Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On control

Okay, so I had decided that I was done with the Terri Schiavo thing. Court after court has denied her parents' appeals, and although our bulldog-esque Congress refuses to let it all go, it's likely that the Supreme Court (should the case end up there) will uphold the rulings of the lower courts. It's also my understanding that Terri is starting to show the effects of her deprivation and could really go at any time, which, in my mind, is a blessing.

But before I let the whole thing lie, I wanted to address a comment that I keep hearing. I've noticed several people noting that Terri, a bulimic, is now being kept alive through the forced introduction of food, and isn't that ironic. My reponse to that? You have no idea.

The thing about bulimia is that it's way bigger than food and way bigger than skinny (although those both play a major part in it). For many (most?) bulimics, the disorder is about control as much as anything else - in a world full of chaos, when you can control nothing else, you can control the food that goes in (and out) of your body. Life is miserable, and I'm lonely, and the only thing that will make me feel better is a chicken finger basket from Guthrie's. And I'll eat it and eat it, but you can't make me digest it. Watch this - I can eat an entire pint of Rocky Road and not gain an ounce. Life is jerking me around, my boss is ordering me around, all of my professors have scheduled exams at the same time - but at least I get to say what goes into my body, and I get to say how long it stays there.

The control is a joke, of course; the disorder is in charge. No sane, "in-control" person would voluntarily gorge herself to the point of discomfort on fried chicken and then purposely unswallow it. The bulimia is that little evil voice in the back of your head saying, "Look at you! Look at the power you have!" And it's a seriously convincing voice, convincing enough to drown out the concern of loved ones and good medical advice - and your own conscience telling you that you know better. Bulimia is ultimately about a complete loss of control - you're miserable, your body is suffering from the malnutrition and the constant purging, you know that what you're doing is wrong, but you can't stop it.

Now consider that this is how Terri lived the last few years of her conscious life. Prior to her heart attack, she had been drinking nothing but iced tea for weeks. By all accounts, this was a woman whose control had been usurped by an eating disorder. But she had made one decision on her own - her husband and several of her friends testified to the satisfaction of numerous courts that she didn't want her body to be maintained through life-prolonging measures if she ended up in a vegetative state.

And now the world wants to take that one final decision away from her. That one last bit of sane, rational, genuine control - the choice of life or death - is being stripped by her well-meaning parents and our bastard Congress. A woman who spent so much time being jerked around by an eating disorder is now being jerked around by people who are supposed to love her (her parents) and protect her rights (the government). That is, if the courts allow it, which doesn't seem to be happening. At long last, Terri Schiavo is finally getting to make one crucial decision for herself.

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