I think a common thing people ask someone who suffered from or is currently in the throes of an eating disorder is WHY. That seems to be the big question.
Unless you’re there, unless you have experienced it it can be unimaginably difficult to wrap your head around it. Why do people voluntarily starve themselves? Why do people voluntarily binge? Purge? Why enagage in any of those behaviors?
Why indeed. It can be maddening for the friends and family of the eating disordered. It is equally maddening for the person themselves. I think from the outside it looks like this volunary, planned, method of self destruction when in reality there is nothing voluntary about it.
In many cases the behaviors creep up on you. Many of them as young women, we are taught by friends, family, and society. Worrying about your weight seems to be an integral part of being a woman. These tricks are taught and passed down, viewed as normal, when they are not. In my case, these little behaviors were innocent and harmless. Slowly they took on a life of their own. You don’t simply decide to starve yourself, at least I didn’t. But I did realize one day that I was starving. I was starving, and I was starving for the starving. I hungered for the hunger. It had become a comfort.
The obsession grew slowly. You think you’re just being mindful, orderly, keeping an eye on your calories...how adult of you. Before you know it you’re an encyclopedia, no calorie counter apps for you, you know it all and also know those apps are incredibly flawed. You’re method is far more accurate.
Even binging and purging is not voluntary. This is hard to explain. How can stuffing yourself only to barf up the feast not be voluntary? How can that not be intentional.
The only way I can explain it is in my own experience. After a long period of starvation and restriction I found myself on autopilot, pulling a half eaten birthday cake out of the fridge and eating it with my bare hands. The body overrode my brain. It needed nutrition, it needed calories and my brain was barring the way to those calories. One way or another it was going to get what it needed to survive. Cue the onset of extreme panic and anxiety. The world, my world, was in chaos everything had fallen apart, everything was ruined, my life was in turmoil, I was unclean. Face down in the toilet, two seconds later order is restored. It is as if nothing every happened. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Why. Why start? Why continue? And the always present “But why in the first place?” The underlying reason. The one secret, the one motivator, which can wrap all this mess up into a tidy little package that we can present to the world to say “here you go”.
This doesn’t exist. There is no clear starting point. There is no clear ending. There is no tidy package, no concise answers.
People like to use “control” to explain eating disorders. “It’s all about control” yeah yeah yeah blah blah blah it’s a load of crap and it is a cop out. Yes, there is definitely a piece of it which is very much about control, but it is so much more complicated. Control. Autonomy. Curiosity. Strength. Coping with (or not coping with) emotions. It’s anxiety, and perfectionism, and type A personalities, and trauma, and a giant fuck you to the world around you. It’s a voice when you have none. Your body speaks for you and no one can silence it.