I never believed anorexia was an illness. I thought that it was who I truly was, I thought it was a choice I had made. But, I held that belief when it was thinking for me.
Now, I know it’s an illness. Now that I’m fighting its urges, breaking its rules and trying hard to be me again, I know that becoming anorexic wasn’t a choice I made. I don’t know how it happened or what wires in my brain have become frazzled or crossed but anorexia is not a path I chose.
This weekend Mum and I went to visit Granny. I’d been uncertain about going and had had a wobble in the morning when I tried on my pre-Ana jeans and they fitted me again.
Despite being confused and scared by how this made me feel I decided to try and block out Ana’s thoughts. I was going to make Granny proud of me. I was going to show her how ‘well’ I was doing.
At dinner that evening I was on form. We were laughing and chatting and I even had some gravy and a small bite of a roast potato. They were delicious! We followed dinner with some fruit cake and I let myself try some cheese and crackers. Yes, I was pushing it but I wanted to. I wanted Granny to be proud of me. I didn’t want her to know that I was still painfully blighted by thoughts of toxic food infecting me and making me swell. That I could feel my jeans hugging my waist and my thighs touching slightly and pushing against the seams. I wanted to enjoy a simple family meal. I wanted to enjoy cheese and crackers as they’re something we don’t have at home. I wanted to just be!
Mum and I share a room at Granny’s and I woke at 2:30am. Ana was swarming around in my mind. What had I done? Why had I been so weak…again. I’ll pay for it, she’ll make me pay for it.
I began to squirm as I felt the poison expand in my stomach. My breathing gained pace. I clenched my fists, feeling what was happening and trying to pull myself back.
By now my feet were twitching fast as I tried to fight the feeling of the poison spreading so quickly throughout my whole body. I continued to squirm and let out desperate groans. She’d got me.
Mum woke and asked several times whether I was ok and, of course, my response was a curt, ‘Yes, I’m fine’.
She got up, put the light on and pulled the sheets back.
I pulled myself tighter into a ball as she tried to coax me out of bed. I didn’t want to move. Moving would be fighting Ana. I had to just ride the punishment out. Mum’s tone changed from assertive but gentle to determined, not taking no for an answer.
I don’t remember walking down stairs.
I don’t remember Mum making us a cup of tea. I don’t remember her getting the deck of cards from the drawer and declaring that we’d play a game of patience together.
She held the cards in front of me and told me to shuffle. I pulled my knees to my chest and shook my head. I couldn’t be distracted from Ana. I couldn’t let myself walk away from her.
After three attempts I picked the deck up and began to shuffle.
For the next two hours we sat at the breakfast table playing cards. We laughed when I insisted on ‘helping fate along’ aka cheating! We laughed when Mum came up from behind me and surprised me by grabbing my twitching feet. She encouraged me to drink my tea even though I didn’t want to put anything inside me. We played cards until Ana realised that I was no longer paying her the attention she demanded and she quietened her voice and slackened her grip.
Mum clasped my hand instead and told me to look at the bond we made. She told me that we’re an extension of each other and we’ll help each other through. She won’t let me go as long as I hang on to her. We were a team, as we always have been. She pulls me back but that’s because I choose to let her.
The same thing happened the next afternoon at the dinner table and I left Granny’s with tears streaming down my face. We drove for miles with my hand over Mum’s on the gear stick as I tried to focus on each gear change.
At dinner tonight, despite it being a meal we’ve eaten hundreds of times and one I feel safe with, I felt Ana swarming into my stomach again. I was full and I didn’t want to be. I hated the feeling and the taste of food. With tears in my eyes I went upstairs and brushed my teeth until I felt clean.
I don’t want to be like this. Why is my mind attacking me in this manner? Why can I walk down a street one day and feel fine and the next day my eyes are darting from body to body examining, comparing and questioning.
Anorexia isn’t a lifestyle choice; it’s an insidious disease and the only tool I have to try and slowly cure my broken mind, is my broken mind.
This is the hardest game of patience I’ve ever had to play.