I will always remember sitting in senior health class watching an Intervention episode about a girl with bulimia when the immature guys in my class began to make jokes. I remember my eyes filling up with tears and excusing myself to the bathroom where I cried in a stall and texted a friend who knew I had been struggling with the illness. I couldn’t comprehend how people could joke about something so serious, so difficult and so deadly. I knew they didn’t understand the complexity of eating disorders – and years since then, I know some people never will. But how could we all be so uneducated and unaware?
That’s one of the reasons I don’t keep my mouth shut when it comes to my recovery and struggles. It’s this mixture of having no shame of what I go through and hoping one guy from that class has seen my post and realized that one day their girlfriend, mother, daughter, father or son could be fighting against this terrible disease. I spoke to a friend about this recently, how people often make jokes about things they don’t understand and how us fighting against our eating disorders have to grow some very tough skin. But why? Why must we be the ‘butt’ of inappropriate jokes to get a laugh?
It was brought to Project HEAL’s attention this weekend that Amazon was selling t-shirts that say “Got Bulimia?” on them. My first reaction was how could a company be so desperate to make a $24.95 sale that they decide to post this? Bulimia isn’t a joke. Eating disorders aren’t a joke. But time after time, we hear people laugh and crack jokes about it. Is it because we are so desensitized to pain in our world? Or is it because the mere topic of emotional struggles makes us uncomfortable? Or does our uncle (that thinks he’s a comedian) still think it’s funny to make jokes about the topic?
I’m not sure what one it is. I have a feeling I may never know. But Amazon, what if we try “Got Empathy?” on your next tee?Because selling tees that say “I beat Anorexia” and “Got Bulimia?” are not making this girl laugh. 81% of girls at the age of 10 are afraid of being fat. So to the man or woman who approved the merchandising of this tee, your child or future child has an 81% chance thinking critically about their bodies. They will be at the risk of using unhealthy weight control behaviors and God forbid, develop a deadly eating disorder.
We have a responsibility as a society to create the world we live in a better place. It’s 2016, let’s stop joking about mental illness. Because the last time I checked we would never be making jokes like “Got Cancer?” We often forget that physical illness is just as bad as mental illness. I hope things post comes across one persons timeline who thinks its funny to use these struggles to make others laugh. Let us remember all those struggling today, and let us always filter what we say.