My diagnosis was anorexia bulimia.
I am more aware, now, of the different diagnostic criteria, and how they’re all subtyped and divided. I don’t think they were so defined, when I started out, so I mistakenly assumed I was unique…
Or I simply wasn’t prepared to listen.
And so, instead, I seemed to inhabit a lonely kind of middle land, where the one – cancelled the other one – out. I am not anorexic because I binge and purge – and I am not just bulimic, because if you take away the bingeing and purging, there’s certainly no other eating going on under there.
Neither behaviour would admit to the other – and the denial certainly wasn’t challenged by me.
Over the years, the layers built up, like concrete, with one behaviour solidifying on top of the other. The longer I starved, the more my body craved food; and, the more I reacted to the craving, the harder it was to remember that my body was starving.
I would focus, when I had the energy, on a particular dimension, like trying to reduce the bingeing – only to realise that I was too damn scared to eat. Then, I’d swap to trying, slowly, to edge the food intake up; but I’d panic and find myself purging or crashing into yet another binge.
Each side would negate the existence of the other; so, more often than not, I’d end up convincing myself that both diagnoses must be wrong.
And so I got stuck.
I didn’t rocket from one extreme to another. They just came together and exploded, daily, in the same space; and, instead of dealing with the root of the explosion, I spun around trying to work out which symptom to hit first.
The bulimia always won out, in theory. It was expensive, and messy, and shameful, and degrading – but the anorexia, underneath, and the wasted body that I clung on to, kept triggering it back in. Round and round and round.
Eventually, I stopped fighting and agreed to a stalemate. No food during the day – and bingeing from 7 to 11. Split down the middle: a lethal truce.
You can stay there for a long time, though it feels like death and treads frighteningly close.
The world moves on, around you, while you’re pinned between two brick walls, screaming to break free –
Until the prospects become so frustrating that any progress, however imperfect, is better than the hopeless to-ing and fro-ing -
And, the focus shifts, almost imperceptibly, from a battle against the different behaviours, to a war against the illness, as a whole.
I think that this was where my recovery begun.