Marginalisation is what happens when a group of people is separated – or actively excluded – from the rest of society.
I recently had a group from a social media page re-post my blog entry Blank Space. I was very excited seeing that my writing was being shared and read by others as I believe every little bit of personal unveiling can provide insight and/or help to those who are suffering from an eating disorder. But my excitement was short lived when in their description to my writing, they mentioned that they would appreciate more writing from the “marginalised people”. I was stunned. I didn’t think that anyone can possibly discriminate others based on where they are in their journey of recovery, be it during the midst of an eating disorder or years later when they are seen as fully recovered and living a life of someone separate to the thoughts and emotions of an anorexic.
*please don’t get me wrong, this social web page is doing a lot of good by providing information, interesting readings and sharing personal experiences of others. I have on many occasions evaluate my own standing on certain topics related to eating disorders based on the articles they post *
I am sure that the comment was not directed solely at me, but the mere suggestion was enough to get me thinking: what value does it even have to be a survivor and tell your story, if it is not to the benefit of others?
Yes, I am no longer an anorexic, nor bulimic. I have fought my internal battle: my depression, food deprivation, self-inflicted harm, rehabilitation, months of counselling and years of self-doubt. I studied social and behavioural science, and received my post-graduate honours degree in counselling. I was inspired by my counsellor, who specialised in narrative counselling and had an interest in the relation between eating disorders and narrative therapy, the application of it as well as teaching the theory of this thought provoking subject. No, I am not currently practising counselling, neither am I involved with the “marginalised group” or in other words, those who are currently suffering from an eating disorder and who are in some cases isolated from the rest of society due to this mental illness. I am not a nurse, neither a phycologist but I am a mother and a role model to my children. My life has changed dramatically over the past years, but that is what happens when you are finally freed from the nasty clutches of an eating disorder.
I remember meeting an extraordinary lady called Kim. I was introduced to her when my counsellor decided that I need to see what my life could be like without bulimia, and that recovery is possible. Kim had suffered from anorexia for most of her teenage and young adulthood. She had fought the same battle as me, but the content of her story was different than mine. At the time of our meeting, she was still thin, but healthy, and also had the best news…she was pregnant, something she had dreamed of for a very long time. She shared her story with me, the ups-and-downs, and she even gave me her contact number that if I ever need to talk, she will be there to provide a listening ear because she knew better than anyone else that I had to do the hard work yet external support makes the journey less lonely. And that is exactly what happened one afternoon:
I was alone at home, as at the time I kept to myself and hardly went out. I had succumbed to binge eating and felt the urge to get rid of the food. I felt ashamed, guilty, and very lonely. I knew that I had the skills not to purge myself of the food I had eaten, but I didn’t have the mental strength to fight my negative thoughts. That is when I thought about Kim and our meeting…and that I have her phone number. I boldly picked up the phone and dialled her number. What do I do if she doesn’t answer? What do I say if she does? I was greeted by a soft spoken friendly voice on the other line, and when she knew who I was, she immediately asked me if everything is okay. I told her that I had been binge eating for most of the morning and that I want to make myself sick. She asked me why I had the urge to binge eat, did something happen to trigger the behaviour? I said that I felt extremely lonely and couldn’t stop bulimia telling me that I am worthless because no one wants to be with me. She first told me that I am not worthless, that I am strong and brave for fighting this horrible disorder. She then asked me if there is something I can do to remove myself from the temptation of purging for at least an hour? She asked if I had any hobbies, or sport I enjoy doing? I said no, but I mentioned that I do go walking often. And that is what I did…walk, for more than an hour. During that walk I had time to de-stress and think rationally about the decision to purge, what good will it really do? How would I feel afterwards? Is it the best outcome? How would my counsellor feel knowing that I had avoided purging and done something more constructive? And that is all it took that day for my bulimic thoughts to take a detour…one phone call, one person on the other side willing to listen.
Today I am still grateful for that phone call I had with Kim. At the time she was someone talking and listening to a person from a marginalised group. There was no judgement, just a mutual understanding and kindness. If Kim hadn’t recovered from her battle she would not have been in a positive state of mind to help me. Let us provide the support needed to those who need it, and let us not place a boundary around that by marginalising it, you don’t know who might be interpreting it as “I am considered useless, even though I am recovered”.