As I sit here sipping my tea with biscuits at bay, I am reminded of a certain sorrow that tainted my livelihood not too long ago. To eat is to live and so when the act of consuming food becomes disordered, the potential for life is hindered. Today I witnessed a young woman be overshadowed by this illness. Her supposed hands were wrapped around a box of sushi. I use the word ‘supposed’ because her dear fingers could have been mistaken as tiny sticks ready to snap. I do not exaggerate. Her mouth and tongue were salivating over the close proximity to nourishment. Her eyes, if given the ability, would have swallowed the sushi whole. Everything in her being was screaming for the necessity that we call food. I wanted to cry. There’s no other way to put it really. I wanted tears to roll down my face and I wanted that animation of my sadness to persuade her to eat. However, she pushed the food away, a draining task in itself, lifted from the chair like a skeletal feather and returned to starvation. I pray for her because once upon a time… I was her.
Eating disorders are the epitome of desolation. You become empty through and through. The simple equations of life become the kind of algebra that made you skip class and hunger grows into something else altogether. It’s no longer about food. It’s about what made you stop eating food. For me it was control, closure of my Father’s suicide and an ultimate attempt to feel that I was enough.
I used food as a weapon. My stomach became a loudspeaker, my bones more prevalent than ever, my teeth the colour of a lemon and my heart a surprise waiting to happen. Those external signs of illness are not what makes me sad though. What makes me sad are the days I lost sitting alone in my room, the relationships I tainted with hate and my inability to look in the mirror. To be honest, all that makes me sad exceeds what I am able to fabricate with words.
I am still here though. That adversity did not stunt my existence. I have recovered and I can now describe the whole experience as a “once upon a time” with my own version of “happily ever after”. In recovery, I remember thinking of treating another person the way I had treated myself. The very thought was twisted, criminal even. To put another person through an eating disorder was to condemn their entirety. We don’t deserve to be condemned though, we just need to be heard. I therefore began to nourish my body and confront the very savages that made me sick. In doing so, I realised something. The things that took my health are not “savages” at all. They are parts of me that demand care and so I will continue to care for them until they no longer have the need to demand.
Shakespeare once said that “What’s past is prologue.” Although this is not my own figment of literary brilliance, it is a phrase that I embody. I cannot deny my eating disorder. It was an authentic disease that almost killed me. However it is laced into the past and has become an incentive to write new and happier chapters. The point of this scripture is not only to share my story. I want you to consider that perhaps our “savages” aren’t really “savages”. Maybe they are parts of us that have become so familiar with pain and thus, they can now only speak in pain. We need to listen. Our savages have something to say and I can hear them calling, can’t you?