I wrote this in my posting dated 22 August 2012:
“I have one strong voice telling me that I’m in control, happy and healthy and it’s ok not to have lunch, or just have a yoghurt or Ryvita for lunch because I feel fit and well and my body doesn’t need the excess calories.”
The very next day was the wake up call I needed and, more importantly, must not forget.
Last week was a busy week. Whereas usually I intersperse my days resting at home with a couple of days out in town, last week I was dashing about in town every day. This meant getting up at 5.30am for breakfast, then maybe an apple mid-morning, a fat free yoghurt and perhaps some fruit at lunch and then home for an evening meal. That was what I always used to do. I’ve never eaten out at lunchtime and my body could always handle it.
Thursday was different.
I went into town on a breakfast of three slices of wholemeal toast (I love bread and decided to ‘treat’ myself to an extra slice as I knew I could burn it off walking about).
I then went to Starbucks for a coffee and later met a friend for coffee at lunchtime, when I had a Chai Tea Latte. Sometimes I take this milky drink as my lunch, telling myself that it has carbohydrates, protein and calcium, approximately 250 calories, and so is a ‘balanced lunch’ (!)
As I left my friend and walked (power walked) back into town I started to feel what I can only describe as drunk. My eyes didn’t feel quite connected to my brain. I couldn’t quite get a grip on what I was seeing, I felt that I was processing it with a second or two’s delay. My body didn’t feel connected to my head. I was walking but didn’t feel I was part of my body. I felt like the messages weren’t getting to my brain with the zippy speed they usually do.
Food. I knew I needed something to eat. But, why? I’d had eaten the same, if not a little more than I had yesterday and I’d done the same amount of walking, so why did I feel like this?
I dug into my bag for my extra apple thinking the sugar would give me the kick I needed. I didn’t feel the rush.
I went and bought a tub of yoghurt, ate it and waited for the rush. It didn’t come.
I sat on a bench waiting for my body to reconnect with my head again. I kept telling myself not to be so weak, that I was just tired after only a few hours sleep the night before. But, that was ‘Ana’ speaking.
My voice tentatively put forward another suggestion: I simply hadn’t eaten sufficient. Whereas my body normally puts up with running on a near empty tank (and I like that feeling), its fuel light was now flashing vigorously and it was stalling. My body wasn’t going to stand for it anymore and it was giving me the message frighteningly loud and clear!
I told myself to pull it together and go to the library, which is where I’d been heading.
The entrance to the library is through a stunning Victorian hall, with decorative tiling, grand archways and marble columns. Once a reading room for the library it is now home to a charming cafe, offering a selection of delicious homemade salads, soups, sandwiches and cakes.
I cast my eye over the counter and carefully considered each of the options. My gut (excuse the pun!) was telling me I needed more food. This was nothing more than fuel. Ana said, I’d already eaten two apples, a yoghurt and the latte, how much more could I possibly need!?
Salmon salad: No. Soup: Can’t. Sandwiches: Absolutely not! Cake: Don’t deserve it.
I sat by the window as the tears welled up. I was hungry, so very hungry and tired. I couldn’t move. The tears overflowed and rolled down my cheeks. I needed fuel but couldn’t bring myself to put anything in.
I felt utterly alone, lost and confused. Who could I talk to?
I could call my dietician, but she probably would be in an appointment and Ana persuaded me not to.
I could call my Mum and she would give me the nurturing, rational words that I needed to hear so badly. Those words would give me the permission to eat, to fuel up. But Ana told me that if I called her and admitted this weakness then that would give Mum ammunition; another example to throw back at me when I’m telling her that, ‘I’m fine, I eat enough in relation to what I do’.
But I was frightened and I couldn’t move.
I called Mum and broke down. My Mum is truly wonderful. How she knows instinctively how to act in and react to a situation like this I don’t know.
When I told her that I was trembling with hunger but couldn’t eat anything in the cafe all she said was,
‘Stay there, I’m coming to get you. Your salad is here and you can eat that.’
We were driving to visit relatives that afternoon and would arrive too late for dinner so I had prepared a tuna salad earlier which she had in her office.
She dropped everything at work and came. She has done this too many times for me over the last 9 months. In the moment, she doesn’t lecture, she just rescues me. Yes, we then discuss it later but she never judges.
I ate the tuna salad and half a bread bun (under duress!) which Mum bought for me as my salad contained no carbs (of course it didn’t!).
As my sugar levels normalised, Ana got her voice back and she’s been nagging me ever since:
“That was just a blip because you were tired.”
“You don’t always react like that, you’re stronger than that.”
“Keep being strong, you don’t need all these extra calories, they’re just going to fester in you. You like the feeling of running on almost empty.”
“Nobody else has eaten lunch. Stop listening to your tummy’s grumbles. If you ask for food, you’re indulging in greed.” – Nodbody else had eaten lunch because they’d had a cooked breakfast for brunch. I’d had 25g of porridge made with water and some chopped fruit.
But being honest with myself, I didn’t like crumbling into tears like that. In that moment I hated being a prisoner to the anorexic regime. Why couldn’t I just eat?! It wasn’t greed, it wasn’t indulgence, it wasn’t a treat, it was desperately needed fuel!!
As part of my therapy sessions I have to consider the benefits of living with Ana and what will happen if I leave her behind.
1. Living with Ana gives me:
1.1 Control; strength; protection; a feeling of empowerment.
1.2 Panic attacks; confusion; exhaustion (physical and mental); guilt.
2. Living without Ana would give me:
2.1 Liberation; the ability to care for myself with no guilt; a feeling of empowerment through owning my body and my mind completely.
2.2 Fear; a sense of weakness; a lack of purpose, a loss of control.
The words listed at 1.1. are false perceptions: I am not in control, Ana controls me; I am not strong, Ana is; I am not protected, I am vulnerable and Ana is destroying me; Iam not empowered, I am subservient to Ana.
So what does Ana really do? She causes all those feelings listed at 1.2, she makes me unhappy, unhealthy and a mere shadow of myself.
What will living free from Ana really do? I won’t be weak, I’ll have taken positive, healthy control. I won’t be lost, I’ll have a healthy focus, I’ll be living for myself! I’ll be free, happy and able to live a whole life.
I’m starting to see the shining light of an Ana-free life. I had it once and I was so content!
I’ve been increasingly ‘talking the talk’ but I haven’t been ‘walking the walk’ and I need to get serious! I need to stop trying to recover and instead recover!
‘Recover’ is a verb, a ‘doing’ word, and I need to do some doing!
I’ve been reading the accounts of others who are going through, or have been through this battle (I’ve put links to their sites here) and their words, together with my slowly increasingly strong voice are awakening a determination in me.
I do want to be free. I am scared to challenge Ana but I don’t deserve to be her slave.
The battle will be exactly that; a battle. I’ll hurt, I’ll wonder whether I can do it, I’ll wonder why I’m putting myself through it and I’ll be scared.
But, I’m going to be the victor. There’s no way that I’m not. I know I’m a strong character, I’ve worked hard in the past to get where I am today.
It’s time to get serious and put me first.
I now have to hang on to and apply this sense of determination and will in every second of the day and that will be the hardest part.