorexia would turn to somebody for help who "sighs, sighs and sighs and think that his/her illness is just simply "insane"...?

Do we need to compare and most of all how helpful it is to compare people's pain? The mental and physical pain of an anorexia prisoner vs. a concentration camp prisoner.....
 What happened in the concentration camps was indeed a disaster! It is also a disaster when one thinks that himself or herself is wroth nothing! Can we actually measure the weight of a disaster when the result is the same...pain, suffering and death?


  1. You are so transparent. A friend of mine struggles with an eating disorder and I keep trying o find ways to understand and help her. This post really helps for me to see her point of view. Thank you for being so open and honest and providing an insight that I needed.

  2. Hi Margaretta, I am so glad that what I shared is helping you to get an insight. Sorry for not replying to your comment earlier. I have not seen your comment until just now. If there is any way that I can help you please do get in touch.