Consumption (Stage 3)

A quick recap.

Stage 1: Getting ill. You know that something’s wrong. A little voice in your head has made its debut – and the puppet on a string analogy begins to take shape.

Stage 2: A subtle takeover. The little voice makes itself at home. Word by poisonous word, it gets inside you. It talks its way into your head.

It’s a wily enemy – but it starts out as your internal friend. The perfect ambush for the next attack:

Stage 3: Consumption.

Two voices become 1.

You get eaten up by it.

…As the eating-disorder develops, it seems to move to the core of your world, absorbing all other motivations and influences, and becoming the sole determinant of your actions. Food moves from being one component of your lifestyle to the only component – and this dominant position is not just evident in a behavioural context.

Ironically, or perhaps inevitably, food also assumes a completely different meaning under the influence of an eating disorder. Associations arise; food is categorised into ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ categories, ‘ permitted’ and ‘not permitted’ foods; rituals develop; and food becomes completely intertwined with emotions, character, experience.

I am continuously shocked by the mind’s ability to subordinate absolutely anything to one master. It begins on a basic level of avoiding situations that may complicate your diet: meals with other people; restaurants; occasions where the food is unpredictable and uncontrollable. As the illness grows, the circle of influence expands: people that encourage you to eat should also be avoided; parties, birthdays, celebrations are dangerous; being in unfamiliar territory during a mealtime is risky; as are days out or holidays possessing unknown threats. Persistently, slyly, the net constricts and you only become aware of when you touch its edge or feel it tightening.

It consumes you mentally, squeezing out all other thoughts until your head is only filled with monotonous, but thundering, conversations about food and calories and fat and weight. How can you think about politics or current affairs when all your attention is focussed on calculation after calculation? There is no room to contemplate friendships, relationships, religion, ethics, when you are continually involved in an internal discussion concerning your food and exercise plan for the day, and tomorrow, and next week.

In my case, this state remained concealed for an extremely long period of time, and it is likely that I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of this other world. I only became aware of it when I started to become interested in other things, but was continuously yanked back….. (2002)

It’s easy to get hung up on the physical implications of an eating disorder.

The emotional ones are just as lethal.

It makes you someone that you’re not.

And the someone that you’re not is completely on their own.

The little voice that’s got into your mind and is telling you how to act is also driving a wedge between you and the world. It’s slyly cementing its position, preparing for ambush. Because you’ll realise, suddenly, that you’ve been taken over.

That you’ve lost yourself.


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