Anorexia is a wily minx.
It’s incredibly good at tricking you. But the more years that pass that its presence in my life fluctuates, the better I am getting at working out when it’s twisting my thoughts. There are several ways in which it lies, all of which are dangerous and difficult to battle in their own ways.
I’m not sick enough.
This is something I think pretty much everyone with anorexia battles. Never, ever will you feel ill enough to start to recover, because the goal posts are constantly moving. You might tell yourself you’ll seek help once you reach a certain weight, only to reach it and see the target immediately shift. You might think you are too fat and therefore undeserving of support. Although I have sought help myself throughout adulthood, I have continued to be plagued by thoughts of being laughed out of the assessment because I wasn’t unwell enough to be worthy of treatment. I had the shock of my life when this time around I was told that I wasn’t far off needing an inpatient admission. I had ignored all the pleas and comments of concern from my family and friends, thinking they were being dramatic or over exaggerating. It wasn’t until I sat down with a professional and was told in no uncertain terms that things had reached a crisis point that it hit me. Despite this, anorexia thoughts crept in, telling me my case manager was lying just to trick me into eating more. This time around though, I was ready for those thoughts. Sometimes I believed them and sometimes I didn’t, but that in itself was a big step. I also made an agreement with the service to maintain my weight in the run up to day patient, and when I found myself able to do that anorexia snuck in to tell me I wasn’t deserving of intensive support anymore because I hadn’t continued losing weight. Those thoughts will be there nonetheless, the best we can do is notice them and challenge them for what they are. Lies.
I am immune to the consequences.
This is something that some refer to as ‘unicorn syndrome’, and something I have written about before in greater detail. The crux of it is believing that everybody else can suffer the side effects and consequences of anorexia except you. You don’t need to stop losing weight because you will be fine. You won’t get ill or die, because other people need food to survive but you don’t. It lulls you into a false sense of security and that’s exactly how we can justify what we are doing to ourselves. It’s okay that I’m starving myself, because none of those bad things will happen to me. I have always felt this way, which in part has been fuelled by the fact that I actually didn’t suffer many consequences since I was first diagnosed 17 years ago. That was until I ended up in the hospital. That was a terrifying experience, but even more terrifying is how quickly anorexia moves on from these incidents. Only a few days later was I feeling like it didn’t really happen, and that it most certainly wouldn’t happen again. I feel fine again now, so I must be fine. But that’s not how it works. Your body cannot sustain anorexia forever, no matter what it tells you.
I was happier when I was thinner.
This one is how it tricks you into relapse. Every single time anorexia has beckoned me, I have eventually succumbed, no matter how horrible it was the time before. It’s like it has a magic wand that it waves to plant false memories and make you forget. When I am more well and look back on anorexia, I remember people complimenting me on my body and my discipline. I don’t remember how concerned and hurt everybody that cared about me was. I remember feeling strong and in control. I don’t remember feeling anxious, depressed, lonely and completely and utterly out of control. I recall staring fondly at my thinner body in the mirror, something which never happened. I have hated my body at every size – I have never satisfied anorexia. If you remembered how awful it was being freezing cold and exhausted and lightheaded and in pain for such enormous chunks of your life, you would never relapse. So it makes you forget. It’s true that I have been able to tolerate my body more when I’ve been thinner, but I have not been happier. My size was smaller, but so was my world.
It can be hard from the outside looking in to understand why anyone would put themselves through the torture that is anorexia. I hope this goes to show how manipulative and destructive a force it truly is. But please remember, if you are experiencing these thoughts too, try to recognise them for what they are.
Tricks, deceptions and lies.