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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Anorexia And Auschwitz: A Cry From A Specialist

I cannot let the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz pass without mentioning it in my eating disorder post.


To honour the suffering of those who endured torture, starvation and murder in the concentration camps, I bring myself to watch the film records and listen to the individual stories of heinous crimes, sometimes the small individual torments impacted on me more than the gross depictions of the crimes of Nazi Germany.


When people describe hunger that was so unimaginably painful, I think of my anorexic patients whose starvation is arguably - "self imposed", and I quail.


Self Imposed I hear you say!  Well, I've read many, many accounts of anorexia and I have ministered with compassion to many of anorexia's prisoners, and a lot of you are going to say OF COURSE it's not self imposed, it is a mental illness. But it is self imposed, because the self has been imprisoned by the anorexic Voice, in the same way as the selfhood of the concentration camp victims was imprisoned by their captors. The Voice captured me for a short while many moons ago, until I made my great escape.


So when I see the hollow eyes of the inmates of Auschwitz, Belsen and all the other Hells, I think of my anorexic people. But the weeping of a starving man in Auschwitz, caught for just a moment on camera has rent my soul.


What has become of us in this free and wealthy age where people willingly, proudly and insistently starve themselves into skeletons. People with anorexia do lie, do cheat, pretend that they are allergic, evade and often uncaringly torment their loved ones who just wish to see them live. It's what the illness is about.


So how can I, an eating disorder specialist, come to terms with the willing, compulsive starvation of my unhappy clients while my heart and soul is full of the starvation and suffering of a generation of innocent men, women and children. I sigh, I sigh and sigh; I bring myself back to my work, haul in my compassion and carry on.
























6 comments:

  1. Very interesting post - one that I am glad to read. As a practising therapist I understand and as a woman who lived with anorexia for a good number of years, I constantly battle with this question myself; how could I (or my clients) starve myself, loathe my very being, slowly kill myself, when others have this forced upon them?

    It is the question of autonomy and freedom of choice; if we each have freedom of choice and the anorexic client has chosen to punish their body so brutally then I go back to the question 'why'? and I am reminded of the difference between imprisonment of the mind and the external imprisonment you speak of... A similar type of suffering, but a very different answer to the question 'why'...

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    1. The anorexic person appears autonomous but is not so, the Nazi is inside them. Autonomy is choice not compulsion thus freedom of choice in anorexia is an oxymoron. How we pussyfoot in our treatment of anorexics waiting until there is a turning point, walking on eggshells, not saying the wrong thing in case the Nazi appears. family based therapy encouraging the Nazi to accept every little mouthful. Sometimes I am so angry with the inner Nazi I want to shake it out but I sigh... and sigh... and carry on doing what I do.

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    2. rather belatedly thank you for your comment its nice to know it hit a spot. best wishes Deanne

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  2. Very touching post and an interesting comparison between anorexia and Auschwitz. It is one of the queerest thoughts that some would deny themselves food while others are starving by lack of nutrition or imprisonment; the anorexic mind as a concentration camp is an apt juxtaposition. This absolutely provided valuable depth and insight into the illness.

    Margaretta Cloutier @ Aspire Wellness Center

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