Random thoughts

It's pretty much impossible to have missed the devastating earthquake, tsunami, and now nuclear meltdown in Japan.  Massive tragedies like this always throw me, because I think of how petty my concerns are in comparisons.

It's like realizing there are people who don't have food and housing makes me feel pretty shallow for fretting how many fat grams might be in my microwave popcorn.

Despite knowing the pettiness and shallowness, I still fret and these things still worry me.

I'm not trying to compare--because you really can't compare--and I'm not trying to make natural disasters all about ME ME ME as I've been accused in the past.  But it was helpful to hear the mom of a girl recovering from anorexia refer to the illness as her own personal tsunami.

Both are destructive.  Both require a lot of people to help clean up the mess, outside assistance, and things don't just return to normal once the massive clean-up crews return home.

This helped me to put things into perspective.  Not that global events aren't horrific, but so is an eating disorder.  It's a different kind of horror on a much different scale.  But measuring suffering is rather futile, and perhaps even more petty than fussing about fat in popcorn.  I get that a paper cut causes different suffering than losing an arm.  I get it.  I get that losing your house and your family is a hell of a lot worse than wondering if your low fat popcorn is actually the low fat stuff or if the packets might have gotten swapped in the open box and it's actually the stick of butter on each kernel kind.

But if that was the maximum amount of suffering caused by an eating disorder, I would welcome that suffering with open arms.  An eating disorder often seems superficial, as we crane our necks to make sure our asses haven't magically expanded after that extra bite of apple.  But there's a difference from the occasional "Do these jeans make my butt look fat?" and honest-to-goodness watching your thighs expand after eating a meal. Some of us howl and shriek about getting fat and food and calories and it sounds almost identical to the cultural hogwash we hear every day.  Maybe that's how we're translating something that's bizarre and inexplicable.  I don't know.

It's easy to feel guilty for thinking about EDs and recovery when there is so much legitimate suffering going on in the world.  I frequently do.  And yet my neglecting my recovery isn't going to help anyone.  Perhaps my suffering doesn't compare to what people in Japan are going through.  It probably doesn't.  But that doesn't mean that it's not suffering and that my eating disorder is simply excessive vanity.

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hm said...

If we neglect our own suffering, we will do the world no good. Take care of you. It's ok to acknowledge that you are stressed- and YOUR stress is independent from whatever else is going on in the world, and deserves its own space too.

And I REMEMBER that prick bitch who accused you of that. Don't you believe a word of what she said, even if her voice sounded eerily like the ones that might show up inside your own head. She doesn't deserve to lick the pot you pee in. (If she ever comments on here again, how about you leave her post up and let me at her. Grrr.)

Bottom line: Us ed folks feel guilty for a million bullshit reasons. Feeling guilty for feeling stressed just b/c there is stress around the world is just another one of those bs reasons. Then guilt, in the end, makes you punish yourself by not eating.

So let the guilt go- embrace and acknowledge your stress- lean on your support systems- know that you are loved and supported and that your stress is valid and acknowledged.

Katie said...

I wrote a post about this the other day, based on the DBT idea of comparisons as a distress tolerance skill. I like a lot of DBT techniques but that one doesn't work for me, and it tends to upset a lot of other people too. I don't think comparing oneself to someone in a "worse" situation is helpful, because most people cannot do it non-judgmentally and instead use it as a way to beat themselves up, which of course most people with EDs are total experts at anyway :P So yeah, natural disasters suck. So do serious illnesses and all sorts of other examples of human suffering. Comparisons just drag everyone down.

I get weird-ass comments too sometimes, I think most bloggers do! It's hard feeling misunderstood like that and being torn between the twin thoughts of "but I honestly wasn't thinking like that!" and "oh God, what if everyone else thinks it too, or what if I'm just in denial!". Well bugger them, I'm the only one who knows what's going on in my head. I wish people would just keep their misconceptions to themselves.

Anonymous said...

I like to look at life and suffering in a simpler way to you too, but slightly differently too.

I think of it as, "it doesn't matter what you're suffering from and whether or not you're suffering more than others; it's about how you feel and how you handle it."

That's what I've always said, and it's perfectly acceptable to compare EDs to a tsunami because we're still feeling that same devastation and hurt. But of course, morally, we still see it as those in the tsunami having suffered more, even if both victims of the tsunami and victims of ED have the same emotions running through their bodies. It's natural to compare your emotional well-being the emotional well-being of someone who has suffered something completely different; it puts things into perspective for us.


Cathy (UK) said...

I agree that EDs are not about vanity and that they involve suffering awful mental distress.

I also agree that it doesn't necessarily make a person with an ED 'feel better' to try to compare their ED-related distress with sources of others' distress - e.g. to think 'I feel better now because I don't live in Japan..'.

However, it would make me feel uncomfortable to liken my past experience of ED to an earthquake, tsunami, or terrorist attack... I'm not criticising others for making such a comparison; I'm just talking about how it would make ME feel - and it just wouldn't feel right.

Angela said...

I just got a comment on my blog about not mentioning the tragedy in Japan, and was accused of being selfish and of only thinking of myself and my suffering. I know that I probably whine about how difficult it is to fight the ed everyday, but that is what my blog is about. It is about the journey.

Erica said...

You hit it right on the note here. I've never read an article that made me feel so exactly understood! Nothing is comparable because everything is different. And for the record, I spent 14 months in homeless shelters and on the streets and I'd take that back if it meant never having to deal with the anorexia or the depression again.

Anonymous said...

beautifully written. I find that a lot of times, I do feel like my struggles are so meaningless and I feel ashamed. but you are so right, it is SO much more than an outsider can see, and it is significant.

Thank you for writing this :)


Elizabeth Patch said...

I was feeling like focusing on body image issues was trivial too last week, and ended up writing a post on this topic. I beleive until you heal yourself, you have very little to give towards healing/helping others.
As they tell you when flying,put on your own oxygen mask first!

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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