I had to write about this, it is something very close to my heart. I was in the supermarket the other day when I saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a slogan.
The word anorexia was all to familiar for me and instantly filled me with dread.
Now imagine my despair when I hear the man laughing with the cashier about his poor tasted attire, which he thought was hilarious. The joke was that he was a fairly large man claiming to have beat a life threatening eating disorder. He mocked the illness and his confusion on how anyone could hate food that much. Of course the pun of the joke was that he was of a robust size, and did not posses what a stereotypical physical view of an anorexic is.
Having an eating disorder myself I know that you do not have to be a walking skeleton to have any form of eating disorder. And I never judge someone by their appearance, unfortunately that card is saved especially for my own use on myself. Of course loosing weight can sometimes be part of an eating disorder, but it is primarily about the mental state of the individual not the physical state.
The continuing laughter shared back and forth between the him and the cashier perplexed me. What on earth was so amusing about a mental illness? As soon as I got home I eBayed the slogan and was horrified by the results. These t-shirts were actually being sold, and promoted as: "A funny printed joke t-shirt".
The joke wears thin (pardon the pun) when you read that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. This is due to the medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide. Research has found that 20% of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness. It goes without saying that eating disorders severely affects the quality of life for the sufferer and those around them.
My life is still a living nightmare, burdened each day with the consuming thoughts of anorexia. I don't think anyone would understand how complex and deteriorating an eating disorder is to your spirit and soul. It is like burning yourself to the ground and everyone who stands beside you. Eating disorders are serious, they stop lives from being lived and make the sufferer a mere shell of who they were before.
So imagine my disbelief when I see someone taking the subject so lightly.
I mean he even was wearing a t-shirt!
I heard him laughing along with the cashier about the humour surrounding his inappropriately designed t-shirt. I was next in line, and I was stood in pure shock. I am such a hermit crab and hate confrontation so it would never be in my nature to bring attention to myself and raise my voice. I know I sound a coward, but I suffer with severe anxiety and confrontation is not my thing (but how I wish someone had said something).
But it didn't stop my sadness at the realisation of some peoples ignorance. This was then replayed to me again like a bad song when the cashier stated: "Oh you should have seen it, he was a fairly large man and was obviously joking cause of his size." I was with my mum and she tried to keep her cool and focus on packing the bags.
It made me think though, what if that man had been wearing a t-shirt that said: "I beat cancer" or "I beat AIDS" for the same sense of humour. Would people be laughing along quite as much? Or would he be harassed constantly walking down the street and asked to the leave the shop for his inappropriate behaviour? I guess these will always remain unanswered questions.
What I am trying to highlight is that physical illnesses such as cancer are painful both mentally and physically. I have the upmost respect for people who battle for their lives everyday, go through treatment and of course their families. I myself have had someone in my immediate family go through the trials and tribulations of cancer, so I understand how much strength it takes. But what about those who suffer with mental illness? Why are they not taken as seriously?
I can speak first hand that not only do the physical affects of eating disorders stop you from pursuing a life, career, family and even friendships - but the mental affects are life threatening too. Any mental health disorder is serious. These people cannot live the life they are entitled too, as a human being you are allowed human rights, freedom. But when you have the burden of a mental health disorder it is almost as if these rights get stripped away from you. You are no longer under the identity of which you were born. You are the illness that consumes your vulnerable mind day after day.
I urge anyone who thinks that mental health, anorexia for that matter are something to use in a cheap joke, then don't. Because you have no idea, no idea whatsoever the devastating affects any mental health condition can have. All health problems are serious.