Christopher Eccleston

There’s been a lot of coverage in the media, recently, of Christopher Eccleston’s admission that he suffers from body-dysmorphia and an eating disorder, which he describes in his autobiography, I Love the Bones of You. I’ve been telling myself, and everyone around me, how courageous he has been, and how good it is to have such a talented role-model admitting to the condition, making it more acceptable. Yet, all the while, a little voice from my hindbrain keeps interrupting, saying, “Jesus, what a self-pitying, attention-seeking wimp! And him a northerner, and all! And he looks so tough!” And then, another voice says, slyly, “Well, he can’t have been trying very hard or he’d never have had the energy for all that intense acting.” Now, that really is Anorexic thinking! His success is evidence of his failure to be a successful failure!

I’ve always liked Christopher Eccleston, so I was very disappointed by my own reaction. It’s deeply hypocritical and disloyal. It’s also disheartening that, after all this time, I’m still prey both to the repressive social conditioning that dismisses and condemns me (and him), and, at the same time, to the twisted, anorexic logic that celebrates self-negation. Perhaps only death can demonstrate our commitment to our Nihilism – the full ferocity of it – not because we desire death, but because we just won’t stop. There’s no ultimate goal, just an insatiable need to restrict.

Mr. Eccleston was on Radio 4 last Saturday and I instantly forgave him, mainly because he didn’t make a big fuss about it. His comments about his anorexia were brief, straightforward and integrated into the general discussion of his life and experiences. He seemed lovely.

My willingness to forgive him confirmed what I’d already worked out about myself: I’d felt threatened by such a big-hitter muscling in on my territory. I’m the middle-aged male anorexic. That’s what I do. That’s what I blog about. That’s my USP.

Once it became clear that being an anorexic wasn’t how Christopher Eccleston defined himself, everything was fine. I could go on being the middle-aged male anorexic; he could be the troubled but brilliant actor. Although, thinking about it, he’s always had the look, hasn’t he? – hollow-cheeked, cadaverous.

Incidentally, it’s interesting that an actor, whose profession involves being watched should suffer from body dysmorphia, an affliction of false visualisation, whereas I, who think of myself as virtually invisible, never suffered from this. Instead, I had body-dyscalculia, or body – innumeracy: I misread the bad numbers as good. Who wants to have a green-band bmi?

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