That D Word
Posted by maceem
17th Nov 2015

It’s time to come out. I know what you’re thinking. Fucking hell—she’s gonna stop shaving her legs, sport plaid flannels like they’re the coolest thing since sliced bread and get a bull cut. But I’m telling ya—it ain’t true. I don’t fancy girls any more than I did before (not that being a lesbian is a bad thing). In fact, I’ve come here to talk about the d word. Now, before you neoconservatives start caterwauling like a bunch of listless hounds that I’m a sixteen year old girl and it’s a preposterous notion that I would talk or, even worse, think about such things–calm down. The word I’m thinking of doesn’t end in –ick.

It’s depression, Now, in our society, this word is almost as taboo as the aforementioned one. Wouldn’t you think that in a country where it’s the most common form of mental illness, with almost one in five people experiencing it, it would be okay to talk about? To me, that defies all logic. And I’m here to challenge this societal norm of casting down the mentally ill because I know first-hand how it feels.

There have been times in my life where I’ve looked down at my pills, fantasising about forcing them down my little apathetic throat and disappearing into oblivion forever. To be honest, I hated myself, and felt everyone hated me too, but telling my mum, nevertheless a psychologist, was the biggest no, no there could ever be. “Macee, you’re my strong child”, she would always tell me. I despised that statement and still do because I knew I wasn’t. The trouble was, I couldn’t tell her for fear of breaking down the illusionary image she had built of me in her head. I should have done just that. I should have grabbed her by the arm and said, “No, I’m not strong. No one is. We’re all incredibly vulnerable and need each other more than you’ll ever know. Now, let’s skip off to a hippie commune and live life in the way it’s meant to be lived—together, in harmony with ourselves, each other and our spirituality”. But what kind of 13 year old would have the foresight to say something like that (Just kidding–young people not only often have the most revolutionary, world-changing ideas, but also have an enormous capacity for love and empathy. If you’re under the age of 18, tell all of the adults in your life to fuck off, but in an ever-so-polite, gentile manner).

Well, I wasn’t one of those cool young people and didn’t serve up some truth to momma. Instead, I bottled up those feelings of self-hatred until they exploded in a way that I could have never foreseen—anorexia. Looking back, my toxic emotions manifesting in an eating disorder makes perfect sense. Food was really the only thing I had control over in my life. My relationship with my parents had spun out of control almost as much as theirs, my brother was a cool as cucumber 17 year old who had better things to do than worry about his mental sister and, to top it all off, I had no friends. Basically, I had partially forced myself, partially been forced out of any human connection and in my desperation for a companion, I made food my best friend. It was the one relationship where I could call the shots, where I could have the final say. I could ignore it the way I felt I had been and, best of all, it, or lack thereof, could help me morph my body into an outward display of how I felt—hollow, grey and craving something.

How na´ve I was to think doing that could possibly remedy the situation. All that it did was make people perceive me as that word I used to loathe so much: weak. I got weird looks. I got concerned words. I got attention. The horrible irony is that the only thing I didn’t get was the very thing I had been seeking—love and acceptance. But I didn’t realise that in order to receive love, you have to love yourself.

Eventually, my parents used the carrot-stick method to get me “healthy”—it was either being locked away in a hospital or gaining a stone under their watchful eye, the reward being the ability to go on a summer course in Spain and, if all went well, boarding school in Paris. Like most people would, I fucking wanted to go to Spain, so I promised to gain a stone and claimed that I was oh-so-ready to start eating healthily. Well, the trouble was that I did start eating, but because the psychological factors that had led me to anorexia in the first place hadn’t been dealt with, it wasn’t normal by any means. I would have small bits of the meals being served at the camp and then gorge out on the dessert that seemed to be calling out my name from its place on the table across from me. We’re not talking about a cheeky second helping of pudding here— try five pieces of cake after every dinner. This frankly disgusting, overly indulgent behaviour went on straight through the time I spent at boarding school. The only time that I managed to keep it under control was over half-terms, when my mum, knowing my tumultuous history with food, would watch me carefully as I ate. However, the cover was blown when my boarding house mistress emailed my mum voicing her concern about my eating habits. So, I had a discussion with her about it and said I was going to get healthy—oddly reminiscent of the way I had a few months before. Once again, I eating “normally” because someone had told me it was a necessity, but the harsh reality is that I felt as depressed, as black as I ever had.

But that February, I stumbled upon some ideas that would save my life—one of them being that addiction is, wait for it, the result of lack of human connection. That same lack of human connection I felt I had lacked for years. And before you ask, yes—an eating disorder is an addiction. Really. All that scandalised and oft-misunderstood word means is the unhealthy pursuit of an object in the belief that it will bring you great pleasure–food in my case. With this, I was forced to confront the fact that I am an addict, which meant acknowledging something about myself I’d never wanted to—that I’m weak, vulnerable and need other people to bring me back up sometimes. I hated it, but I had to. And I am forever grateful that I did because, if I hadn’t, I might be here to share the words that mean so much to me.

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