by Veronica Louis
“Why doesn’t she just eat?”
If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard this phrase about my best friend who suffers from an eating disorder, I would be rich. It’s only when one takes the time to really see beyond the superficial and the stereotypes that one can start understanding the complexities and mysteries of life. And having an eating disorder is one of those complex mysteries.
The misconception that anorexics are a bunch of skinny teenage girls who just starve themselves because they just don’t want to get fat is prevalent. It’s prevalent, but that does not make it accurate. It’s a collective fallacy. Anorexia and bulimia affects females and males alike, of all ages.
The fact is that anorexia and bulimia are real illnesses and physiological disorders, not unlike alcoholism. And if one cannot ask an alcoholic, “Why can you just not drink?” How can one possibly ask the opening question to this post to someone who suffers from anorexia? There is always a story behind the symptom.
For the past decade I’ve seen my best friend struggle with this horrible disease, her life under constant threat by this horrible monster that wiped away her self-control and will to not make herself sick. I’ve been by her side as she fervently prayed and wished to be rid of this horrible illness and regain control of her life. I’ve seen her go in and out of lengthy treatment programs where friends and family never lost hope that each hospitalization would be her last.
Joyce Quansah is now taking a different approach. After years of secrecy, she has now left the proverbial closet and is now writing about her eating disorder and her journey to recovery. She is using writing as a major tool to help herself get better, all the while sharing her story with others and educating others about what it’s really like to have an eating disorder; How it’s not about being skinny, buy rather about having a mental illness that warps reality into the horrific.
In his study Writing About Emotional Experiences as a Therapeutic Process, James Pennebaker observes, “Confronting deeply personal issues has been found to promote physical health, subjective well-being, and selected adaptive behaviors.” And as to why writing works, his study states, “Just as constraining thoughts, feelings, or behaviors linked to an emotional upheaval is stressful, letting go and talking about these experiences should, in theory, reduce the stress of inhibition.” (Psychological Science, Vol 8. No 3, May 1997: 162-166.)
There are thousands of other experts and psychologists who agree that writing does indeed have a therapeutic effect. And when Quansah was asked why she decided to start Afraidofeating.com, she answered, “I started this blog because I was tired of treating my illness like it was some kind of deep, dark secret. For so many years, I felt ashamed of it. I’ve had a public personality for quite a long time, but it never included my eating disorder. And yet, my ED has taken up so much space and time in my life.”
Furthermore, she thought that sharing her personal story might help others better understand her illness. She explains, “One of the reasons why I kept it hidden was because of the negative stigma attached to it. My blog is meant to clarify many of the misunderstandings that go hand in hand with eating disorders, as well as to educate readers on the impact that the illness can have on someone’s life.”
Ultimately, she hopes to continue growing through her new blog. She see’s it as a learning experience that will keep her motivated on her journey to recovery.
One thing is clear, writing has the power to heal. And I believe in writing and I believe in my best friend and her new project Afraidofeating.com. She is taking a giant leap towards recovery and the life she has always dreamt of. I have no doubt that she will avail.
“Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
-Graham Greene, Ways of Escape