My sister told me not that long ago that the plural of ‘eyebrow’ was eyebrewi. I believed her, I also believed Boyfriend when he told me fluffy snakes were real life creatures that you did not see in zoo’s because they were ‘too rare’. I also believed anorexia when she said that I would be happy if only my BMI was under the ‘magic’ fourteen.
Most of the time I still do actually believe that my life would be better if I was thinner. I’m going to write a bit on the subject of eating disorders because it is very much a feature in my life and shape who I am. (Pun very much intended.) To try and write a blog that looks at ‘stuff in my life’ mixed in with ‘intresting stuff about mental illness’ and omitting to mention anorexia, bulimia and binge eating would be akin to telling you I didn’t like cake while wearing an ‘I love cake’ badge, banner and tee-shirt at a cake or cookie convention. (Yes, the only analogy I could think of was a food one..go figure.)
So. The difference between eyebrewi, furry snakes and food stuffs. I can use books/google/ask clever people if furry snakes are real and when nearly all sources come back with a ‘No’ I can file it under ‘things that are not true’ and carry on with my day feeling slightly wiser and excited about passing my new factoid onto other, gullible human beans like me. However, it does not matter how many people say ‘you are not fat‘ and ‘the world will not be hugely and amazingly better if you starve yourself‘ they are still notions that get wedged in the ‘Really very very true’ file in my head.
I remeber being diagnosed with anorexia at 14, sort of, I remeber swinging my legs back and forth on a chair. I was wearing a grey school skirt and wooly tights, it was dark outside and there was no blind drawn over the big window that overlooked the car park into my therapists office. It was my first session with a female shrink, I had been seeing a man for a while and he had referred me on. She asked me what If I knew that fat was essential to brain function, I was gurning in the window because I could see my reflection in the dark. My mum was there, the therapist asked me something about cows, or maybe if I was a vegetarian. I remember her telling me I was suffering from Anorexia Nervosa and I felt as if she was handing me some kind of badge for a special club, she looked sort of pleased that she knew what was wrong with me, but looked less pleased when she admitted I had major depressive disorder and that that had manifested itself prior to my eating disorder rather than being a symptom. Three months on she diagnosed with with bulimic sub-type and to this day I swear she looked again as if she was handing me a prize in giving me a label for all the mad things I was doing that was messing up my life.
When I was fourteen I was fairly naive, especially when it came to questions such as ‘do faries really live at the bottom of the garden’ and ‘can I get better overnight by agreeing to eat milkybar yogurts’.
Nine years on and I am still really surprised to learn that food is not actually the problem. Most people see anorexics or find out thier friend/loved one/next door neighbours cat is suffering from an eating disorder and have to swallow the desire to just yell ‘oh, go eat a pie and get over yourself’. It is true. I have been an anorexic in a treatment centre with other anorexics and had to force down the urge not to yell at them to go eat pie. It wasn’t jelously either, I do look at other girls/woman/men/children with eating disorders and try to convince them to go eat..or to eat and ‘keep it down’ or to eat and stop when are full..and then later on i find myself starving/eating three boxes of Milk Tray at 8am/running until my ankles swell/heaving into the toilet…and then I realise it isn’t the food itself that is the problem.
It is easier to imagine food as the core issue because it is tangible. My fear of fat or my vile predisposition to stuffing myself so full I can’t even move before most sane people have even consider putting toast in the toaster (because a symptom of my binge eating disorder seems to be that I can’t tolerate one nano second of a morning without filling myself with food) is more tangible a fear/symptom than my fear of feeling anything emotion at all or than my anger/upset/distress/sadness/excitment/insert emotion…of everything and anything.
Eating disorders are not about food and thus, eating again or re-modelling your eating habbits doesn’t actually solve this.
I know that when you are in ‘starvation mode’ a person cannot think. I know that at a BMI of 18 I seem a lot less dimwitted than at a BMI of 13. I am much more able to eloquently describe my thoughts and feelings because I am not in a food deprived fog. * However, even at a healthier BMI, when I am not classed as medically emaciated or in need of medically-controlled re-feeding and supervision the essence of my eating disorder does not shift. The weight doesn’t matter..it is the thoughts that do. * (I know it is v v v very important to start re-feeding when your BMI is under 17.5 or simply when your ED symptoms have started to control your life. What I am trying to point out is that weight DOESNT MATTER it is the eating disordered though process that lead to all the horrible zappy vile feelings and danger. It is the emotions behind these thoughts that need to be worked on, not the persons ability to eat a fat-free rice pudding or bag of ready salted crisps).
When Anorexia first came and knocked I let it in. I really, really though I was ‘choosing’. I thought any time I wanted I could pick up a sandwhich and be free of my demon. Like all those self-help books that patients usually use for ‘tips’ I though that my eating disorders where my ‘friend’. I sought solace in the biscuit tin and looked for a confidant in days and days of starvation and stupid obsessions. I can now, sometimes, pick up that sandwhich. I can eat the sandwhich, but I am in no-way free of my eating disorder. I am still very very trapped. It has emotionally crippled me and buckled my relationships. It has made me life feel pointless and driven me to countless suicide attempts. When that therapist first handed me my ‘eating disordered badge’ I felt like laughing at her. No, I remeber thinking that I was ‘not like all those skinny sick girls with big, sad eyes.’ I was just playing. I was just testing myself, seeing what I could do..
At the moment I acycle between anorexia and binge eating disorder. At times it levels out so my weight does not look abnormal and everyone thinks I am ‘recovered’. I have never been statistically fat, ever..yet regardless of it repeatedly stalling/stopping/nearly ending my life I am convinced that my life would be better if only I was ‘just a tiny bit thinner’.
I thought I was choosing to have an eating disorder. I wasn’t, it already had me snared by then. I do not think anyone has the ability to choose this disease.
I am writing this for anyone suffering/or who suffered or for anyone who knows somebody. This has been somewhat difficult to articulate. i do want to continue using Anorexia as a topic on my blog because although there is a great deal of information on the interweb and from books and other sources I know that I can never, ever read enough on the topic…not because I like it, or because it is a glamorization or romantic but because it is sometimes amazing to hear from other people who are ‘freaks like me’. This is a lonely, cold, sad illness but i want to point out that no-one who is suffering or has suffered is alone. This is also my attempt to give another personal viewpoint to the loved ones of those with ED’s..because we are all weird and strange and unique (just like anybody else.)