I seem to be posting less and less often these days.
That can be a good thing – if it is because I’m out there living life. Or it can be not so good – meaning I’ve withdrawn from the world.
Things haven’t been so good lately in some ways. The nature of an eating disorder is that we have so many ups and downs. Being co-morbid with depression, anxiety and other related conditions further complicates things. I know I’m not alone there.
I find life very overwhelming and that’s caused me to cut back on many of the things I had achieved. I’ve stopped going to ballet and volunteer work, and rarely leave home unless it’s to go to the shops or to therapy. And when I go to the shops, it will be with a worker. Social phobia is pretty strong these days.
I’m actually typing this from a computer in a public library – that’s a pretty unusual thing for me. (It’s also frustrating – this computer has the grrrrr-iest keyboard lol). I’ve just had a counselling session and decided to stop in at the library instead of going straight home. I want to go home!! Too many people here. But here I am
The good news for me is that I have started counselling. I only have a few sessions left with the psychologist before my 10 sessions per year is up – and I was panicked about what to do for support after that. There was a not-for-profit organisation nearby for women with eating issues that I had totally overlooked – they have free spots for counselling. So here I am.
Some things are meant to happen. I know I will never overcome the ED until I’ve dealt with the lifetime of trauma. I still haven’t had much chance to work on that stuff with the psychologist because most of my sessions with her have been used up just learning and working on coping skills – she won’t work on trauma unless she knows I can keep myself safe.
But the counsellor I’m seeing now is very experienced with trauma work. I’d always wondered where people went to do all the therapies I’ve only read about online – art therapy, sand play, movement therapy etc. Well, she does them all! Not just that, but she ‘gets’ me – and she seems to appeal to my creative side that has for so long been suppressed. She’s going to help me get back into the art and writing that I used to do so much. And, in bizarre coincidence, she has been to my dance school with an art class to draw the dancers in class.. which is something she might look at exploring with me, as well as helping me get back into dancing again. Volunteer work is on the back burner for now – I tried to do too much at once and ended up totally overwhelmed. Now we are going to do one thing at a time.
I can definitely see how drawing dancers as they move would be helpful. You can’t be a perfectionist when your subject is moving! And you can’t help but notice that bodies come in all shapes and sizes. They are tall, short, fat, thin, slender, chubby. And it’s okay. They are all okay.
I remember when I was a dancer, how it was what my body was capable of that mattered to me. Not what I looked like. I strived to make it as strong as I could. Practised and exercised continuously. I had no idea I had anorexia. I didn’t want to be skinny. I actually turned my nose up at skinny, thought the girls who were always on diets or throwing up were rather pathetic. I was devastated when I finally had to admit I had an eating disorder. Devastated and blindsided. I still find it hard to fathom.
More and more evidence is emerging through studies and research that eating disorders are not actually about food and weight at all. Simply those are the way we have chosen to express the illness.
An extremely fascinating book that I may have mentioned in a previous post was Ethan Watters’ “Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche”. One of the case studies in this book focussed on Anorexia in Hong Kong in the 1980′s. At that time, Western culture had not yet influenced the Chinese culture as much as it has now – so it wasn’t common for Chinese girls to be exposed to the Western idea of fashion and our body pressures. Yet Chinese girls still got anorexia – just like us. The difference was, they didn’t know why they were starving. They expressed that they wanted to eat, didn’t want to be too thin, etc – and yet they could not eat to save their lives. There are similar findings in third world countries, places of famine and war, and cultures that still are far removed from our own and don’t place as much value on being slim as we do.
Another interesting thing Watters said was that until Karen Carpenter’s death, eating disorders had a very low profile – but after her death they started ‘coming out of the woodwork’. It seemed to him that more people identified with her, identified with having an eating disorder – and spoke up about it, sought help. This also could have been helped along by the fact that people suddenly were made much more aware of eating disorders so were suddenly realising there were family members or friends who were struggling. But what interests me, is that Watters believes that how we express our illness changes depending on what is at the forefront of our cultural awareness. Because of the sudden high profile of anorexia, he surmised, people started to express that they were unwell through using those behaviours. As Western culture started to affect Asia more, Asian anorexics started to become more focussed on their weight and on appearance, replacing the former unexplained starvation behaviour. They still had anorexia – they simply now believed it was because they needed to lose weight to be acceptable and fashionable.
Another clue that eating disorders aren’t about trying to be slim or like a fashion model are that six and seven year olds are being diagnosed with it. Most of these kids have never flipped through a fashion magazine in their lives. The extent of their wanting to be fashionable is probably dressing up as a fairy or in their mum’s high heels and make up. The body pressure isn’t there. Neither is the bitchy fashionista culture that older girls and women must contend with. And yet – they too, starve themselves to the point of being in danger of death.
We have a long way to go with researching and learning about eating disorders and their causes, and even further in how to treat them and hopefully some day cure them. And I have a lot more that I want to write about – but I must go. I hope this has been interesting!
I hope everyone is going well, keeping up the good fight. You are a pretty awesome bunch of people
Thank you for reading.
Edit- Thank you to Sooz – for pointing out that I have forgotten basic geography. Hong Kong is not in Japan! Sorry *blush* Now I need to go hide, I’m so embarrassed