Anorexia divides you but its subtle. The anorexic voice in my new novel even has a name, Saima. It took me a while to work out that my inner voice had gone awry. Let’s face it how often do we share the machinations of our inner worlds? Not often. Why? Probably because we are ashamed of some of the thoughts and embarrassed by others.
The question is ‘her’ or ‘me’? And more importantly how do I recognise who is speaking?
Image source: http://thebluediamondgallery.com/a/anorexia-nervosa.html
This account is my personal experience. Yours may be different. I’m 58 and delving back into my adolescent years. That in itself may be a form of insanity. I’ve lived with the shadow of anorexia my whole life. It has impregnated everything. It knows all my secrets.
It began with wanting to be thinner and an offhanded comment made by mother. She meant nothing by it but her words landed full pelt, at a time of personal vulnerability. I made some changes. It began innocently enough. The inner voice which shared my childhood became a little more mature. Or so I thought.
I believed it. On the outside life continued normally. I went to school, helped around the house and did my utmost to live up to my parents expectations. An only child, I spent a lot of time with my mother. I loved and respected her but made the choice not to live my life by her yardstick.
The inner voice encouraged this line of thinking and in the 70’s when waif like body proportions were all the vogue, no one noticed. Magazines fed vulnerable minds a diet of beauty, tanning and skinniness. So simple changes escalated and over a couple of years and soon my plate was loaded with rituals and observances.
How did the descent happen?
One idea became two. Success in terms of weight loss became achievable. If a little change worked maybe doing more of that thing would get me to the end point sooner. Initially the success reinforced the fact that the inner voice was a friend with my interests at heart. I befriended the shadow.
I managed to get myself ensnared. I got tired, I also got thin, cold and anxious. The anxiety kept me in there. A perfectionist, I felt I had to keep up with everything. If I stopped, what would happen? My stomach would churn a bass note to my heart’s treble palpitations. I didn’t like feeling like this so I worked harder to avoid it, continuing to appease my inner demands.
I’d lost clarity. The inner voice of anorexia had enlisted my trust. It worked hard to sever the weak connection that I had with myself. It kept me busy, it screamed the loudest and in time it dominated my inner space. The soft voice of reason and self-love became lost to the chaos that had consumed this intelligent, beautiful, skinny girl struggling to become a woman. The anorexic inner voice ploughed on, demanding more and more until one day, I began to question its friendship. It kept expecting things, wanting me to miss out on things and had begun to leach joy and optimism out of me.
I realised that maybe It wasn’t really a friend, that maybe it had a vested interest in being there. Things were already weird: my relationship with food especially. And I’d become socially isolated but ditching the anorexic voice threatened to cast me adrift alone. The voice of discontent made itself known and I listened because I’d nearly run out of steam.
I couldn’t keep doing this to myself.
It was then, I realised that there was ‘her’ and there was ‘me’. ‘Me’ seemed the palest hologram, so far away that I thought at times, I’d imagined ‘me’. ‘Her’ had grown into an almost physical presence which fought tenaciously to keep me confused. I began trying to befriend ‘me’, a shy and wild thing that had been neglected for some years.
I found it had a voice which was much more loving and caring. It never asked me to do things that hurt, diminished or invalidated me. But by then, I’d grown used to treating myself in a very unloving manner and felt I deserved less. The unscrambling began. Although, I finally saw the distinction between ‘her’ and ‘me’, I struggled to build up the me aspect and put it in the driving seat of my life.
In times of stress, I defaulted to the same destructive choices over and over again. I see-sawed between well established anorexic practices and paralysing fear of change. The unknown and terror around food, eating yummy things held me fast for a couple of years. This time in my life was marked by constant inner conflict. It seemed hopeless. As fate would have it, it coincided with year 11 and year 12.
The main points of this post are:
- Discontent is a great sign, it’s the doorway to change
- The ‘me’ voice is there, make time to connect
- Nurture the new friendship with yourself
- Expect a backlash and deeply conflicted feelings
- Examine the fear, maybe some of the beliefs are not healthy
A word of caution, I have found that you can’t destroy the voice of anorexia. It is like a naughty child vying for attention. To move to a state of health, choose the other voice, the voice of ‘me.’
Please reach out: