Last night I went to a Starbucks coffee shop in Zurich. I went up to the top floor and sat down. I had had a long and busy day and needed some time with my own thoughts. And, then, I saw this badly anorexic girl. It took me sometime to figure out she was anorexic. It honestly felt like I was looking at a calm and quiet ghost sitting in the corner. I felt really eery.
I guess the girl was in the last stages of anorexia. So bad! You could see the skull through her skin. It was like she was both 16 and 80. I as so afraid like I have never been in my life, looking at her. I was both drawn to her, because the intensity of her element was so strong, and so afraid to look at her. She was in an element I could not understand, but I could feel its intensity. Felt like she is going down a tunnel from which there is no way back, and she knew it.
She was very weak, I think she was drinking her own saliva from a handkerchief. At some point she started crying. That was horrific to look at. Her face … was the mask of a ”dead person walking”, the alive mask of a dead body. I am so sorry. I felt so bad, so shaken, so moved by the whole thing. Nobody noticed her or seemed to notice her, everyone went about their conversations. If they did notice her crying, they pretended they did not see anything. Some people came to sit close to her, saw her, then moved away. Then at some point she asked about the hour, politely, and left. Very skinny, weak and all that.
The whole experience deeply disturbed me. First, It felt like she wanted to feel like we all do but could not. This is why she was there, to try to feel what it feels like to be ”normal”. She did not eat or drink anything. I think she knew she looked bad, and she knew I was looking at her, but was calm and thoughtful. She blank very little.
I know that in anorexia at some point there is a point of no return, your body actually rejects food, your digestive system gets out of practice, and even if you do want to eat, and even enjoy it, it feels so bad for you, your body actively rejects food. Often these people are also among the brightest, most creative and most intelligent. Anorexia has many causes, it is linked to a predisposition in the brain, but then the showing of the condition is unlocked by so many other factors, just one of which is the idea that we as women (or men) have to be skinny in order to be beautiful. (All of these advertisement sorts of things we are being bombarded with.) This is just one factor though. There can be other factors, like family problems, and all that mixing together.
Should I have done something more, should I have talked to her? May be she would have not understood my English. May be I could have gone down to the Starbucks staff, and talked to them about this. I assume she would/should be in hospital.
I was watching her closely, and anyway, felt could not do much else. But if she had started harming herself, I would have done something, I was also watching all around me, all these nice people. Really beautiful, nice people. Engaged in conversations. Zurich is new to me, so I am naturally observing everything, absorbing every aspect of the Swiss German reality. I do not know it very well yet and do not speak the language. That makes me even more open to whatever is going on, beyond what words can express.
I remember as I was sitting there, with the girl sitting diagonally to me, I only wanted to leave. I did not though. Then I was suddenly overtaken by a feeling of such gratitude and joy. I think it was a defense mechanism. What I felt there is a realization of how lucky I am. Sitting there, with my worries and concerns, I understood I have the privilege to live a full life on our planet with all of its ups and downs, which are all these awesome opportunities to live fully and grow. I also felt, I thought the girl knew this, and she simply could not belong to this world.
I am so very sorry. I thought the least I could do is write about this here. So that people know. Not sure whether I should have done something differently. I tell you, I have never been so afraid. Really. Because I felt what she knew through her serious psychopathological condition, we, the rest of us, do not know, at all, do not want to, simply can not. Most of us would say we are just blessed with not being like ”that”. Not being like ”that” always carries with it its own drama, and worries and concerns, but it is, to us at least, delightfully alive.
I am not at all angry, or displeased with all of the wonderful people around her who went about their conversations. I was in some way one of them, I went about my emails, and tried to focus in on my own thoughts. But I just could not forget about this girl. And I just wanted to share my experience here with you.
Let’s remember that challenges and worries in life are opportunities to outgrow ourselves, to focus and take the right decisions. :) I wish all of you who read this well. Let’s remember to embrace life as it is, change it as much as we can do and where we want to, live it with our full hearts, have patience where it takes, and have love and sympathy.
To close off, a wonderful video by the Piano Guys –