Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Ghost of ED Future

There is a woman who works out at my gym every morning.  She is probably in her thirties.  She arrives before I do and she stays until after I leave.  She moves from the treadmill to the elliptical to the Stairmaster.  She watches herself in the mirrors when she walks from one machine to the next.

She is very thin.

I am the first to admit that you can't tell if someone has an eating disorder by looking at her.  You just can't.  You don't know anything about her lifestyle or her genetics.  You don't know if she just has a freakish metabolism.  Maybe her whole family is rail-thin too.

But this woman is so very thin.  Not natural, athletic, slender-thin.  Sick-thin.

Really, I am trying not to jump to conclusions because I know that I am probably biased and have a somewhat skewed view of body weight, but this woman looks unwell.  She doesn't look like someone who should be working out for an hour (at least) a day.  Remember how I said she might be in her thirties?  Well, I am basing that on the fact that she seems to socialize with a few other women who are in their thirties.  Because this woman - at least from the neck up - could easily pass for sixty-five.  Her face is wrinkled and worn.  She has huge dark circles under her eyes.  Her hair is gray and wispy.

This woman terrifies me.  Not so much that I have stopped going to the gym altogether, but enough that I have tried going a little earlier some days, a little later other days, just to avoid seeing her.  She is still always there.

Obviously, it's horrible when young girls have eating disorders - eleven, twelve, thirteen-year-old girls who have already learned to hate themselves so much they are intent on self-destructing.  But it almost makes me feel worse to see a grown woman with an eating disorder (assuming that this woman does).  It makes me hate everything about anorexia that much more.  This illness fucks up your life and then it sticks around for the aftermath.  I'm still new enough to recovery to find the concept of "fully recovered" hard to imagine, and seeing this woman does not make it any easier.  Her toothpick legs, every tendon visible and screaming for a layer of fat, drive home the point that anorexia doesn't discriminate and you don't grow out of it.  It isn't a phase, or bad judgement, or teenage rebellion gone wrong.  It doesn't just go away.

I'm twenty.  Where will I be in ten years?  There have been very few times that anorexia has truly scared me (denial denial denial), but seeing this woman is one of them.  I desperately want to be rid of this sickness - not thirty and still plugging away on the bike, still hating myself, still devoting my life to hurting myself.


  1. I think seeing older women with EDs is one of the most terrifying things for me too. I think back to ten years ago, and feel really ashamed that I'd have to tell myself I'd still be struggling a decade in the future. I'm not sure if you've seen the documentary Thin, but there was a companion book to go along with it, photo-essay style. The book covered a much wider range of patients than the film, and it was actually much more moving, for me at least. You see young girls and, as you put it, the ghosts of their futures in the women that are in their 50s and still mired in the ED. All the more incentive to tackle that biotch of a disorder head on and get it out of the way!

  2. I saw the same type of woman on the trail I ran today. It actually choked me up a bit and I started heaving getting upset. Luckily I was able to maintain my composure. Each time I see someone like that I pray to God that they aren't like me...and that I wont end up like them.