The Scream

I can tell you this now.

It’s the loneliness that will get you.

Not the hunger, or the worrying, or the rituals, or the paranoia.

Not even the fear of getting fat.

It’s the loneliness that’s the real killer.

The longer you’re ill, the worse it is.

It makes sense really; time is a precious commodity and there’s only so much waiting for recovery that people can take. Life may stop for you – but it keeps on going for the rest of the world.

The irony is that you want to be left alone for the first bit. You want people not to ask and not to worry and not to expect anything.

Don’t worry. They’ll stop.

Being lonely hurts. It’s a strange mixture of childlike neediness and Munch’s The Scream. Edvard got it spot on. It’s so painful that it’s nearly overwhelming. It’s also a natural consequence of an eating disorder. On so many levels.

Stage 1: secrecy and shame. You hide what you’re doing (because what will they think?) and you don’t want people to see what you’re up to (because they might just try and stop you); so you make up excuses (no I’m already busy at the weekend), and skirt around the truth (or just blatantly lie), to manufacture a little distance. To make sure that you’re left alone.

They’ll keep asking for a little bit.

Stage 2: the patient syndrome. After stage 1 has been going on for a bit and people have begun to work out – despite your best attempts – that something’s not right, patient syndrome kicks in. Out comes the white kidgloves, the censored conversations (oops, we must have forgotten to invite you) and the edited invitations (don’t worry about coming for the meal, just pop along before for a bit).

But that’s what you wanted, isn’t it?

Stage 3: the patient syndrome (ii). A progression. When you’re too ill to even pretend. When you’re so sucked in to the wonderful world of eating disorders that you stop worrying about what’s going on around you. Outside, the wheels keep turning. You might not notice it, but life is going on.

Without you.

Until.

Stage 4: The Scream.

You notice it.

The pain is tangible. It’s a hollow ache with searing pangs of regret and desperation. It’s “another country” – to quote LP Hartley –“They do things differently there”. And it’s not even the past. It’s the present.

It’s like listening to a language you don’t understand.

It’s like standing on the wrong side of a glass door.

It’s like waking up and not knowing where you are.

As I said, the loneliness is the real killer.

Going back into the world

If you want help with feeling like this, visit the ‘Someone to talk to’ page.

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