One of the great misconceptions about EDs is that we all are where we are because of (fill in the blank): society’s expectation of women, thin models and actresses, girls expected to mature far too young, processed food, thinspiration, sex, our drive for success… I’m sure you could add at least ten more things to that list. The reality is that when I’m awake at 12:45 in the morning and thinking about food instead of sleep, and realizing that tomorrow it will be harder to control food because I can’t sleep, and cursing the Ambien for not working, the only society I blame is the Society of Me.
I’m the one that started this when I was fifteen-ish. I’m the one that has relapsed several times. I’m the one who is worrying my husband, who has more than enough on his plate. And I’m the one whose thoughts and genetics and whatever else have brewed together to create this mess. If I were stronger, if I were smarter, if I handled stress better, if I wasn’t so lazy… if only…
But does it really matter who is to blame? It feels better to rail against small models and tiny celebrities, but even if I never saw a tabloid, movie, or TV show, I’d still be this way. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around WHY I’m anorexic/bulimic. In my mind, I have my head – my intellect and spirit, who I truly am – and my body. And when I’m having body issues, it shouldn’t affect my head. When I keep working instead of taking a break, when I deny my hunger, when I avoid foods because they scare me – that’s my head messing with my body, and my body then affecting my head. Intellectually, I understand the whole “mind body connection,” but admitting it to myself and to you is an entirely different thing. I just want to be the Energizer Bunny and just keep going and going and ignore food because it gets in the way. It takes too much energy, and I don’t have any energy to spare.
At the same time, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be thinner. I absolutely do. As one of the commenters wrote, “I want to be thin and pretty and perfect.” That about sums it up. Sure, it’s entirely unreasonable, but in my disordered mind, it isn’t. I’ve always gotten whatever I wanted, not because someone gave it to me, but because I earned it. And there is a big part of me that thinks I can look like Queen Letizia of Spain (who is gorgeously thin) or Robin Wright (ditto) if I work hard enough. If I’m smart enough. If I just apply myself.
And here’s the real twist. Perfection is impossible, as we all know. So by thinking this way, I’m continually setting myself up to fail. Why would someone who wants to succeed make it impossible to do so? And why do I give everyone else on the planet two, three, or fifteen chances and praise them for just trying… at the same time that I eviscerate myself for the slightest gaffe? I used to think this was a good thing – and it was something I was proud of. I expected far more of myself than anyone else could expect of me. But then I realized (with the help of ex-T) that I was giving myself way too much power. And I was giving myself way too much blame.
So what causes eating disorders? Does it matter? It doesn’t change where we are. It doesn’t change how hard it is to recover from ED. We rarely ask what causes alcoholism or drug abuse – many assume (incorrectly) that it’s a combination of lack of self-control, circumstance, luck, and genetics. I have a sib who is an alcoholic, and I can say without a doubt, it has nothing to do with self-control. So who to blame? Blame Canada (and we know how that worked out for South Park). Blame me. Blame a spanish royal. Blame fashion. Just please, don’t blame yourself. Of course, that’s easier said than done.