I ate last night, and I’ve eaten today. All the situations I’ve had food were ones when I was catching up with friends or family- juice box and water after a walk with mum yesterday, curry and cake, ice cream and fruit for a dinner with friends last night, pita breakfast wrap with dad this afternoon. I’ve been making up excuses to avoid eating and socialising for a couple of weeks now, and yesterday I just cracked. Now I’m paying for it. I feel like shit. I feel weak and stupid and ashamed for breaking. I feel like I have to choose between having a social life or having a body that I can stand living in.
Last time I was starving like this, I was twelve and I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t have a job or go out to parties or play team sports. I didn’t invite friends home at all because home was a really awful place to be. I did everything I could to avoid most of my family. Basically I was a loner and that suited the Neg Voice just fine, because the weird eating patterns required for this ‘thing’ (eating disorder? survival mechanism? distraction from reality?) basically went unchallenged. A little lie here and there, occasionally hiding food, no big deal.
My life is different now. Yay for not being twelve anymore, and never having to be twelve or in be in high school or live at home ever again. I go to university. I work and volunteer. I talk to people and get involved in things and generally live rather than simply existing. One of the few things hanging over from that childhood time and into life now however- one of the last barriers to ‘growing up and getting on with life’- is that I still despise my body. And I still use food (or lack of it), in varying ways and with varying severity, as my way of coping.
I treasure the large circle of friends I’ve built up since coming into adulthood. They represent all the different intersecting aspects of my life- university, work and volunteering colleagues; current and former housies; circus friends; netball team-mates; people in the queer community; fellow activists; old and dear friends who I’ve known since childhood. I like going to events and parties with these people. I love talking to them and hearing about their lives and experiencing the world with them.
But can you see? All these social interactions, all the people and activities in my life that make me feel good, they all involve a degree of food and eating as a way of connecting. It’s a basic social convention to get together with people and share food with them. So when I’m starving and restricting, I can’t do that. I just can’t do it without feeling totally shit. There was a brief window last night- when my body was basically singing with gratitude about finally getting some decent nutrients after so long- where I could ‘see’ how much more alive and interactive I was I was with a bit of food in me. It was like I was high. But high on life, not high on starvation, which is a foggier, more jittery state.
It was so brief, and I can’t see it now. All I can think now is oh shit oh shit oh shit why did I eat I’m an idiot. I just want go be back to being empty. But only the pure, strong emptiness that comes with starvation is good enough now- not bulimia, the kind of fake, dirty ‘cheat’s way out’ empty. The Neg Voice is really really loud. You COMMITTED to this! You said you wanted not to feel anything! You are so WEAK. If you want to do this you have to put up with isolation. Who would even WANT to be with you? You’re DISGUSTING.
And that’s how it seems to be. It was easy to live in an isolated way at twelve. It’s so much harder now but I’m just going to have to become better at negotiating it. Because starving and restricting are the only things that make me feel OK. Starving does things for me that friends and other interaction can’t do. It makes me empty, makes it really easy to focus on the present. Just hold on one more hour until you eat. Now you’ve done that, you can do another hour. You can do it. It blankets over the trauma so I don’t have to be confronted by it every day. It keeps me floating above myself rather than living in this awful body, which is good, because I don’t think I can cope any other way.