Model Lorelle Crawford on the Eating Disorders you don't See
Lorelle Crawford is a brilliant Australian friend of Su who sent us an email this morning, containing this article. It started out as a diary entry and then became a gift to us all. We're so lucky to have people like her (and you) in our community, so show her some love.
Early into my modelling career I noticed myself struggling with an eating disorder that quickly snowballed into two. They persisted for over a year before I was able to sneak the words out, past the gatekeepers, that I needed help. What happened next will infuriate you.
I was swimming in a loose red jumper opposite my designated psychologist and listened to her carelessly declare “your weight does not concern me."
This meant that although the only information she had about me was a false BMI% I had just given her, she had decided I was not mentally ill. Of course, that sentence translated to “you’re not thin enough” in my diseased mind, adding fuel to the fire.
While it was definitely irresponsible and possibly illegal for the psychologist to speak that way, it has had me thinking about the way that we, as a society, view eating disorders.
Online there are multiple weight-based calculators, among them, an “Anorexic BMI% Calculator” that young people can go to to make superficial queries about their disorder. This is just one example of our systemic belief that one can only have Anorexia if they are underweight.
Unfortunately, there is not enough education available, nor is there a stigma-free culture with respect to conversation about mental health. In this instance, I'm speaking to eating disorders in particular. I don’t blame people for making these size-related assumptions when it comes to anorexia, but it’s important for everyone to understand that the skeleton you’re gawking at on the bus didn’t necessarily look like that when they became ill. They may have been displaying some of the signs, but the people in their lives may have been unable to recognize these as problematic behaviours - oftentimes, the nature of the disorder prevents the sufferer from being able to ask for help.
According to NEDC, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. I believe that this is a result of anorexia only being acknowledged when the sufferer is already so close to death.
On behalf of those who are silently crying out for help, as I was, you can find help by educating yourself. Find a list of symptoms to look out for here (https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/what-is-an-eating-disorder/warning-signs-a-symptoms), and tips on how to approach someone you suspect of having an eating disorder here (http://www.nedc.com.au/what-to-say-and-do).
You can also help to de-stigmatize mental health problems by initiating open conversations around it - start by lending a voice to your own experience, and gently encouraging a dialogue through trust. Secondly, remeber it’s not the sufferers choice, or fault, and you cannot always see who’s struggling because these things are sous la peau / under the skin.