|Melissa's Story||Bulimia Nervosa||?????????|
In the article, "The Price of Perfection," Robin Henig discusses the ways
in which women have been physically harming themselves for hundreds of years, and
continue to do so, in order to compete with the current ideals and standards of beauty.
Henig backs up this statement with many specific examples taken from different time
periods and cultures. In one particular case, Henig talks about a fad in Chinese
culture that lasted until the late 1930's. In this fad, it was thought that only truly
feminine women had small feet. To ensure this, young girls' feet were folded in half
and then tightly bound. Eventually, the feet lost all blood circulation and turned blue.
Even parts of the heel and toe would fall off due to this lack of circulation. The end
results were three to four inch long feet, and grown women who could not walk on
them. Another example Henig uses to show the extreme damage that women inflict
on themselves, is seen with Maria Callas. Callas, an opera singer in the 1930's, was so
intent on being thin, that she swallowed a tape worm in order to achieve her goal.
Henig goes on to show how even today the obsession with thinness is seen in the
numerous women with eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Through
these examples and many others, Henig proves that society's unrealistic criteria for
beauty compels many women to use whatever means possible to measure up.
I am in agreement with Henig. This very important issue deserves recognition. Through my own personal experiences, I have seen the harm that these beauty standards inflict upon impressionable women. I myself have fallen victim to striving for an unreasonable appearance. And as a result of my own vanity, I am dealing with the physical, psychological and social effects that this problem has created for me.
This problem that I speak of is one that I started at the age of fifteen because I was desperate to be thin. Now at the age of twenty-one I have to deal with what bulimia is doing to my life. For those who do not know what this disorder is, I will explain it to you. Bulimia, is when somebody binges (eats food) and then purges (throws it up). This dysfunction has had a perilous impact on my body. A few months after engaging in this behavior, I noticed that even if I wanted to keep food down, it felt heavy and uncomfortable in my stomach. And if I insisted on ignoring these feelings, I would become nauseated or get diarrhea. I realized that within just a short period of time, my body lost its ability to digest food properly. Therefore, I am faced with the dilemma of continuing to harm myself further with this behavior or dealing uncomfortably with the effects this has had on my now abnormal digestion. Another physical problem I discovered was extreme exhaustion. Because I am no longer letting my body digest food, my body is no longer receiving nutrients. And without nutrients, I have no energy to expend. I am inclined to sleep an abnormally high amount of time and just the task of going to school is exhausting for me. As if exhaustion and improper digestion aren't enough, my teeth are corroding also. I notice many places where the enamel has been eaten away by the stomach acid that has been thrown on it daily. In one case, I actually had to have my front tooth capped because the acid had eaten a hole in the back of it. This is just a small amount of the physical damage I have caused myself in hopes of reaching an unobtainable goal. My obsessive desire to be thin has completely distorted my ability to be logical and reasonable about my body.
As if this physical damage were not enough, I have also obtained detrimental psychological problems as well. For example, my self esteem has plummeted dramatically since I have had this disorder. I find myself constantly obsessing on how "fat" I am, and I am always comparing myself to the appearance of other women. I also let my weight affect my moods. If I weigh one or two pounds heavier than my normal weight, I feel depressed and frustrated that particular day. But, if I weigh less than my normal weight, I feel elated and powerful. But I always keep a running tab in my head of how much more weight I need to lose. For example, when I weighed one hundred pounds, I then needed to weigh ninety five. And when I reached that goal, next I needed to weigh ninety pounds and so on. The obsessive behavior this disorder provokes is both horrible and unrelenting. No weight loss is ever enough to make me feel as though "I am good enough." I have come to believe that my feelings of fatness are related to feelings of powerlessness. I have noticed that when I feel the fattest, my life is at the most chaotic, stressful and out of control point. And when I feel the thinnest, my life is somewhat at an even keel and under control. This wide range of emotion has left me feeling drained and tired of this sick game, yet this obsession continues.
In addition to the mental distortion and physical harm brought on by bulimia, my social skills are hindered, too. I no longer feel comfortable eating with my family or friends because of the way some of them have reacted to my problem. In one case, I ate dinner with my family and then went to the bathroom. My dad, aware of my disorder, became very angry with me. He told me that "he was sick of seeing his paycheck go down the toilet everyday!" After that incident I did not eat around my dad again, and I was very secretive about eating around anyone else. This problem has also got in the way of making new friends. It is hard to keep my bulimia a secret when spending a lot of time with someone. And a person will eventually find out about my disorder, unless I don't eat at all when I am with them. Therefore, my options are to tell the person the truth and hope they understand, not eat around the person at all, or continue my normal behavior and hope they don't find out. In order to avoid this dilemma, I do not attempt a real friendship with anyone. I do not allow myself to make true friends because I don't want to have to deal with the humiliation of telling them about my problem. As a result I stay emotionally isolated from most people.
These particular issues I have spoken of, cause me great pain. This paper was difficult to write because in order to be honest with the reader, I had to be honest with myself. In writing this paper I expose the truth about the appearance I try so hard to present. The appearance of someone who is in control. Someone who compares to what society says a woman "should look like." I have let the fear of rejection rule my life. And as a result I have caused my body, mind and social skills to deteriorate. I believe that it is a weak-minded individual who succumbs to others' ideals in order to feel acceptable. And it is a powerful individual who can reject society's standards and think for herself. I hope that I am able to do the latter before it's too late.