Today I had the call.
The call I have been desperate to get yet never quite ready for. Six weeks after my assessment with the eating disorder clinic, I reached the top of the list. I start treatment on Monday.
This has been both the longest and shortest six weeks. I had prepared myself in my head for this to start around the end of the year. I was told I was on the urgent list, yet in typical anorexia fashion I didn’t think I could be considered urgent. Not me, I’m not sick enough. I’m not thin enough. There are so many people worse than me. I don’t even deserve the coveted title of ‘anorexic’, reserved only for the thinnest and most disciplined of people. Even when I know it’s tricking me, it still manages to. I see the numbers. I know, rationally, that I am underweight. But because I am never underweight enough, I never feel worthy of those words. Anorexia nervosa. Not me, surely.
This all feels like it’s happened too fast. I’m not prepared. I thought I had a few more weeks left with my eating disorder, in my comfort zone, shrouded from my feelings by a cloak of numbers and reflections and body checks, never truly having to address whatever incredibly painful cause bubbles underneath and maintains its ever tightening grip on me.
I feel like someone is trying to rip my best friend away from me even though that’s also the thing I want most in the world. I am already angry with my therapist and I’ve not even met him yet. I’m angry with my boyfriend. I’m angry with my friends. Because every single one of them wants to take anorexia away from me, and sometimes I feel like it’s all I have that makes me who I am.
But that’s not me. It’s not ME who is angry, it’s anorexia. It has a life of its own and it knows I am cutting off its oxygen supply. It knows that with every bite I take and every kg gained, it is losing its power over me.
I have spent more years of my life anorexic than not. Some of those years have been at a ‘healthy’ weight, muddling through life in some sort of quasi-recovery, living out my days with an eating disorder that still allowed me to function, but not to truly live. Not to experience the freedom of making my own choices and decisions. Appearing well on the outside but still battling against anorexia with every thought I have, constantly second guessing myself. Is that my thought? Or is it my eating disorder?
And yes, it is MY eating disorder. It’s mine and I don’t want anyone to take it from me. But honestly, if someone doesn’t take it from me it will keep me until I am finally the best anorexic. But the best anorexic is dead.
I have fought against this for as long as I can remember. From when I, at age eight, started to become acutely aware of how much space I took up. From becoming a teenager and feeling the overwhelming urge to shrink myself infiltrate my every waking moment. Through day patient, outpatient and inpatient. Through CBT and psychotherapy and counselling. I have fought and fought and fought, but I have never won.
I have to. I have to win. I don’t have it in me to carry on this fight for the next five years, ten years, the rest of my life. A life which will undoubtedly be cut short if I continue to place my entire worth on my weight. I can barely muster the energy to go through this incredibly painful recovery process again, and I feel like this is my last chance. I might have another relapse in me, but I don’t have another recovery. This process is too hard to keep doing over and over again.
It’s now or never. And it can’t be never. It just can’t. I cannot spend the rest of my time on earth alive, but never truly living. I don’t want the thing people remember about me when I’m old is that I was thin. I want to be remembered for being a nice friend, a loyal girlfriend, a good nurse. When people think of me, I want them to conjure an image of someone who is energetic, independent and creative. I have at some point been all of those things, yet now when I imagine what comes into people’s minds when they think of me I just feel sad, because all I am right now is lifeless, selfish and boring. I am so, so boring, but my existence is boring. I wake up thinking of food, I fall asleep thinking of food. I dream about food. I spend hours and hours mindlessly staring at cooking videos and photos of all the ‘bad’ foods I can’t eat. I talk about food all day: what I am eating, what I want to eat, what other people are eating. I can feel myself being annoying but I am obsessed. Hungry, empty and obsessed. But hey, people think I’m thin so that’s all that matters, right? No one cares if I’m annoying or boring or sad, because they are all so proud of me for being thin. And those who say they’re not must just be jealous! I can’t be the only person who thinks being thin is the most admirable trait someone can have, because that would make me ill. And I’m not.
I want to lock myself in a room until I am better because I know that there are going to be times over the next few months where I will be horrible. I will be horrible to be around and I will be angry and I will be irritable. I want someone to force feed me my allotted calories because I don’t feel like I can be accountable for myself. I have already conjured up a hundred ways I can adapt my hypothetical meal plan, cutting 5 calories off one thing, shaving a gram of sugar off another. I’ve spent hours thinking about how to bypass snacks on a plan that has yet to be created. I am fearful of supplement drinks I’ve yet to be prescribed. Anorexia is scared.
On the other hand, I, Cara, have my own fears. I’m fearful that a lifetime of sporadic yet prolonged laxative, diuretic and diet pill abuse has permanently damaged my organs, and that I will never be able to eat a full meal without my body trying to purge it automatically. I’m worried that my bones are weakened, that my hormones will never stabilise, that my brain will never fully regenerate. I panic that I have permanently and irreversibly broken my metabolism beyond repair and that as such I am destined to either a life of being fat or a life of restriction. I’ve spent hours and hours reading journal articles, scientific studies and anecdotal evidence about how rare it is for somebody’s metabolism to not fully recover, yet still believing I am the exception to that rule.
I don’t trust my body, and after years of abuse it doesn’t trust me either. We need to repair our relationship with each other. I have always had a relationship with anorexia, but three’s a crowd and it has to go.
It’s not now or never.