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Skeletons Don’t Smile

By , Chelsea, MA
“She’s sooo skinny! She looks anorexic!” “Eat more, you’re gunna be anorexic” or even “You eat soo much but you still look anorexic, that’s so unfair!” are phrases commonly thrown out in everyday conversation regarding eating (or the lack there of) that are supposed to be humorous. The sad truth is that there is nothing funny about anorexia nervosa, and more people need to understand how serious the disease is.

Anorexia, to someone who is not suffering from the disease, may not seem like a disease at all. To a person eating normally, it appears that their friend or relative is simply starving themselves, and is unwilling to listen to any pleas from others to eat again, that it is all their own will. Anorexia goes far deeper than that. Anorexia is comparable to a drug addiction if it developed enough, because the individual suffering from anorexia eventually becomes a slave to the disease, as do those addicted to drugs. There becomes a physical and mental block against food, to the point of where it may physically cause the person with anorexia pain to eat food; they have developed that much of an opposition. It almost becomes that even though they want to make their friends happy and eat again, their mind and body will not be able to carry out the task, there is such a serious and uncontrollable aversion to food. There is nothing funny about a drug addict who can’t stop doing lines of meth or coke, and the same should be said for someone suffering with anorexia who can’t stop hiding food, avoiding it, and exorcising compulsively.

Similarly, the eventual effects of anorexia are nothing to laugh at. In the beginning anorexia typically can disguise itself as an innocent weight loss thing, but spirals into a disturbing battle against food. One may be admired for being rather skinny initially, but it scares family and friends to constantly see your ribcage through clothing, be able to count every notch on your spinal cord when your sitting, and see cheekbones protrude through an emaciated face. Because of being so skinny your body gets cold quickly, and as a result fingernails and lips turn blue or purple easily, and its possible for your body to begin creating more hair on the face or arms as defense against the cold. Anorexia is a full time occupation, and a constant lack of food causes extreme fatigue, and at times one cannot bring themselves to speak anymore, it has become too strenuous an activity. So the individual sits there, looking out at the rest of the world with hollow, tired eyes, not understanding why everyone else is so against them. This feeling of isolation sometimes results in visits to pro anorexia web sites, which are created by other people suffering from the disease, but who have taken it up as a lifestyle instead. To a teenager in treatment, these websites can be poison and only counteract any help they’re receiving in order to recover.

There is an intense inner battle taking place within the body of an individual with anorexia. Although everyone around the person is encouraging them to eat, gain weight, and get better, this goes against everything they have ingrained in their brains, and the physical and mental block against eating is much stronger than anyone’s words will ever be. Lying becomes second nature to a person suffering through anorexia, and very little guilt is felt about lying about everything (whether they ate, hiding food, how long they exercised, etc) because it is simply a part of life that they have to keep up in order to maintain not eating, and more importantly not gaining a single pound. The bodies of an anorexic will want to get better, to not be constantly cold and shivering, for their kidneys not to hurt from lack of nutrients, dizzy spells and fainting from starvation; their bodies all want this to go away. But the mind is much more powerful than the body, and it overpowers the body’s cry for help, assuring it that with every additional pound lost and every bit of fat removed they’ll be happier and healthier, despite this being wholly untrue.

Finally, anorexia must be recognized as a disease that kills. The death rate of anorexia is 12 times higher than that of any other cause of death for females ages 15-24. In addition to this, out of every person suffering from anorexia, only 30- 40% ever fully recover (http://www.teen-beauty-tips.com/national-statistics-for-anorexia.html) meaning that the rest suffer from relapses and carry shreds of the disease with them for the rest of their lives. The treatments for anorexia are numerous, but there are inpatient programs, weekly if not daily visits to the doctor to be weighed and even hospitalization for periods of time. Anorexia nervosa is a mental illness, so therapy often accompanies treatment plans, and can continue even past when the individual recovers.

I hope that this exposed anorexia for what it was, no frills or sympathy whatsoever. I can say and write all of this because I myself suffered from anorexia for 3 years, and it was hell. One of the long-term effects of anorexia is short term memory loss, and sadly this has affected me. I have vague and blurry memories about parts of my life, which should be vivid considering I am only in my teens. It saddens me that anorexia made me anti social, angry at the world and myself, and essentially stole 3 years of my life. In an effort to prevent this from happening to others around me, we would all do well to drop the jokes about anorexia, and remember that skeletons don’t smile.

Sources: (http://www.teen-beauty-tips.com/national-statistics-for-anorexia.html)





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This article has 3 comments. Post your own now!

C_B_Mia said...
Oct. 11, 2010 at 10:31 pm
Thank you for this essay!
 
aambeeer! said...
Aug. 15, 2010 at 11:36 pm
Now, I hate to say it, but I was one of those people who thought that anorexia wasn't really a disease at all. Just a stupid decision, that could stop at any time, if only the person could stop being superficial and care about more than their appearance. But this article made me see that anorexia is more than skin deep, and is much more difficult that 'I just won't eat because I'm ugly and don't want to.' I'm proud to say that I learned something from this article, and I will never take anorexia... (more »)
 
Lilihua This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 13, 2010 at 8:28 am
Solid information! I also suffered from anorexia, and it was agony, as you know. This is a wonderful article and I HOPE others recognize that anorexia (and other eating disorders) should never ever be taken lightly.
 
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