Self Abuse, Eating Disorders and Why It Needs to Stop
“It’s hard to see severe and chronic in the same sentence. There HAS to be a stone we have not uncovered yet.”
This text was sent to me at the beginning of the week by my incredibly brave and extremely tired mother who was referencing a doctor’s report.
For those who follow my blog with some regularity, you will know that I have a severely anorexic sister who has struggled with the disease since she was nine.
I don’t speak about it often, but every once in a while, I think it is time to speak out again. (You can see a video series I created about this here).
This is one of those weeks.
My parents are in Boston at a think tank event, meeting with some of the world’s best neuroscientists at their request. They have given up their lives to study neuroplasticity and the idea of a little girl from a stable, loving environment who made a choice she didn’t know she was making, resulting in over a decade of mental illness and physical repercussions is exactly the sort of thing that they are eager to study.
I think the reason this is so profoundly affecting is because after over 10 years, it still doesn’t seem real. I still remember the initial meetings our family had when the word anorexia became a common noun in our household and believing it was like a cold. It would be gone soon, we just needed to try the right things. Words like chronic and severe and neuroplasticity don’t belong to the situation.
Ah. But they do. And just because something becomes normal, does not mean it is ok.
There is a lot of chatter in Canadian media these days about abuse to women and I wanted to put forward that perhaps the most incredible abuse that can be heaped on us is done by ourselves. I am not making light of any form of abuse, just saying that self-abuse is not discussed even half as often as it should be.
Take my beautiful sister as an example. For years, she has denied herself of food, comforts and pleasures to the point that she doesn’t know what she likes anymore and wouldn’t be able to allow herself to enjoy them, even if she did. She has a weakened heart, softened bones and takes more medication daily than most elderly people I know. It is hard for a person to do that to another person. It is easier to do that to yourself.
As athletes, we know loosely of what abuse means. We know what it is like to be out in the elements and pushing our bodies to the limits. But hopefully, we also know what recovery, refueling and rest means because there has to be that balance. When we push ourselves to limits and then deprive ourselves of necessities that we need or compare ourselves to others and punish ourselves for coming up short, this is where the true problem lies.
I have said often that I run long distances because it helps me become better at living.
- I need to move forward at a constant momentum, waiting for the pain to set in and feeling like it never will end to know how to mentally deal with things in my life where it feels like there is no finish line.
- I need to learn to push through incredible physical pain to understand how to push through incredible emotional pain.
- I need to reach a physical end to a long run to understand that there is always an end to things.
- I need to learn self-care following pushing myself to my physical limits to understand that it is important to be gentle of yourself in all areas of life.
My parents attending this event is a testament to their unspeakable hope, even though all signs point to the fact that there will be no resolution and that the words chronic and severe are our permanent reality. The fact is, there is a finish line to this and even if it isn’t the one we are hoping for, we keep pushing forward towards it, taking care of ourselves and each other.