That’s what I have always told everyone. Even when I’ve seen therapists, the therapist asks: “Do you or have you ever had an eating disorder?” I answer in the positive with the usual caveat: “Yes, but it wasn’t serious. It was just a way for me to control my weight when I was dancing. Once I stopped dancing I stopped the disorder.”
Then today I saw an article about new health guidelines for models being presented this week in New York City at Fashion Week. The article on CNN Health calls eating disorders “an illness that has the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness,” –Lynn Grefe, president and CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association.
Wait? What? This is the first time I have ever heard eating disorder and mental illness used in the same sentence. Which explains why they are treated at psychiatric hospitals. Okay, I’m a little slow… but was I mentally ill? I wasn’t. I was dancing. I was keeping my weight where it needed to be. Except…
I remember the time I took too many diuretics and blacked out and almost collapsed. Somehow I remained conscious as the world went black. And I also remember the time I had a heart attack at age 19. Also because of the eating disorder. You know, the whole electrolyte imbalance thing. Hm.
So was it a bigger deal than I thought? And like anyone who has a mental illness, unless it is healed or managed do you (did I?) move on to just another way of practicing mental illness? Too scary to think about. Let me wrap my head around this one first.
In the meantime, I guess it is time to start talking about that experience as more than a ‘weight loss method’. Maybe talking about it in terms that “Beauty should equal Health”. That’s another quote from the CNN article. But truly. When someone is healthy we intuitively know that and are drawn to him/her like magnets. The healthiest people, physically and mentally, have droves of people who want to be near them, who want to try to get a piece of that, who are aspiring towards a different way of living and being in this world.
That would be my aspiration. Not to draw people to me for what I appear to lack but to draw people toward me because I am healthy. Healthy people have a lot to share: their passions, their joy, their dreams. And that’s contagious. One happy person can infect a room much more quickly and effectively and certainly more positively, than one sick person.