You are not a monster and you are not alone

If you live with an eating disorder now or in your past, be aware that material at these links is not friendly to your disorder.

After I read this excellent post by Erica at Shakesville yesterday, then this one by Rachel Hills, about a truly vile Cosmo article, I walked around all afternoon with my memories of triggered binge episodes alternately roiling and going icy numb. I left the following in comments at Shakesville, not thinking it was running as long as a blog post. I'm re-posting it here, where it should have been drafted (didn't mean to use someone else's blog as my drafting pad).

But this ripped me deep, and I don't think I can go through what it would take to write this all over again. Here goes.

I live with binge eating disorder, and have since I was in my teens. Now in my forties, I can measure in months - sometimes in years - the spans when my life is not ruled by it. But I have no reassurance that my brain and body will not turn on me on any given day and start me down the slope to hell again. And now I am writing in tears, but this is too important not to say.

When you live thinking that both your body and your behavior are disgusting to others, it is easy to think of yourself as a monster. You begin to understand your classification as deformed and unlovable. You perceive this classification and reinforce your acceptance of hideousness at every turn, and you hold yourself accountable for both for your imagined state and your tortured thoughts, in shame and utter loneliness. And I know that there are women of every age out there tonight, holding this Cosmo in their hands, thinking, I would look like a monster to them and they'd be right. Thinking, The people in my life don't really like me. They are thinking these things about me the whole time.

I know there are women out there whose shame and self-loathing will sit like a knife in their chest this very night because of this article. I know there are women who will read this and feel completely alone, bereft, used-up, and discarded. I know this because as much as I've learned, as far as I've come, even a recap of this piece brought those feelings over me today like a suffocating hood.

It is a thorny victory to sit in righteous rage tonight rather than despair. How dare the writer, the editor of this piece. Either people's self-image is a game to them, a mirage, a joke -- or they stand to profit by a misery that they understand is very real and that translates into advertising and subscription dollars. Because the person who can no longer trust her image of herself will look to any liar who says they are telling her the truth. How dare they say that the truth is that no one can love your body. How dare they say that shallow cruelty is the underlying truth between people.

Self-image is not a game. It is very real. People live by it, which Cosmo knows all too well, and people for damn sure die by it. I can't tell you all how much I wish tonight I could find one, just one person who is sitting alone, hating her life in her body, and let her look into my eyes and see the tears there. To tell her, I'm so sorry. To tell her, you're not alone. And when she says, But just because they're assholes doesn't mean they're not right about me, to wrap my arms around her and say, That's exactly what it means -- and I want to know who you are.

That's it. Just one. Just one person.
I'm glad I found Erica's piece before I stumbled across Cosmo's cruel piece of poison in the supermarket line. It's one of the reasons I read blogs - to help me position my mind in a defensive stance of sanity toward cultural artifacts that affect me and that do not have my sanity in their interests.

(Cross-posted from A Sunny Hello.)


mistresssparkletoes said...

mistresssparkletoes here - I stumbled ... Just Now ... to your site via shakes, of course (after reminiscing 'bout The Grateful Bean). Excellent post here. I'm recovering from bulemia - hasn't ever really gone away for me. Some days/weeks are better than others.

I couldn't really read past one of the links' comments page. Someone said "excuse me while I go throw up." I don't know. I'm not usually touchy, but that

Ann Pai said...

Hi mistresssparkletoes - in the context of thinking about eating disorders, that phrase is odd and uncomfortable. I get so used to seeing vile comments about fat and women's bodies that I confess, I was just relieved to hear comments that expressed disgust with the Cosmo piece. Your observation has set off a whole chain reaction for me thinking about context, intent, and consequence in casual speech. Thanks for commenting here - as we hear over at Shakesville, sharing our stories with each other is an act of support.