I wish I was special

If you’re not from my generation, you won’t get the title. Radiohead, Creep – a bit of a 90s anthem; played in my head for a few years.

It’s slightly perverse, really, that self destruction got mixed up with feeling special. But it did. It blurs into the attention-seeking theme; ties into the low self esteem theory; links up with the whole cultural backdrop of what was in and what wasn’t.

Anorexia made me feel special.

I didn’t admit this, of course; it’s not the kind of thing you own up to – even to yourself – but I kind of felt it. I had an inkling. A suspicion that I wasn’t very proud of.

It’s okay now. I’ve stopped pretending. I’ve got a little more understanding – a touch of the compassion and contextualisation that was missing from my teenage head – and it is, after all, quite logical. It makes sense.

Wanting to feel special is probably quite normal. Nobody likes to feel anonymous, particularly at that awkward child to adolescent stage. It’s nice to stand out at something, to have a USP, so to speak – and anorexia handed me a personal credential on a plate.

I might not have been looking for an eating disorder – but it got mixed up with what I was looking for: me.

I’ll concede that there are far better ways of standing out– but an eating disorder was mine.

Anorexia gets attention. When I was diagnosed, it got even more attention than it does today. It was a relatively new thing, not yet part of the common vocabulary, not yet part of ‘normal people’s lives’.

After the initial embarrassment, this made me feel special. It gradually became – in my not very well head – an asset, rather than an illness.

And it was hard to challenge this.

Eating disorders feed off insecurity. They thrive on the ‘there’s nothing special about me I’m nobody’ idea, the kind of low self esteem that demands acknowledgement and recognition. Anorexia gets you noticed, it makes you somebody.

The culture, at the time, concurred. TV crews in EDUs, magazine articles, documentaries, celebrity sufferers: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

And it kind of stuck.

Anorexia became – in my head – the thing that made me stand out, the characteristic (for want of a better word) that defined me. It was what made me feel special.

It’s a dangerous point to reach.

When you start thinking that anorexia makes you somebody, it’s not long before you conclude that, without anorexia, you’re nobody.

And then you’re really in trouble.

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