We were talking about eating disorders today, and I think one of the most insidious things is that it’s not always obvious until it’s “too late.” Some people are just naturally skinnier. Some people do just eat less. It’s not like a big huge red flashing light goes off over a woman’s head saying “EVERYBODY!! I MISSED MY PERIOD BECAUSE I’M NOT EATING ENOUGH!!!!” By the time it is that glaringly obvious, the person has been struggling for a long time–often years–deeply entrenched in their difficulties. Like anything, the sooner it is caught and appropriately addressed, the easier it is to successfully turn away from it. Once they’re emaciated waifs, it will be obvious there’s a problem–and even harder to help them find their way back to three square meals.
But I think that part of the problem is not recognizing there is a problem–not just because it means people won’t be able to get the help and support they need, but also because it’s a habit of callousness–something that just happens to “other people.” No one makes it a goal to “get anorexia” and most people who do fall into that pit remain in denial for quite sometime. “Awareness” is such a cheesy, over-used word nowadays. People are “raising awareness” for everything–so much so that no one pays attention anymore. I asked a classmate why she was wearing an Alzheimer’s awareness shirt, and she honestly couldn’t remember who it was who originally inspired her to do the Memory Walk. I can–deep in my gut, always, I see the word Alzheimer’s and I see my grandfather. People may be more aware now that “Alzheimer’s” exists, and that it’s a “bad thing” that “needs a cure!”–but do they really understand?
And everyone knows about anorexia. It’s like, not eating and stuff, for girls that, like, worry about the way they look and stuff, and then they crazy girls starve themselves. . .right? And then I tell people, “Your sister was getting caught in this too. I had to explain to her what was going on. She didn’t realize.” And they look at me so surprised, so quizzically. “Huh,” they say. “Huh; I guess I never really paid attention.”
Do you think it’s a “someone else” problem? Only something crazy girls get? I’m telling you, by the time it’s obvious, so much damage has already been done. Girls who don’t care about fashion. Girls who don’t stare at themselves in the mirror. Girls you’d think would “know better”–because it isn’t even about knowing. Girls who seem to be dedicated to healthy lifestyles. Girls who seem so polite and sensible.
You’re aware of “anorexia,” but are you aware of the girls who have it? The women? You can do all the walks and all the events, but do you know who you’re wearing that shirt for? It isn’t the “what” you need to be aware of. . .it’s the who.