Today, a member of my family died from complications arising from her battle with Anorexia. She was 55 and had struggled for many years, spending the last 5 in a wheelchair as her frail body simply did not have the energy to enable her to stand.
My experience of Anorexia and my knowledge of it is limited. But I do know it’s traditionally portrayed as, and seen as, an illness affecting younger generations, both male and females, who are struggling to grasp their own identity in a world where image – how you look, how successful you are, is all important and incredibly damaging to self esteem and mental wellbeing, especially if you feel you aren’t reaching the plateau others do, and through setting your own bar unrealistically high.
And so, I started thinking how anorexia is another kind of suicide, whether sufferers realise it or not. Just as some people with depression can be tormented for years before sadly choosing to take their lives, the same can be said of those with this aggressive eating disorder.
I’m not sure that people starving themselves want to die, but their hatred of nutrition is over-whelming, believing food is the enemy to be avoided at all costs. Do they realise that ultimately, without adequate nutrition, they will die? Do they care? Does this thought enter their heads or is the focus on avoiding food so overwhelming that the true potential severity of the disease does not come into the equation? And surely, if their sole objection was to remove themselves from life, would they put themselves and their loved ones through emotional and physical turmoil for such extended timescales?
How much research goes into eating disorders I wonder? Are any of them avoidable, curable even, through early identification and intervention? Or is it that the pressures of life drive some of us to such self doubt, self hatred even, that we deny ourselves food as a form of punishment? A little like self harmers who cut themselves to feel a little better…..
As triggers go, it appears in my cousin’s case it stemmed back many years to a failed relationship which she never truly recovered from. She was successful in her career, has a wonderful family, who are close and supportive, yet, the frailties of our minds are such that nothing, no amount of love and support, can stop the rot once the decision to stop eating has kicked in. When each pound lost, each new and enhanced bone protrusion is seen as a step nearer perfection by distorted mind.
Is it the lack of nutrition that de-stabilises the mind still further, ensuring the avoidance of food is maintained until skeletal status is achieved? And even then, it’s not enough, because the pattern seems to continue until death occurs.
I don’t pretend to have the answers, but would be interested from anyone who has suffered, is suffering, or who has been bereaved through Anorexia.
So many questions, so little understanding of an area which I firmly believe needs more research and more exposure. After all , it’s not just bodies that are broken. It’s minds as well.
RIP Sharon x