Sunday, October 24, 2010
A Greater Understanding- Anorexia
This is the latest in my "Greater Understanding" series. These posts introduce things in life that many of us may never experience, through the words of some of you who live them. They're not always comfortable to talk about, not always pleasant, but I really believe we need to open more dialogue if we're ever to understand what people are going through. It's the only way to create empathy and compassion. If you have experienced or are experiencing something you'd like to help others understand, please drop me an e-mail. I promise to keep you anonymous.
As the title indicates, this post has been written by someone who is battling anorexia. I've only recently met her, yet in a very short time we've forged a close connection. Knowing someone so unselfishly willing to give, to turn their insides out, has been an intense experience. It's something I hold tightly to. Knowing, knowing...
This is her life in her own words, exactly as she wrote them to me. No edits.
"There have been days where, astonished, I've realised that I seem to be, forever, completely,
engulfed by this wondrous disease. Anorexia, my mind will whir; the sweet word rolling around my tongue hotly, dangerously. It seems absurd. Nothing is forever, is it?
Then the thought will have vanished, just as a speck of dust caught in the wind. A slippery thing, I never gave the word a second thought; for how could any one person's entire existence be fit into the definition of one word?
And the day will go on, seasons will change, the seconds will pass; time stops for no one. I am simply one spot, in the cogs of time, in the work of life. Perhaps I will think of it again tomorrow, perhaps I will think of it again next year.
But that word, and all that it brings; the sudden realisation, that I am a diagnosis. I am tainted, I am tweeked somehow, so that I differ from the others, I differ from what they call Normal, Healthy. I am Anorexia, and all of it's symptoms, its' weights, it's responsibilities and rules, the terms and regulations; I am suddenly nothing, but a statistic.
How can an entire life; and entire person, for that matter, be changed so definitely and completely, in the split second of a thought stumbled upon accidentally? No, no it can't be right. Perhaps something else.
So I will continue on, through my day; the endless rhythm I am defined by. I wake, eyes crinkled, face creased with the folds of the pillow, the tosses and turns of a disturbed, dreamless sleep, prepare the corners of my body, pack my school bag and pack my thoughts; all folded neatly, and contained, in the bag and the mind that I prepare to take to school. Zipped, and sealed, carefully placed, careful so that none of the delicate belongings I cling to will spill out, vulnerable to the rest of the world. Most precious belongings shoved to the bottom of my bag, just as the most fragile of my thoughts are buried beneath those layers and layers of others.
It is an unspoken rule; one I have known and acknowledged since I learnt the difference between thoughts spoken aloud, and thoughts kept inside. Those that are vulnerable, should be kept inside; deep, deep inside. Those that are accepted, should be spoken out loud.
There wasn't a single day I realised I was, had become, or had always been perhaps, 'Anorexic'.
I am forever realising it again and again.
The lovely distortions I see reflected in the mirror.
The pale of my once olive skin, the fading of my once pink cheeks.
The dull of my hair, and eventually, what I will come to terms with; the loss of my hair.
The ridiculous way my body will grow hair over my smooth skin to keep warm when I am forever trembling, but have not the strength nor the nutrition to keep the hair on my head.
The blue of my nails, of my fingers.
The blood I will spit in the sink, the weak cough that will lead to this frail body buckled, trembling under the force of something that had begun as small as a cough.
The tears I haven't the strength to cry.
The cold, that will keep by my side through thick and thin, through winter and summer.
The days and nights spent hating myself.
Wishing for sweet release, for escape. For death.
And yet here I am; spidery thin fingers whirling across these keys, sipping iced water, unflinching, unmoved.
I know all this.
Hair pushed back, limp and thin. Cut short, because I couldn't bear to see such long, beautiful hair lose its' shine with every day
I continued living.
Nails cut short, because the less I have, the less there is to look after.
I know, I know.
I am the prettiest contradiction; a girl lost in a world she hates, and enveloped in an obsession she ridicules.
Perhaps it was the day I cried, a sweet, ripe age, perhaps maybe seven at the most, for hours in my room, such bitter, mean words spat at me from the cold lips of my father. Lazy, fat, slob, all of it. Or perhaps it was the day I stood, shivering in my underwear, in front of my new full length mirror, years afterward; the tremendously fragile age of fourteen, those same words stirring in my own mind, from my own, pink, naive, lips.
Perhaps, perhaps. Is there any one day I decided to diet, to begin that never ending diet?
Is there any consolation in the swelling of pride I so willingly become enveloped by, each time my jeans slide down my hips a little further, a little easier; each time I return to the clothes store, a size smaller? Did I sell my soul for a size zero pair of denim jeans?
The blood that runs through my veins is tainted, it has been poisoned with something I cannot live with, yet somehow cannot live without.
There are those who will not recover, there are those who do not want to recover.
Those souls who have sworn themselves to the lovely Goddess, Ana.
Those, who know nothing of themselves, but of what they cannot eat, what they cannot drink.
Deprivation becomes everything, in a world where indulgence is for the weak, dependence is for the damned.
We don't need food, they will whisper proudly, in the dark of the night.
We need nothing but air, and water.
And when that heavy feeling floods their stomach with each sip of water, they will whimper, realising again and again that they need to be empty, to be pure. Suddenly, water becomes poison.
A diet of 200 calories which turned into 100 calories, only then to slowly slide to zero calories, is somehow more than a diet, more than a phase. A lifestyle, perhaps.
I won't lose myself, I whisper, in the dead of the night, over and over again.
I, will not, lose myself.
Recovery is dangerous.
Recovery can pull you from the depths, and bring you back to life. But if gone about the wrong way, Recovery can simply bring you above the surface, give you a gasp of that sweet, full air, then throw you over the edge of the cliff, and watch you plunge deeper than ever before, into the icy cold waters of Anorexia.
Recovery needs to be planned, to be measured, to be precise.
We fear venturing to the kitchen for a sandwich, because we are terrified we will devour the entire cupboard.
Those of us who have tried recovery, tried again and again, have lost hope, and found hope again... Those of us who are
still to try again, I have hope for.
But for now, this is what we've got, this is all we've got.
We are okay, because we need to be okay... Because if we're not okay, then what have we got?
There isn't a day I can pinpoint when I became the property of Anorexia. There isn't a day that I'm even completely sure, that I am.
Nothing is certain in life; nothing is certain in Anorexia.
Perhaps what I fear is that I will wake in the morning, for this to all have been a diet; simply, a diet. To have lost so much, to a diet.
Though again; perhaps what I fear the most, is that I will wake, and realise entirely... That this is not a diet, at all. And I will fall, completely hopeless, faithless... To the certainty, of such a realisation.
We float in the uncertainty, waiting for a better tomorrow. For a stronger today.
We float about... And for the moment, the most important thing is, that we are here".
To the sweet soul who wrote this, you're defined not by your disease but by your friendship. You've found strength in the face of weakness to fight through until tomorrow. And tomorrow again.
I hope to share many, many more tomorrows with you.