The scArlet letter

Anorexia, a word I have come to hate. Why hate? Because the word alone brings with is discomfort, confusion, questions and often misinformation. The disorder itself is a death trap, literally. It destroys the victim, their families, creates distances between friends and dishonesty, doubt and brokenness spread like a disease. It is a word that usually doesn’t cross my lips and the only time I talk about it is when I blog.

Imagine my surprise when my 12 year old daughter asked me if someone we know “has anorexia?” In utter disbelief my first reaction was, “where did you hear that word”? I could feel my heart racing and a cold shiver run up my spine. She said very innocently that her best friend (from gymnastics) mentioned it. Now I don’t know where her friend would have heard the word, but she is first year high school and I think it is something her mom would say is general talk. I then asked my daughter what does she know of that word? She said that it is when someone doesn’t eat and gets very skinny. I told her that yes, it is correct but there is more to it than what most people make of it. I know that my daughter need to be aware of these disorders (and others) but I truly believe that 12 is too young to expose her mind to such knowledge. There will be a time and place for it, and I will surely correct her if her friends provide her with non-factual information.

The person she was referring too when she asked the question is a lovely young lady and ex-rhythmic gymnast who has now turned her passion for this beautiful sport into a small business as she makes gorgeous leotards. I met her for the first time last year March when my daughter trailed to compete overseas. She attended the event as one of the gymnasts needed alterations to a leotard she made. I didn’t know at the time who she was, but it was clear that she was not healthy and you can also see why most people would jump to the assumption of her suffering from ‘anorexia’. An extremely skinny rhythmic gymnast in a highly competitive sport = you must have an eating disorder.

I contacted her early December of last year to ask if she is available to make my daughter’s leotard. She was and I was thrilled with her design and colours. So we started the process. Several months had gone and I didn’t hear from her. I took it that she must be a very busy young lady so I will leave it just a little while longer before I contact her. Soon after, my one friend who is also waiting on a leotard from her contacted me and I found out that she is actually very sick. No, not due to an eating disorder, but because she has gastrointestinal problems yet to be diagnosed. She had been sick for over 2 years and her health deteriorates each day. She eats 5000+ calories a day, yet still looses weight. In her own words she describes how the doctors have told her she is dying and there is nothing they can do to help her, except send her for more tests. It is absolutely dreadful and my heart breaks for her. I have seen a recent photo of her on Instagram and I cried.

To place a label on someone before knowing the truth is to dehumanise them. I feel like it could be associated with having a scarlet letter stitched permanently unto your skin. We forget that the person carrying a mental and/or physical disorder is still a person. They are separate from their illness. The disorder should not define them. We would rather whisper behind our hands, these days behind a phone screen, before offering assistance or help.

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2 thoughts on “The scArlet letter

  1. cheyberspace says:

    I’ve been wanting to write something semi-related to this, but have been a bit nervous to do so. I think competing as a young athlete in a aesthetically focussed sport such as gymnastics is difficult and pressurising enough. But add living in a hyper visual age and social media to the mix, and in my opinion it can be a recipe for disaster. It’s scary to me how quickly discussion about these serious topics begin in younger athletes. Whether it’s comparing photos of other gymnasts to themselves or comparing photos of food that someone’s eaten, or the amount of times I’ve heard “I want to be skinny as her” and “I wish I had her abs” etc. It’s terrifying behaviour from little gymnasts. Younger and younger athletes are becoming unhealthily curious regarding weight and diet, and I wish this weren’t the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand being apprehensive about writing on this topic (it took me years to be comfortable publicly blogging about it) but I want to encourage you to share your thoughts as it is really helpful, if not to the athletes then to those who support them. It is a sensitive topic but one that needs to be addressed, like you said from a young age. I know my daughter doesn’t really pay attention to her weight and food consumption but I am aware that the older she gets the more she will have to deal with other girls (and boys) comments. Thank you for your input on this Chey, I really do appreciate it ❤

    Like

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