For 27 years, I had an eating disorder that included anorexia, bulimia, and over-exercise. In college, I remember thinking that if a celebrity like Diana could keep a secret like that, I could and no one would notice. Diana married Charles in 1981, and she first told biographer Andrew Morton about her eating disorder in 1992. It was 11 years that she suffered in the dark. If no one was even willing to reach out to help the Princess of Wales, I figured if it was denial of this well, I should be good to lie about this one for a while. And I was. Eating disorders thrive in secrecy and exist for everyone to see. At least mine did. And clearly Dianas did too, as viewers of this season of The Crown see in detail.
To figure out how to fight his bulimia, Netflix worked with a UK eating disorder charity, rhythm. The charity advised Netflix to add a trigger warning at the start of some episodes. And actress playing Diana, Emma Corrin, championed the development of bulimia scenes, so Dianas’ voice could be heard. I want to amplify this voice: you are not alone. You deserve help.
Watching the last few seasons of shows, I have been sympathetic to Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth, and still am, but the whole family is a huge trigger for Diana to be lonely, bored, losing control and the frenzy and the purge are quite time killers and givers of control.
Seeing her alone at Buckingham Palace, feeling completely irrelevant and rejected, sent me back to college, when overwhelmed by a campus 10 times the size of my hometown, classmates fitted with J. Crew and a Greek scene. who confused me and refused. I looked for the only levers of control I could find. I studied and studied and studied. I exercised twice a day and knew the location of every toilet on the Indiana University campus.
In this gothic student union, I turn the tap on and vomit in the bathroom at the top of the tower, hoping no one will hear me. I bet Diana knew all the toilets in the palace. My sophomore year, down 15 pounds, and grades up, I met a boy and found a whole bunch of friends. And you can bet I gave my eating disorder a lot of credit for allowing me to finally settle in. He called me his little minx and loved the way his sweatshirts swallowed me up. There was no turning back now. My eating disorder had given me acceptance, love and security. I couldn’t give it up now. I even won a fundraiser for an exercise marathon held in the campus gym, which earned me a half jokey title as Ms. IU Fit.
When my boyfriend introduced me to his mother, this is the anecdote he told. He didn’t tell her about my journalism, my sense of humor, or the fact that I came from a very small town. No, I was already defined by my height. (I think the boyfriend just thought it was hilarious, that I vine and lift my knees for two hours on a Saturday night, but for me that’s what I would become.)
I think of that title when I watch Dianas come out onto the world stage. Everyone had something to say about his appearance. Once her good looks became something people were shouting about in the streets, the pressure to stay so slim only glazed the wound and held her in place.
The producers of The Crown did that part justice. The lonely nights, the furtive ones, the glow of the fridge, the raw ugliness and sheer exhaustion. It’s hard to watch, but it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen, and trust me, I watched them.
Everyone tacitly approves of her beauty, despite her pain, her anger and saddens me. We have all seen this. We read the People magazine articles about it. We encouraged it.
I’m in my third year of recovery and I’m afraid this is too hard to watch it could make me miss my too skinny days. But Corrin grasps the prison / safety cover of an eating disorder so well that it gives me hope that they will show Diana out of it. And it inspires me to keep writing about my eating disorder, to keep bringing my experience into the discussion when it comes up, to make it less difficult to bring up.
Im 48. This is not the face usually associated with an eating disorder. I grew up in the lower middle class, in the sticks. I was neither a gymnast nor a dancer. But I got the message we all did growing up in Jane Fonda’s 80s, SnackWell’s 90s, and Ally McBeal’s 2000s. Thin is in. The lower version of you is the better version of you. Exercise is always a good thing, just ask your doctor. That is finally starting to change, but it will take more than a few body positive Instagram accounts and plus size models to change that. The fact that plus size is always the term (plus what, exactly?) Shows how long we have to go. But I am ready to push the question. And I’m grateful to the Crown for not hesitating.
I hadn’t cried watching this season until episode 6, when Princess Margaret (and it’s always Margot who understands me) responded what would happen if Princess Diana didn’t finally bow to customs. of the royal family: Shell break, said Margaret with finality. But you know what, she didn’t break. She recovered, and just when she was strongest she was shattered not by them, not by the eating disorder, but by our insatiable appetite to consume her. Irony.
We don’t see what Princess Diana would do in full recovery. So I can only tell you that it is possible. Even if you fight (and sometimes give in) your eating disorder for decades, like I have, healing can happen. We need to keep talking about our obsession with a healthy body which is defined by what it looks like. I thank the Crown for continuing the conversation, I know I needed to hear it.
Amanda Long is a writer and massage therapist in Falls Church, Virginia.
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