I don’t know when I first realised that I could eat whatever I want and then vomit it out, the knowledge was stunning and soon everyone loved me more; my mother, my friends, the men in the streets. Beauty is a strange place, a road sign in the distance that you never actually reach. The term bulimia in greek means ‘ravenous hunger’ and I was starving. It’s incredible how long your body can last on nothing until you lose everything.
Bulimia is a secret that rots your teeth, burst the blood vessels in your eyes and intimidates anyone that could ever dare to love you. You despise your own body and the irony of that is very cruel. Every single thing of joy, was corrupted by my illness. Music was used only to hide the sounds of my retching, film, to satiate the hunger when I had taken twelve diet pills and could not feel the tips of my fingers. That whole part of my life is almost a myth, I was twenty years old, killing myself and not one person noticed. I knew the consequences, I was already experiencing some - the enamel of my teeth abandoning me, my periods disappearing, my body just hurting all the time.
I learnt how to lie with a beautiful skill, the careful calculation of how long after eating with your loved ones that you must excuse yourself to go to the bathroom before the food starts to digest. How to flush the toilet repeatedly or run the tap to hide the sounds, taking off all your clothes because the vomit always splashes back. How to hide the bleeding gums, the bloody nose, the bloating of face. I did nothing else, but gently manipulate everyone that cared about me.
Then, a hammam in Marrakech, I watched the women walk around partially naked, the soft swell of belly, the thighs and hips, flesh being scrubbed and oiled and steamed, a woman with hips as wide as mine, with the same thickness in thighs, the same dimples on the small of back, same waist, navel, skin so carefully soft and human that I was afraid to look. Why did I hate my body when hers was the same and I could not stop looking.
Essentially, if our secrets are secrets because we are told to be ashamed, then we must share them. There is no shame in being sad or struggling or trying to heal. We are all desperate, depraved and sacred. We are all terrible and brillIant. I can list all the things that can make a girl want to escape her own body (re: patriarchy). But I’d rather list all the things that make me want to stay in my body, and adorn it like a home, rub oils into my skin, tell it how sorry I am for trying to leave, for trying to hurt it into submission.
Eating disorders don’t disappear, many have no idea that there is something wrong with the way they are hungry, with they way that they eat. That they exercise until they cannot move, that there is always a new diet, that the scales are the first thing to touch your body in the morning. We live in a world where the worst thing a woman could be is at peace with her body. We are obsessed with destroying, controlling and colonising everything, even our own bodies. I’m interested in kindness.
My name is Warsan Shire and I survived bulimia and I have absolutely no shame.
‘It took me Twenty-something years to learn how to love myself, I don’t have that kinda time to convince somebody else’ - Daniel Franzese
I am in love with Warsan Shire.
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