‘My Secret Life: A Memoir of Bulimia’: A face behind the statistics

6 Jan

While Waters’ account of her disorder provides an eye-opening insight into the psyche and suffering of a person living with an eating disorder, another interesting aspect which struck me was her thoughts on the public’s understanding of her condition. Whether recounting her experiences in relation to the general public or the reactions of those in her social circles, it is clear that she feels, as a former sufferer, that there is not enough being done to educate people on the subject.

Her frustration on this matter is evident as she writes how “our understanding [of the terminology surrounding eating disorders] is usually very primitive, perhaps even completely ignorant, in comparison to the complexity of the particular disease.”

             “Aren’t you like, anorexic or something?”

Documenting said ignorance in practice,  Waters recalls one memorable instance in the aftermath of the publication of an article detailing her disorder in her college newspaper. Her frustration at this ignorance and lack of education beyond generic stereotypes is embodied in her recollection of a friend’s query, asking: “ Aren’t you, like, anorexic or something?” When corrected on the specifics of her condition, he somewhat quizzically and casually follows up with: “Oh right, yeah. That’s the one where you make yourself sick, isn’t it?”

Waters’ response to this and other incidents, where either a lack of knowledge or understanding of her disorder was shown towards her, brought to mind a key message that my research on the topic thus far has thrown up again and again – the need to educate. From speaking to researchers and experts in the field of eating disorders it has become very obvious to me that the need to educate further beyond the statistics and stereotypes is not only imperative but urgent in today’s society.

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