Allow me to introduce my ‘friend’

Hello there, welcome to my blog šŸ™‚ I genuinely hope that given the subject matter, it finds you well. I didn’t really know how to introduce myself, or my experience of living with an eating disorder. Those of you who are reading this and living with one (or in spite of one) will know, it’s pretty damn difficult to articulate your thoughts and feelings when discussing your ED. Eventually it weaves through the core of you so it becomes difficult to discuss any kinds of thoughts or feelings at all. You become scared to uncover any parts of yourself, just in case you reveal too much. You second guess all interactions before long and everyone is a suspect, of what though… you have no idea.

I figured I’d start with the last 24 hours to set my own personal scene. I have managed to catch a cold and of all the areas I am a strong, independent woman in… well I tend to go to crap when I’m ill. I’m currently separated from my husband although we’ve recently decided to reconcile (it’s a work in progress) and yesterday, he lovingly volunteered to look after my whining, snotty face. I guess normal conversations would centre around ‘are you hungry?’ or ‘do you feel up to eating yet?’. So when my husband asks me these things, concerned at the shit state I’m in, it’s telling that he doesn’t frown at me when I start to panic that I don’t know what I want. Or if I want anything. And even if I do, just because I’m ill doesn’t give me permission to eat. Does it? But I’ve not physically moved today. I haven’t used calories. I haven’t earned it. But wait, I do feel kind of hot. Again, telling that he still doesn’t ask ‘WTF?!’ when I start googling ‘Should you eat more if you are ill?’ and ‘What does feed fever, starve a cold actually mean?’ in response to his trying to reason with me that I need to eat because I’m not well.

I thumb through the advice that IF I have a fever, I’ll be burning more calories. I am hot. I’ve been sweating all night. He’s got the windows open on my request which is genuinely unheard of from me. I’m always painfully cold. Being this hot for a change actually makes me feel irrationally furious. But then I am burning calories doing nothing which reassures me a little, that although I haven’t moved it’s ok. I’m ok. Lazy, but I’m ok. I settle on Tomato soup so he rushes out to the shop at rugby half time to buy it. 200 calories. Thats ok. I reassure myself, thats ok. I’ve got a fever. I have a tub of grated cheese by the side on the tray and I gingerly add some to the soup. I love cheese in soup. But I don’t know the calorie count of the amount I’ve put in. I look at my husband, he’s smiling with a sense of relief that I’m eating something. I feel guilty for my guilt (it’s a thing) and add a little more cheese. In my head I start to calculate a worse case scenario, ‘thats gotta be like 300 calories worth of cheese, I’ll round it up to 400 just in case’. I eat the soup at lightening speed, mentally coaching myself like its a bush tucker trial. It feels comforting for a moment, and then like I’m the biggest failure in the world as I stare at the bottom of the now empty pyrex jug. Coated in the fatty residue of that fucking cheese. Why did I do that? Why did I eat that? I didn’t need to eat that, I’m not even that hot. It excuses. I always do this. I’m pathetic.

I sit mulling over the awful decision to eat the damn soup as he watches England smash Tonga in the rugby. We’ve lived with this third presence in our relationship since the very beginning. He’s learned if he head on fights me on it, he becomes the enemy and I shut him down. So he coaches me, in like a ‘put the gun down sweetheart’ kind of way. He doesn’t stop reasoning with me if it’s vital I need to eat. I hate letting him down with it. The guilt feeds the guilt. I can’t win. I sit wondering if he can hear the voice screaming at me in my head, if he can feel me uncomfortably shifting around in my seat, feeling like I’ve contaminated myself. It’s been a bad week, I had to make a show of eating crap in front of people that I opened up to when I went through my last ‘danger point’. It was the worst I’d had in a while, I knew it and I knew I couldn’t hide it well. I didn’t want to lie anymore and as I sailed into underweight territory, I didn’t want to die either. So for the first time in years, I opened up. I felt instantly vulnerable, then ashamed, then stupid as my mind drifted back into ‘but theres nothing wrong, stop being silly’. Now, a whole half a stone back into a ‘safe point’ (I’m not worried I’m going to die in my sleep) when I see them, I act out my ‘Problem?! What, problem?!’ one woman show and eat the things a person with anorexia would never dare even sniff. They don’t know the mental torture I’ll go through to do it, or the punishment ED insists I carry out. It’s fine, I’ll fast for the weekend I tell myself. Only I got ill. My husband knows the punishment, he turns away while I’m drinking the laxative tea I’ve now convinced myself I must drink to clean out my insides. I look at him and feel as though I’ve failed him again. I know the tea doesn’t actually help me lose ‘weight’, but the insane stomach cramps and shits that follow throughout the night back at home on my own without him, serve as a self-inflicted lesson. I tell myself I’m glad it hurts. Think of this next time you want to eat. This is the side my friend here, doesn’t want you to see.

This morning, still feeling like I’ve been hit by a bus, I wake up, run straight to my scales. My heart sinks. Drink to shrink. Drink to shrink I repeat as I stagger downstairs and collect my delectable pint of water. I’m not eating today I tell myself. I walk passed the shopping bags of ‘treats’ my mum brought over yesterday, equally embracing the chance to shove calories into me while I’m hopefully feeling too awful to fight myself. I hide in my room all day, hopeful I’ll win the fight today. So far I have. Yet as I write this, I understand it isn’t me who’s won today. My friend has. There will be a day soon where you will ask me and I won’t introduce him as my friend. I’ll confide in you that he’s trying to control me. He’s trying to kill me. He’s watching me every second of everyday and he’s only nice to me if I do as he wants. I think it’s a he so I can see him as absolutely not me, nope, that conman, manipulator, liar, punisher… thats not me. It’s not. I’ve learned to live with his constant insults, his judgement, his anger and disappointment. He loves me though, he’s there when everything else is falling apart. He’ll make me a better person. But when I hit the targets he sets, he keeps moving those goal posts. Nothings ever good enough. He’s only happy when I’m empty. Only then do I get the peace I crave.

I’m thinking of the reasons why you’d be reading this blog. Perhaps you too are living with that permanent nagging, narrative in your mind. Perhaps you just want a little insight. I’d like to start by saying that no matter how an eating disorder is currently present in your life, be it yourself, a friend, a family member or maybe an employee, you are not alone. As someone who has an eating disorder, sometimes that can serve as the most simplest comfort to me when I find myself embedded in my seemingly solitary psychological trench, to know I’m not truly the only one who understands what this life is like. Sometimes hearing the suffering of others only convinces me, recovery is futile. But thats ED talking. I know it is. It has to be.

If someone has reached out to you about their eating disorder, don’t be shocked or disheartened if even as soon as the very next hour they decide that whole confession was actually just stupid. They don’t need help. They don’t want help. They become defensive and sometimes nasty. That person is not the one that reached out to you in the moments before. That ED has detected a security breach and it is frantically sending out an army for damage control. Don’t take it personally. And please, don’t give up on them.

This blog is here to help give insight to those who need to reach out, or live with a loved one that has an eating disorder. I’m not in a place of empowerment right now, but I know something has to change. It’s been a part of me so long and in so many ways that I’m more scared to discover who I am without it. This is me exposing it’s ugliness to the world. If you are reading this and you feel as boxed in by your ED as I often do, I want to show you, you aren’t alone.

It is my best friend and worst enemy all rolled into one invisible presence. Its as simple and as complicated as that.

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