Do you ever think there is a switch in your head that seems to flip for no apparent reason. One day you think you’re doing fine and then at some point, maybe in that same day things change. Suddenly out of nowhere you’re no longer sure how you are expected to do something that only moments ago seemed natural. There are mornings I get out of bed and begin my routine of getting ready for the day. I make coffee, watch the news, have a shower, search for an outfit and then freeze, lost, not sure how to put my clothes on or what’s supposed to come next. It can happen mid-sentence, one minute I am in a meeting discussing something work-related and I blank, there is nothing, I don’t know what I am doing in that room, or what I am supposed to say. Or I can be making dinner, the same as I have every other night of the week, probably even the same meal and then I can’t do it. I can’t continue. I panic as I try to work out the steps that gets the food from uncooked to cooked to on the table to actually eating it. Something breaks down in that chain of events and I have no idea how I move forward. Anorexia feels like that switch is being flipped constantly. I spend months trying to rebuild myself after a fall/relapse, working through the anxiety and the fear as I try another unsafe food or increase the size of my portions. I go through the weight restoration and sit through lessons in nutrition and spend hours talking in therapy. Then all of sudden when I’m not really looking, the switch goes. The unsafe foods are back to being untouchables, the lessons forgotten, the therapy rendered useless. Occasionally it’s a false alarm, the knowledge drilled into me that much that it sits quietly waiting for me to remember it exists. It’s not always a false alarm though. There a times when it’s actually the beginning of something catastrophic again.
I remember the first time it flipped. I was 10. One day I was fine and then I wasn’t. At the time I couldn’t imagine how a person would ever become afraid of food or even that they could be. Food was just there, nothing to be overly considered. Yes I had a hatred for my body but I had no understanding on how that could be acted upon to change it. I sat in a dining room, in a guest house, on a school trip. They brought out dinner – I remember distinctly that it was lentil shepard’s pie – and something broke inside of me. I looked at it. I imagined eating it and I couldn’t. The tears they came out of nowhere. I had no words for them or comprehension. The only thing I was certain of was that if I ate that food then something terrible was going to happen. For three days, every time my teachers presented me with food I would cry. It was like I had forgotten how to eat. I was terrified of the very act. I didn’t know what it meant – I think back then kids were less exposed to the pressures that kids have today – but I knew it was something big. When I returned home I weighed myself, not knowing what I was expecting but expecting something. The numbers went down. Kept going down. When it was done, I felt this sensation bubble up inside of me which was a mixture of relief, euphoria and hope. I started to make the connections. The act of not eating, the result of not eating and the emotions that followed because of those results. All these things slipped and snapped into place. I had felt something good. I had escaped the pain I had been feeling daily, the constant chaos of my thoughts and the guilt of things I couldn’t speak of. Every now and again, it crosses my mind of what would have happened, if I had just gone home and not stood on those scales.
After the diagnosis though, after treatment part 1 and 2, I had learnt so much that I thought all those flips would become a thing of the past. Surely I had put myself through too much to fall prey to it again. I was wrong. It happened several times after part 2. Only briefly until at last not briefly at all. Treatment part 3…more lessons, more therapy, more words than I thought I owned and a tentative belief that I was done. No more flips. You’ll notice I am wrong a lot when it comes to Anorexia. I had the first one a few weeks after I was discharged, it was slight, barely noticeable and as quick as it came, it was gone. Just a false alarm.
This being that I do not know how I ever did the things I did post treatment. This being the flip again. It’s stuck though, because it only works one way and I do not have what it takes to drag myself through the lessons I have learned and make myself believe them again. I’m not sure where it leaves me. Not sure I actually want to know. I’m trying to figure out how I get through the day without losing or forgetting something else. I can live with this for now, I can’t live if I forget how to get out of bed.
I hope your day has been kind to you.