Once an eating disorder – or, to make it more psychologically viable, the mindset of an eating disorder – is in there, then it can really start playing havoc.
It will tell you what to do and what to think and how to act.
It’s like your own personal Paul McKenna brainwash. It’s hard to switch off, good at shouting over you.
Stage 2: The first dislocation.
This bit was called ‘stunting growth’ at the time. It was inspired by the uncomfortable realisation that the years may have kept on coming, but any emotional development had stalled at 12.
People get hung up on the physical brake. It’s the emotional one that really struck me. When you’re not consumed by an eating disorder, your teenage years are all about emotional development. All about experimentation and exploration – finding out what you like and what you think and where you fit in the grand scheme of things.
An eating disorder rarely lets you do this.
Everything’s about food.
There are rules to be obeyed, rituals followed.
There’s no room for trying things out.
It really gets between you and your identity.
I wear flat shoes or trainers all the time. It is not that I particularly like them. It is simply that you can walk further in them. When I am buying food, I don’t want to be worried about my feet hurting and when I am making myself walk for as long as possible, a pair of stilettos are not the most practical of options. I, me, Melissa, would love a pair of dainty pink shoes. With a slightly high heel and gently rounded toes, a dusky rose pink, with a little decoration like some ribbon or a leather design on the side. They would make me feel feminine and confident and slightly flirtatious and I would feel more like other people. The eating disorder will not let me buy them. It has issues with their practicality and complains that they would slow me down and that what’s the point, I would never wear them anyway because I always have lots of bags to carry and they would be too uncomfortable.
To complement my shoes, I would like a little leather handbag in a similar shade of pink. It wouldn’t be one of those tiny handheld ones, but it would sit comfortably on my shoulder with just enough room for a phone and my wallet and a paperback. It would be quite simple – understated elegance, nothing elaborate or tacky. It would smell faintly of new leather mingled with perfume and whenever, I opened it, I’d feel a little tingle of pleasure and pride.
The eating disorder does not permit this either. It instructs me to carry a large brown bag that is big enough to hold a night’s worth of food. It is not an ugly bag because when I bought it, it tried to convince me that I liked it, but it has ugly uses. It was bought, like my other bags, to hide and enable my eating disorder and it is tainted by this.
I have not been to the cinema for years. When people casually drop the films that they have seen recently into the conversation, I am astounded with the ease with which they carry out what seems to me an impossible task. How is it possible to sit down for so long and how are they able to concentrate? What about the cost – how can they justify the money? Don’t they worry about how they will get there and back and what happens if something goes wrong? What this something is, the anorexia is yet to specify. I am also waiting for it to explain how £7 can be considered a crippling expense when it is half the amount that I spend on food each day.
When people talk about what food they like or dislike, I am on the periphery. Again. An easy question. Banal even. But not for someone with an eating disorder. Ask me how many calories are in a McDonalds burger or a piece of fish and I can answer straight off; the foods which have the lowest calories – you’re on to a winner. Ask me what I like the taste of, though, and I have no idea anymore.
This is the first dislocation. It hurts, but it’s quite clean, it all takes place inside your head.
One voice to two.
Insider to outsider.
Tags: getting ill