Eating disorders can evoke all sorts of stereotypes about the people who suffer from them and why they develop. But this autobiographical webcomic, which shares one cartoonist's struggle with her eating, peels back the complicated layers of depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia that intersect in a dangerous way.
Khale McHurst's I Do Not Have an Eating Disorder (comic contains nudity, self harm, and suicidal ideation) is a brave personal work, in which McHurst shows herself physically and psychologically naked in an effort to share her experience with mental illness. As the title suggests, McHurst focuses, at least at first, primarily on her attempts to control her own body by avoiding food while maintaining a calorie-burning exercise routine. If you're not familiar with eating disorders like anorexia (with which McHurst has been diagnosed), her struggles are eye-opening. Even when she seeks treatment, it is physically uncomfortable for her to eat what her dietitian prescribes. And when she's confronted with the idea that she's suffering from body dysmorphia, her sense of reality feels shaken.
But as she continues through her mental health odyssey, it becomes clear that her eating disorder is just one facet of her larger mental health picture. She takes us through her meetings with various mental health professionals, her diagnoses, her experiences with medication. Her experiences never have a simple explanation or solution, and it's an important reminder that mental health issues can be frustratingly complex—and that finding ways to manage those issues is often an ongoing process. She shares her victories and her setbacks along the way.
McHurst's journey is meant to be personal, rather than universal—in the comic, one of her professionals even notes that she doesn't display typically anorexic behavior. But it's still a valuable look at the complicated fabric of mental health, and how the experience of struggling with an eating disorder can be far more visceral than non-sufferers may assume.