We are programmed to forget pain.

This is a luxury of human biology but it makes it a little difficult to articulate an experience: the edge is softened with time.

Maybe this is why relapse happens (we forget how bad it really was); or why it’s so difficult to understand and empathise with the eating disorder experience.

Even I find it difficult to identify with my ill self now that I am a little stronger.

Starvation is like a physical pain. I’ve been trying to remember how it felt but you can’t visit the experience: it’s a place that you only enter when your body has exhausted the resources and been stripped bare.

I wouldn’t advise this.

Even though it’s been numbed, I am scarred by the effects.

Even though the hunger has been sated, the deprivation still lingers, ominously, in the background.

Starvation plays games with your mind. It wakes you up, at the three in the morning, and makes you question whether you have eaten something. It demands your attention so that every conversation and interaction and activity is carried out in body – because your mind is in other places thinking about food.

Hunger makes you desperate. It tells you that walking to the shops at one in the morning is a good idea, and it makes you forget to check for traffic. It deems every morsel meaningful, so that “just eating” doesn’t feel like an option – and “just food” no longer exists.

Fear makes it impossible to stop the starvation or feed the hunger. It makes you believe that one additional mouthful will be fatal; or that that the one last bit that you can feel –but can’t throw up – will be intolerable. It is the clenching of a fist or the winding of shock or the constriction of breath – right inside your gut.

This is the eating disorder trap: the fear creates the hunger – and the hunger feeds the fear.

It’s a state of perpetual anxiety that you can only understand when you’re caught in the loop –

And I wouldn’t advise this.

Because even though I can’t re-create the feeling, its impression lingers, painfully, in the background; making me wary around food and edgy around hunger.

And even though I can’t re-visit the intensity, the feeling of panic and the pain of pure terror has left a mark; making me look at the reality and articulate the experience –

Because we are programmed to forget pain.

And I don’t want to go back there.


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