A few days ago, I wrote a blog entry about an inspiring book of essays I was reading called Notes from No Man's Land by Eula Biss. In the last essay, "All Apologies", which is essentially an essay that focuses on racism and the crimes committed by white people against other races, the author says, "The most necessary apology is the apology for what we have done to ourselves." By this statement, I think that Biss is transcending issues of race. The "we" and the "ourselves" are universally human and can be applied to essentially any area of human weakness. When I read these words, I thought only of my body.
Have I ever apologized for the horrible things that I have done to it?
Maybe it is because I know what it feels like to be hungry that I have such a compassionate heart for other living creatures that are starving. In my case, it is easy to say that yes, I starved myself. Anorexia is self-starvation, though I have issues trusting that term in regards to the disease. To the anorexic, eating is not the same basic human right it is for other people. Eating becomes nearly, or sometimes completely impossible. My body wanted nothing more than to eat but my mind would not let it. That's why when I see a neglected child on television in a war torn country with its ribs protruding, I want nothing more than to feed it. When I see a stray animal on my back porch sneaking to my cat's food bowl to try and steal some food, I let it have all it can get. And then I give it more. Because I know what hungry feels like. And there's nothing else I've ever experienced that has made me feel so helpless.
But I also feel an enormous sense of guilt when I see someone or something else that is hungry. Maybe it makes me sound like a traitor to even think of equating the hunger of an anorexic to the hunger of a starving child. I had all of the food I could imagine within my reach but I couldn't eat any of it. A starving child would give anything to eat even one bite of it, and care nothing of calories or fat grams or protein. I know that anorexia is a devastating disorder, but damn it, it's also a very selfish one. Isn't it? When I was anorexic I would have fought anyone who called me selfish for denying myself of food that so many people or animals would kill to eat. When I became bulimic, that was even worse. How dare I throw up food like no one else in the world is hungry?
I feel like I have a lot to apologize for.
First, like the essay suggests, I know that I have to apologize to myself. I have to make peace with myself before I can move forward with my recovery.
The essay also says, "Some apologies are unspeakable. Like the one we owe our parents."
So far, I have been unable to apologize to my mother. My eating disorder stressed her out in a time of her life that was already too stressful to begin with. I need to tell her that I'm sorry for that. And I am. It doesn't have to be unspeakable.
And I have to apologize to my body. It was hungry like that starving child, like a starving animal. And I denied it. I felt and saw it decaying and struggling to survive. But I ignored it. Why? Because I wanted to be thin? It sounds so silly now.
And most importantly, I feel like I have to apologize to all of the forms of life that were/are hungry and willing to eat though the food was/is unavailable to them. To any creature that has starved to death, is starving now, or ever will. I wish I could feed them all. No one deserves to be hungry.