I want to disappear - approaching eating disorders

Mafalda Rakoš

2013 - 2016

Vienna, Austria

Worldwide, up to 70 million individuals suffer from an Eating Disoder such as Anorexia, Bulimia or Binge Eating. Affected persons are of all genders, appearances and ages; however, research confirms that it is young women and girls in industrialized nations who are at the highest risk of being affected.

One out of ten women, so the current hypothesis, will experience an eating disorder at least once in their lifetime. Nevertheless, the sources and effects of this illness are still highly stigmatized, discreeted and excluded from societal discourse.In I want to disappear, 20 young women intimately share their testimonies with the viewer.

What does it feel liketo be affected? How is this conflict linked to one’s own (sexual) identiy, and why does controlling one’s body help someone to feel “better”, even just for a short time?

Altogether they provide a surprising and confrontative insight into the personal conflicts, ruptures and insecurities which lie at the root of this disease. Very soon, a new perspective is revealed: eating disorders are never a sign of weakness. And one is by no means alone with it.

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  • Caroline, Vienna, 2015.

    C. has been suffering from Anorexia and Bulimia since her early adolescence. The picture shows the burn marks she is continously receiving from hot-water-bottles. "I am always cold. I don't know why. I feel that I cannot sleep anymore without this thing, but I always make it too hot.. I don't know why. I guess I don't care."

  • Picture taken by a Protagonist. Vienna, 2013.

    "For me, it shows the ambivalence of food and eating in general. I think the knifes look very brutal. It‘s like fighting yourself every time you eat a piece of bread."

  • Caroline, Vienna, 2015.

    C. has been suffering from Bulimia and Anorexia since her early adolescence. According to her, she is rather addicted to purging than to being thin. She lives on her own in Vienna and dreams of studying medicine once things are better.

  • Katharina, Vienna, 2015.

    Katharina suffered from Anorexia as an adolescent. Her mother remembers: „She wouldn’t eat anything anymore, except for apples and pretzels. At some point I started going to the gas station every morning to buy bread rolls – so that we would have them in the house, at all times. In summer we went on a hiking trip. That wasn’t easy. My biggest concern was whether we could buy those damn rolls there – If not, my child would starve.“

  • Ulrike, 1996.

    Ulrike suffers from Bulimia and Anorexia. Her story is long and complicated and
    reaches back to her grandparent's generation. According to her, food and eating always were difficult topics and her family. The feeling of being to fat has accompanied her since early childhood days - and finally lead her into a mode of life where phases of restrictiveness alternate with those of extreme bingeing and purging.

    Even though the disorder occupies a high significance, it is still incapable to shut her down entirely. Ulrike studies at a local Art Academy and hopes to find an occupation in her life that truly fulfills her.

  • Picture taken by a Protagonist. Vienna, 2013..

    "Don’t eat too fast. Don’t gobble your food. Chew and cut the food carefully. Leave some food. Don’t ever eat up if you’re not asked to." - Thoughts of an Anorectic, collected by Barbara.

  • Barbara, Vienna, 2015.

    "When I think about it today, the most shocking thing for me is that I somehow never thought about when I would want to stop losing weight."

  • Barbara, Vienna, 2015.

    "I have always been skinny. When I was a child I could eat whatever I wanted. Food had never been a big issue for me. In High School the topic of nutrition came up for the first time in biology class. We also talked about Anorexia. This was my first contact with those subjects. Back then I remember telling my friend something like: “Wow, I can’t even imagine not eating chocolate anymore!”."

  • Picture taken by a Protagonist. Vienna, 2013.

    "I know it sounds stupid, but at the toilet I still take time out for myself. For me it’s a form of stress relieve if I’m not being good to myself or if I’m stressed out. When everything slips and starts to fall apart that’s the thing I can hold on to –
    because I can control it. I can control what I’m eating and I can control my body… I know exactly what to do. That’s when I need it most, even though I know it’s just a fantasy."

  • Ulrike, Vienna, 2016.

    "This picture, where I am leaning in front of the bathroom is somehow special for me, even though I didn’t think about it when you took it. It makes me think about how often and at what stage I went
    through this door... I thought I smiled much more when you photographed me, but now the observer can actually really see how I feel. I avoid contact with others, and I am so occupied with food, purging, and sports all the time, it‘s like beneath a glass cover. For me, this is what the picture shows.”

  • Picture taken by Primrose, Vienna, 2013.

  • Sculpture by Anna, 2009.

    "In general I also believe in the positive of an eating disorder. Because there are situations where your soul just can’t defend itself. And because it doesn’t want to break or collapse, it is looking for help. It’s unfortunate that it is an addictive disorder, because it is difficult to get healthy again, yes. But generally, I think that in the very moment it is developing, it
    serves as a rescue for the person."

  • Waiting Room, 2013.

    Background: a sheet designed by one of the protagonists after a long stay in an clinical institution specialized for eating disorders. "I don't know what would have happened to me if I wouldn't have gone there. It was a very big step. Somehow I am grateful that I had this illness - I learned a lot of things about myself ... that I probably wouldn't have learned otherwise."

  • Barbara, Vienna, 2015.

  • Marie, Vienna, 2015.

    M. suffered from Bulimia for almost 6 years, but finally succeded in overcoming the illness after a long-term stay at a local clinic. She definitley considers herself as not affected by this diseases anymore. Nevertheless, she regularily attends a self help group to exchange with others who are struggeling with eating disorders. Marie is an inspirational person for many of them - listening to her optimistic and strong statements often gives other participants courage to work further towards their own self-acceptance.