Eating disorders and therianthropy can interact in some very nasty ways. During the throes of an eating disorder, I convinced myself that my body was just a cage containing the “real” me. I only needed to loose enough weight to unlock this cage, and because of my therianthropy, what lay inside that cage was my animal side. Lacking knowledge about how my animal identity was preventing me from realizing my disorder and heal from it was a huge hurdle. I write this essay in hopes that any animal person with an eating disorder in the future may find it, and that it will help them on the path to healing and self-discovery.
The first step, arguably the most difficult step, of healing from an eating disorder is just admitting that you have an eating disorder. It can be even more difficult than usual when convinced that many eating disorder behaviors originate from an animal identity. At one point in my life, I had managed to convince myself that vomiting daily was natural for me because vultures projectile vomit as a fear reaction. I had to realize that just because my animal side behaved in one way doesn’t mean I could still behave that way in a human body. The human body could be damaged or killed by many non-human behaviors, and vomiting every time I felt anxious was one of them. Also, I eventually realized that identifying with vultures was just an excuse, as my animal side isn’t a vulture at all. But in the darkness of the disorder, how could I have seen that?
Body dysmorphia refers to the delusions people who suffer from eating disorders have about their bodies. Basically, they don’t’ know what their bodies look like. They have a warped perception. One of the exercises I did during treatment had me draw a life sized outline of myself on the wall, and I then had to press myself against it and have my instructor outline me. The outline of my real body and the body I thought I had were dramatically different. There was almost three feet of difference in the body I drew from memory and the body my instructor traced. Species dysphoria can complicate body dysmorphia further. Not only was I hallucinating about the physical reality of my body, but I couldn’t recognize that physical reality as valid even when I broke through the dysmorphia. It didn’t feel like I had progressed at all. It was an endless nightmare where the outward projection of myself was never “correct” in my view.
I convinced myself that my body was the enemy. Not only was it the “wrong” body, the body of a human, but it was fat and disgusting. A cage of cellulite surrounded me from all sides. I felt like the “real me” was trapped inside of this fat prison. That real me was an animal. Although I knew on the surface that it wasn’t logical at all to feel like this, I couldn’t help but think that if I only managed to be thin enough, that I would unlock my inner animal. If I couldn’t be thin, then I would never be an animal.
Exercise became an addiction. Not only did it burn away calories, but the adrenaline felt euphoric when shifting. In those moments of running, I could almost see a light at the end of the tunnel. I was on my way to “true animality” actualized through weight loss. I thought I was going to be thin, and then I was going to be an animal. I was delusional.
What I was really creating was a cat with no claws, a giraffe with no neck, and an owl with no wings. I was rejecting my body, which is such a huge part of myself, and in doing so was rejecting the actual “real me.” Animal and all. The eating disorder was not only complicated by therianthropy, but I could never unlock that animal as long as I rejected myself. I had to heal, and learn to take myself for who I am. My body, still bony from the aftermath, but healthy, is a part of me. After realizing that, I “awakened” more openly. The only cage I had put my animal into was the prison of my sickness. Unlocking that cage involved realizing that I had a problem, going through treatment, and learning to love every part of myself. Love the human body as much as the animal inside.