As the days as an inpatient go by and the meals get eaten, I’ve been trying to detangle WHY it feels so painful to lose all that control Anorexia craves. Over appearance, over numbers, emotions – what feels like everything. All because of a change of diet.
Why it was so, so hard to push past that fixed *number* those first few days and not complete the meals, desperately staring at my plate trying to count the calories in each food group like they were little ants. Feeling satisfied and safe only when I’ve stuck to or below my assigned calorie limit. Like pennies to spend. Working out how much I could allow myself to eat in each of the food groups on the plate and then coming to a standstill. Some imaginary, deluded maths question that Anorexia doesn’t even know the answer to. Some deluded fairy-tale world.
I’ve been trying to work out why it fears catching a glimpse of a full, fleshy face in it’s reflection. Why is it so scared of the look of health? Even when it’s only rationally day 5 of my full-portion meal-plan, I genuinely feel panicked of getting a sight of myself. Since so many flavours and textures have passed my mouth in such a short space of time, and I’ve sat down (tried) for more than I have in a long time, Anorexia is feeling threatened as hell – almost as if it’s becoming the food it’s eaten. It feels the indulgence of the food lingering, spilling over, especially during quiet, still periods of the day. Which is why I tend to constantly keep my mind active, or the restlessness of the guilt kicks in. I’m not allowing it to find the space to poison my thoughts anymore. But at the same time I’m scared it will try and trip me up, causing my head to feel unmanageable.
One of the biggest misconceptions of Eating Disorders I think, is that sufferers are vain and find themselves ‘very attractive’. This is the quickest solution people jump to when someone may seem ‘obsessed’ or pre-occupied with their appearance. The majority of the time, you’ll actually learn that opinion of themselves is quite far the opposite. That people unconsciously want to either punish their bodies, or shrink themselves for mental security. Or sometimes, it’s just a side effect of their preoccupation with the control of numbers. (in some ways, I think my illness was partly this – it was the numbers that were the most important bricks of the day)
Other times people can begin being ill and losing their appetite, and then due to the starvation of their brain and the change of mental processes, it can lead to Anorexia. There’s so, so many reasons. It’s not purely based on idolising catwalk models or famous/magazine images – although it’s still possible is may play a factor/trigger for some.
If I’m honest with myself for purposes of wanting to become a real woman for the first time through this recovery process, feeling bones… the gaps where the muscle should be – particularly at the back of the hips for example, the peaked little bony bits above the shoulders, the sharper cheekbones, the spikey elbows, slots between the ribcage, more protruding bones on the chest, these things satisfy Anorexia. Convince me I’m safer from the world, from my own thoughts. All the things I’m unsure of in myself. All the inadequacy. Numbs out the depression. So I guess part of me is so scared to watch these visual signs fade, that it will be a reminder painful mental stuff to come flooding back. Stuff that doesn’t make sense about my insecurities.
Why does Anorexia look for reassurance in hollowed eyes, hollowed cheekbones? I have to keep reminding myself, that this is what Anorexia loves. It thrives off the sight of them for reassurance. Not the real me. I’m not a failure if these things start to disappear. The Eating Disorder is. My definition of beauty is a whole completely different image.
It’s not that you set out to achieve that look to become ‘sexy’, to look ‘better’ in clothes by being thinner… none of that (for me, personally) If anything I wanted to look far from ‘sexy’, I found it uncomfortable to try and look that way in the very short, distant past. I just wanted to feel safe, small, mentally secure.
The interesting thing for me personally, is that I’ve never for long enough experienced being a ‘real woman’. My Eating Disordered behaviours kicked in at such an early age, and my mind associated food with reward/luxury at so much earlier even before even the behaviours presented. So in a strange way, I feel like recovery will probably be a second go at puberty. Maybe I’ll get to know my body properly for the first time. As much of a novelty that sounds, it is bloody terrifying. I’m scared I’ll feel like I’m wearing a fancy dress costume that I can’t take off when it gets too much. How ‘loose’ will healthy feel? Will my cheeks feel heavier when I smile? How will I cope when I feel myself take up too much space in a room? Yet don’t have a personality big enough to match it?
Subconsciously, ‘the smaller the body’ the better, for achieving a peaceful state of mind for Anorexia. Stops the chaos. It felt tighter, in control. Far from to attract anyone. The less sexy, the better. The more bones, the less guilt. The less of a bad person I felt. Having this control, made food taste even better. It heightened the senses. Another misconception about the illness – that people hate food. I LOVE food. That’s what terrifies me. I experience the pleasure but to deserve that pleasure it has to feel controlled, earnt.
I stand by my goal of wanting to become my own ‘real’ woman. By this, I mean, growing ‘boobs’, feeling okay with the extra flesh on my chest. To earn my periods back! To be able to look forward to carrying a child… to reach my ultimate goal of a BMI of 20 and be OKAY with it. No longer a ‘compromised’ let’s-hang-on-to-a-bit-of-Anorexia BMI of 16 as was my goal set for my previous Unit admission. I tried, but life just didn’t work. I thought I could live with ‘a bit of it’. But the truth is, you can’t live a full life alongside an Eating Disorder.