Anorexia is a deadly illness, and it’s very difficult to explain to onlookers why those who have it are so often drawn back to it, despite how miserable it makes us.
A big part of its pull is the lies it tells us along the way – and it’s a very good liar. There’s always a ‘but’ when you’re trying to tell it why you don’t want to relapse.
One thing that anorexia has always told me is that people will value me more if I’m thin. I’ll be more interesting, more attractive, more likeable, more respected. People will be proud of me, admire me, even be jealous of me. What an amazing achievement being able to starve myself to death is – my greatest achievement to date.
But this is just one of many of anorexia’s lies.
Did people really think I was interesting when all I could talk about was food and my eating disorder? Did they like me more when I ruined their plans by not being able to go out to eat or drink, or by cancelling last minute because I had to exercise? Did it make people jealous that I looked like a walking corpse and that I didn’t smile for months? Were people proud of me for having to take six months off work so the day hospital could teach me to eat again? Did crying over a tablespoon of yoghurt in a ramekin garner respect? Did people consider anorexia impressive, or is it recovery that’s actually an achievement?
Anorexia lies and lies and lies, whatever it can do to keep you. Starting to recognise those lies is the very first step, because it’s once you see through them that you can start to challenge them. So many people over the time that I’ve been in recovery have told me how much more fun I am, and happier I seem, and how much better I look. Full of life and creativity and intelligence. Becoming more than just a walking eating disorder and growing every day into a person of substance and depth and personality. Reaching my potential.
My boyfriend told me he used to put his hand to my chest in the night because he feared I’d die of a heart attack in my sleep. My mum said I was so frail it frightened her and my dad said he was scared to look at me. My friends entirely lost me. Work told me that they feared I would pass out at any given moment. I had resigned myself to the fact I might die, but felt that I would rather die than gain weight.
That’s an incredibly scary place to be, but because anorexia is such a good liar, it made perfect sense at the time. Of course I would rather die than gain weight, because gaining weight would mean I became a person that people would be ashamed of, and judge, and dislike. Why would I want to gain weight when I knew with such confidence that it would make me unlovable, unbearable and useless? I know now, more than ever, that not one of those things is true.
Now I am back, and I am not listening to anorexia’s lies anymore.