Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Anatomy of Anorexia
Up the road to Schloss Hohenschwangau. It was bitterly cold, but beautiful as anything in your dreams.
Today, I felt that twinge that many women in recovery from anorexia speak of: that insatiable urge to just give up, give in and starve again. To let the demon I call Anorexia take over again and to let her decide how my life will go from day to day. No worries; there doesn't need to be any deviation from the planned day. If I just follow the plan, it'll be fine...
And I feel that I might have misled my readers into thinking that starving is just a feeling of power. It's not. It's really not. While thinking that you are "above base desires" like food (and you'll notice that, for many women talking about it, anorexia has an almost religious significance to it) does cause the feeling of strength, invincibility and invulnerability, calm, containment and power, it is not simply that. There's more to it.
See, when I was still actively eating disordered - rather than actively fighting it - and following "the rules", I didn't have to be afraid anymore. It wasn't just a feeling of fearlessness from starving... it was knowing that you didn't have to worry about your day, about your year, about your life if you just did everything right. That's why I call anorexia and eating disorders like it a "safety blanket". It's about control, yes, but only insofar as all our decisions are about control. Anorexia is so much more complex than that. Anorexia is about buffering the world's pain and influence on us; it's about making sure that we don't accidentally hurt anyone around us because of our perceived failures; it's about, in a sense, not having to deal with the consequences of our actions. It's about gaining approval because we're following the rules. It's about taking this tiny-yet-large facet of social acceptability and refining it into a science.
Fundamentally, it is about following the rules and trying so, so hard to make it so that others will see us as good people because we hate ourselves so, so much that we couldn't ever accept ourselves as we are.
This was my weekday when I was actively eating disordered:
7:00-8:30 Wake up. Weigh myself, clothes off, after going to the bathroom. Get stuff ready for school; make sure all the tea is in my backpack.
8:30-11:00/12:00 Find an empty room and sleep. If there are no empty rooms, go to class. (My school usually has empty rooms, and all of them have couches.)
12:15-1:00 Drink tea, preferably caffeinated to keep hunger pains away. Journal in my "ED diary" about how I'm a worthless pile of shit.
1:00-3:30 Go to classes.
3:30-6:00 Go home. Take a shower. If possible, take a nap to keep from eating. Eat only every 2 hours until 6:00. If calorie intake reaches 200, no more. If more than 200, exercise.
6:00-midnight Stop eating, only drink water. Weigh myself. Grimace and poke my body in the mirror. Also examine body to see if there is any noticeable change. (There never is.) Weigh myself again. Go to bed.
Naturally, because I had more access to it, on weekends I would weigh myself after every time I ate or drank anything but water and every time I went to the bathroom. My life literally revolved around my weight. In the beginning of my eating disorder (as opposed to disordered eating), if my weight was up in the mornings, I would loathe myself for the rest of the day. If it was down, I would experience a sense of euphoria and confidence, a feeling that became progressively shorter the longer it went on.
It went on for two years.
Admittedly, it's not as much as some and - I hate to admit this - I used to (and still do, to some residual degree) envy the girls who were hospitalized, who were diagnosed, who were watched over, who had been eating disordered much longer than I had. I used to envy them because, in my mind, they were more worthy of help i.e. respect and care and love. Because I was just a fatty. I thought that if I told anyone that I was starving myself, they'd laugh me out of town or just tell me to keep on doing whatever it was, because it was working. And you know what? They probably would have.
Besides, I told myself, I've made enough stress and problems for my family. I've always been the problem child, the largest cause of stress for any of them. I mean, fuck. I wasn't going to be so selfish as to heap more trouble and worry on them. So I stayed silent.
To this day, I haven't told them. I told my mother once, in a fit of tears, that I starved myself under 200 calories a day "for three months". She said, "What?" and to this day I don't know if she really heard me.
And you know, today, like all days since then, I have had Anorexia's voice in the back of my head, whispering that they won't have to worry, that they'll stop worrying, that they'll think I'm great instead of thinking I'm an invalid, that someone will finally... I dunno. Love me? That someone will love me enough to be there, and touch me.
Days like this, I'm silently screaming I want to be thin I want to be thin I want to be thin IwanttobethinIwanttobethinIWANTTOBETHIN inside my head. Because being thin, for me, means so much more than being a different person as noted in this post on Shapely Prose. It means that everything will be perfect like it never was. I won't just be a different person... I'll be a worthwhile person.
And it's just not fair that I can't stop thinking like that, like the world will be perfect when I'm thin because I'm thin.
That's why weight loss scares me so fucking much. THAT'S WHY. Because I am so fucked in the head that, if people start complimenting me again, it'll be another dose of a variant on that drug and I'll start starving and fasting and I will start hating myself again.
I just want to be happy without feeling like happiness = not eating. Because I know it isn't intellectually, but everything else tells me that it will, it'll be fine as long as I keep losing weight. That I'll only be worthwhile if I lose weight. That the world will only keep on turning as long as I lose weight.
I guess it's a little bit of arrogance to feel like that, but I can't help it. I can't help feeling like I need to be the one to save the world and that I'll do it when and because I'm thin. And tonight I really can't help that voice telling me that it's all true, that all the fucking lies of Anorexia are true.
God, I don't want to go back to that place.
I'm going to go get some cacao.
And a note: I do not claim to have had anorexia at any point because of the fucked-up medical standards used to identify it. If anything, I would have been diagnosed with ED-NOS, though my eating disorder was identical in all meaningful ways to anorexia.