My eating disorder was a consummate liar. It had a few lines that always kept me stuck. I tried, (when I was feeling brave enough), to argue the point; but there was always an element of “what if I’m wrong” that made me play along.
Archive for the ‘Living With an Eating Disorder’ Category
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.
I thought that I had reached my limit and exposed all the deep, dark secrets of my eating disorder. That I had probed every sensitive area, and subjected each to my ridiculously exaggerated analytical-lens.
Nope. I still manage to shock myself.
They keep coming, thick and fast, like unpleasant discoveries or bruises that are so deep they are only felt when you push the exact spot.
This post’s on possession. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of; but it might lessen – this possessiveness – if it is acknowledged and moved on.
I have broken my golden rule: blog is base.
In all the hype, and indecision, and shall-I-shan’t-I-ing, I have forgotten that everything starts here.
And so, to connect the dots, I want to include this video, even though some readers may have stumbled across it on other mediums. And, because it’s part of the story, whether I am proud, or embarrassed, or just a little red-faced about my nervous twitching around, I feel that, albeit belatedly, it belongs here.
The whole size zero issue wasn’t something I anticipated exploring and only tinged my eating disorder experience; however, you can’t change the debate if you’re not part of the discussion; and, whilst I certainly never saw myself doing this kind of thing 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have realised how rewarding it would be if I hadn’t given it a go.
This is only part of a wider talk, including some really important information from Professor Janet Treasure, that can be accessed at Gresham College’s site. I have also spoken on ‘Moving Maintaining Factors’, although it wasn’t (to the best of my knowledge!) filmed; and hope to do many many more.
The questions and discussion time has been the most rewarding aspect and, unfortunately, these aren’t captured here; but they did inspire this post on the ‘How do I Help? Question’ and informed some of the issues I have blogged about. Most importantly for me, they have helped to salvage some value or meaning from my experiences, and made me feel that I might be able to start using the past more positively.
I have been asked to talk about the things that kept my eating disorder going for so long. The ‘maintaining factors’, in medical speak.
It is difficult to answer this now, when the reality of so many lost years feels like an open wound, and, if I could go back and violently shake my previous selves, I would.
It is hard not to turn to myself and say, yes, Melissa, what exactly did you think you were gaining from choosing an eating disorder over the things that most people aspire to, like jobs and husbands and families and friends…
Maintaining factor 1: Oblivion
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.
The recession has taught us some important lessons: actions come with costs and consequences; and, resources are finite – sometimes you have to make a choice.
I wish that I’d applied the logic a little earlier.
In an age of instant and ongoing gratification and when you’re used to living for the moment, either / or tends to be an afterthought; the consequences of any action too distant to consider –
– until it all comes crashing down.
An eating disorder makes you someone that you’re not.
Or so it felt.
Jekyll and Hyde and the multiples of me has been ringing around my head for all these years and I couldn’t explain it until I’d put some of the pieces back together; until I started to get re-acquainted with the real me.
Depression. It’s a loosely used term. It’s bandied around a bit, used to add a touch of drama. I’m guilty of the charge. I’d forgotten that drama feels far too draining when you’re depressed. I’ve become blasé with my terminology: you don’t take depression lightly.
It’s bitterly cruel.
It’s totally indiscriminate.
It’s an emotional and physical and mental hijacking.
“There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —
Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —
Anorexia is not very honest. It tells you things that aren’t true – you eat too much – and makes you tell other people things that aren’t true – I eat enough. Bulimia’s similar although the lies are slightly different. I imagine that other eating disorders operate along the same lines of deception.
It’s not a conscious deceit – it’s all about the illness taking control. If something tells you that black is white enough times, you start to believe it. At the very least, you start to question whether black is white.
Honesty’s hard when your minds being addled. When you’re lying to yourself, lying to others is path of the course. And it makes everything a whole lot easier.
Talking about an eating disorder is humiliating. You do things that you wouldn’t normally do.
Emily Dickinson didn’t mince her words. It’s bizarre to think that, even 100 years ago, people felt like I do. Strangely reassuring, particularly given the subject matter – imprisonment and isolation.
A prison gets to be a friend,
Between its ponderous face
And ours a kinsmanship express;
And in its narrow eyes
We come to look with gratitude
For the appointed beam
It deal us, sated as our food
And hungered for the same.
When you’re sick, you want to get better.
Unfortunately, it’s rarely that straightforward with an eating disorder. It’s never just an illness – it takes a while to even recognise it in this guise – and it’s hard to work out whether it’s a friend or an enemy.
Because it’s both.
The paradox screws with your head.
The dichotomy makes moving on and getting better a real challenge.
Ironically, it’s also the key to recovery.
Anorexia doesn’t just mess around with physical growth; it also screws up emotional growth. Putting on weight may sort out the physical side; but, in some ways, the emotional one takes longer to fix. 2 stone of physical growth may feel daunting. 17 years of emotional growth is even more so.
Particularly when you’ve become accustomed to keeping your emotions under wraps.
This is what my eating disorder was particularly adept at. It was one of its more honed skills.