Death Masks & Living With Your Own Mortality
I wish that there was a way for people to experience an eating disorder safely so they understood what it's like living inside that mind. One of my best friends who goes by SiriCerasi online is blogging about eating disorders here (mega trigger warning) and she's doing a beautiful eloquent job.In particular, she said this at the end of a recent blog post:
Each day, I am a survivor. Each day, I don't let the eating disorder or the depression or the anxiety win, because each day ends with me still alive.
Want to know what it's like to have an eating disorder?Every now and then, you google the names of the girls and guys you met online, in livejournal communities, on xanga (I'm dating myself here), on tumblr, on instagram, and on Facebook, to see if they're still alive.You. Google. Names. To. Find. Out. If. They're. Alive.Because the truth is, the people who made you feel less like an alien in this world, the people who held you the first time you purged, and who held your truths for you when you went into treatment, when you were triggered by your [mom/boyfriend/best friend/teacher/therapist/nutritionist/that bitch in group therapy], they're probably not going to live long without help.And in the same fell swoop, you can be utterly unaware of your own mortality. It's not like I wasn't aware that what I was doing was dangerous. I knew the statistics. I knew that every time I purged, I was risking death. I knew that the things I was doing to my body were dangerous. Were killing me.But when my college counseling center called me and said I had to set up an appointment because three professors on campus had called in concern about me. My response was, "What? Why?"I was at my all time lowest weight. I wasn't handing in assignments. My hair was falling out. I was manic. But I was totally fine, totally fine, what are you talking about?I reported myself as a student in crisis a month later.The school suggested I take time off and I refused. They put conditions on me staying.That's the truth. I had to attend weekly therapy sessions, see a psychiatrist, and pass blood tests in order to stay in college for my last year. Very few people know this. It's very strange to remember being concerned on a regular basis with whether other people, like Siri who was also very sick at the same time, were going to be alive every day when I woke up, and being mostly concerned with how to trick people into thinking I was fine and doing better.Mortality is a very strange idea for people with active eating disorders.And I think, on the other side of the disorder, it's something that continues to surprise us. Because mortality goes hand in hand with survivorship. They are nouns that act as present progressive verbs. They are ongoing. We continue to survive. We continue to live.We wake up, and it's strange, because we remember when we weren't sure if we'd wake up.We walk across campus, and we remember when we couldn't do it because we literally hadn't fueled our bodies enough for a half mile walk.We read books, and in the middle, our hearts skip beats, and we take our pulses, wondering if this, this is when our disease finally catches up with us. When we are healthy. When we are well.Of the thirteen girls I was in treatment with, one is dead.Of the numerous girls I've met online, at least five that I know of are dead, including two friends who were (god, I wrote are there...) really good friends of mine. Mortality caught up with them. And until the end, even with the one who took her own life, there was always this strange belief in their own infallibility and immortality.It's those of us who survived who are deeply aware of our own morality. Living, it turns out, takes strength, courage, and an awareness of one's own fragility. Knowing you are fragile and mortal is not a bad thing. It's a good thing. It's what makes you take care of your body, stand back from the tracks when the train comes by, share your life with others.An eating disorder makes you feel brave. An eating disorder makes you feel infallible. An eating disorder stands in in place of courage. But it's not courage. It is not bravery. It's just a mask you wear while you're dying.