elegy to an eating disorder

hey, everyone, I know this poem is a little dark.

suffice it to say that I am not condoning eating disorders or glorifying any sort of mental illness, addiction, or self-harming habit. these things suck the life out of you, and they hurt so fucking bad.

but I also want to say this: people choose these habits because they work. they don’t work well in the long run, but they work well enough to keep you around.

we don’t often talk about the purpose or power in these ‘problems.’ I think that’s because it’s too scary. it’s far easier to believe that someone has an eating disorder or an addiction or a mental health problem because they just care about being thin or they just want to feel good or they weren’t taught how to Think Happy Thoughts.

that’s bullshit.

personally, I don’t think eating disorders are about Not Seeing Enough Dove Commercials. as a child, I knew beauty standards of magazines were unhealthy and damaging. I knew that what was on the inside mattered more.

if you’re going to understand eating disorders, you have to understand: it’s not usually about Not Knowing Beauty Standards Are Fucked. I knew. I just saw that being pretty was my path to being successful, powerful, celebrated, safe.

I knew what I was chasing was impossible, but I still wanted it.

it wasn’t about the Dove commericals. it wasn’t about the actresses of unattainable beauty. it was about the way people looked at and talked about and respected and admired the actresses of unattainable beauty. it was about the roles those perfect women played. I wanted to be in those roles. I wanted to be those people. I wanted to be looked at in that way.

and so I created food rituals and rules—even if at their ‘milder’ stages they were just about ‘off-limits’ foods—that gave me a sense of power over my future and how people would see me.

I didn’t have to learn about photo shop.

I had to deconstruct the whole idea that being pretty, being desirable, being perfect was a way of protecting myself and making myself worthy of love.

I had to learn that my desires mattered, that our whole system of consumerism and social status is fucked, that I was worth so much more than my good-girl Christian reputation or my grades or my not-too-sexual sexy appearance, that I could climb the mountains I wanted to climb, that my thoughts were interesting and weird and entertaining enough as themselves. I had to learn that the world wasn’t safe, but that I could take it. I had to learn I could hitchhike and that I could talk to strangers and that despite what everyone told me, I could go to another country by myself after being homeschooled for my entire life and do well for myself. I had to learn that even if my parents kicked me out, I could still survive and thrive and find love and find a home in myself, even if it was just a makeshift shack or shanty. I had to let myself receive love from a crazy welder who loved me when I was at my absolute lowest and felt the least worth it.

I had to realise I wasn’t just a leading lady or a powerful figment of the imagination.

I was real. I am real.

and so, on this New Year’s Eve, I urge you: don’t make it about the diets. make it about becoming more you. rejecting the narratives. crafting your own.

this is my way of saying: thank you to everyone who has loved me along this journey through the 2010s. there were inexplicably painful moments as well as breathtakingly gorgeous ones. hilarious ones. victorious ones.

as we step into this next decade, I hope we ditch the constant battle for self-optimization and chasing the next weight loss or cultural seal of approval. I hope we become more us. more real, all together. I hope we begin to understand why we were drawn to things that hurt us and really, truly heal.

I hope we all find the bravery, the connection, the love, and the acceptance we all crave, both within ourselves and within these precious, fleeting years spent with others.

I send love to you all.

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