April 2020

It has been a long, hard winter. A winter of restriction and of desperation; a winter where I returned to starvation because I thought – yet again – I had found the answer in my own diminishment, where I strove for a painful state of perfect. The winter was concrete grey. Flat.

And now, we live in a strange locked away world where fear is everyone’s and nobody knows when it will end. Outside – where we’re barely allowed to go – doesn’t know this. Outside, it is spring. I can hear lawnmowers and birds. One day has that sharp, sweet scent that only accompanies the very first days of the season, the next I am able to detect that it is sweeter; less sharp, as though the season is settling. The Sun comes out, briefly at first, and then shines altogether so that we can unlock the conservatory doors and I can take my socks off, warming my feet against the leather of a beanbag whilst I crochet.

And, with the arrival of spring has come a fight. A fight against a virus, but also a fight I didn’t know I had inside me. A fight that I had presumed lost, or as good as pointless. 

A fight that I had forgotten, numbed into stasis by false belief.

It is strange that I mirror the spring. Strange but fitting all the same. 

That I have begun to fight is, I am reassured, imperceptible to the outsider looking in at the body I fear so much. But I am not an outsider: I am a conquerer and I am reclaiming my body as my own. 

Like pokey crocus heads in reverse, I notice my hips bones disappearing back into soft flesh; my stomach become rounder, my tummy button less hooded by strained, taut muscle. I can walk up the stairs without aching. I’m not going to lie, I hate it. I cannot live with myself. I hate my body. I hate myself. I am embarrassed to be in my own skin. But, at the same time, I realise that that has to be the answer. I realise that I have to embrace those feelings and hold onto them, because I have to cling to the knowledge that these feelings are wrong and foreign, and I have to understand that they are happening because I am ill. I have to hold the belief because otherwise I will forget again; otherwise there will be no fight left. I have to hold onto the understanding that it is an illness that makes me feel this way. 

I must realise that I am different, but must also realise that I am the same. I am not fat: I am anorexic. As much as I wish to break free of the constraints of that label, first I must embrace it. To untie myself, I must first accept that the knot is there, then I must believe that I am able to loosen it.

The problem has been that I have been far too deep in the anorexia. I have been hoodwinked by its guile. It has twisted itself around my brain and I have – hook, line and sinker – marched to its tune: I have come to believe that I am fat; I am fat; I am fat, when – of course – what I need to believe is that I am anorexic.

And, so, I take little risks. Biscuits. Cake. Crisps. Semi-skimmed milk in my tea. The anxiety mounts as I continue with these forays into the unknown, but the anxiety was always going to mount. If anything – and if there is one – now is a good time to be anxious because, for the first time ever, people understand what it means: how it feels.

I know I must push through it but it is hard because I know that, if I am going to win this time, I cannot stop: I must keep going. I know that there is to be no turning back, no compromising with the illness. It must be a decision echoed by my future self. And the future – as it is to all of us – is a terrifying place.

So I do the most radical thing that I can: my therapist is leaving anyway, but I discharge myself. It is painful and scary and I wonder every day whether I have done the right thing, but I also know that I have to be my own hero; I have to save myself because nothing else works. Sometimes, talking won’t help. This time, it has to be about action.

I go back to basics and I embrace what I know to be good: crocheting, audiobooks, real paper books, jigsaws, conversations. All of these things need concentration to enjoy, and concentration requires a mind not dulled by lack of sustenance. I know that these things will unfurl me; will allow me to wake up and appreciate the feel of the sun and the smell of the spring, and they do.

It is not surprising – or maybe, if you have never been here, it is surprising – how dulled one becomes through hunger. It is as though whole seasons have not existed – have been ignored – in my pursuit of thinness. For me, it is always the seasons. I love nature: I find that, every time I return from the depths of my own mind, it is what urges me to keep going. 

The language of nature thrills me: I think about heucheras and aquilegias and let the words sit in my head.  This is distraction at its finest. This is where my head needs to be: far away from calories and fat contents. I wonder where persicaria got its name and what makes it such a pleasing word to say. I sit with persicaria for a long time: it sounds like a journey. Sisyrinchium, a character from Dickens. The thoughts are pointless – absolutely pointless – but it helps.

The point, however, remains that this will not be a quick fix. I will not wake up cured. I will probably not always even be able to remain in this space of lucidity. There will be further periods of concrete grey restriction and of times when I disconnect myself from the world – the beautiful world – to retreat into thinness. 

But, for the moment, I am here.

And that’s OK.

4 thoughts on “April 2020

  1. So to answer your thoughts : Persicaria is derived from the Latin name persica which means peach and refers to the genus Polygonum persicaria, because the leaves look like the leaves of the peach tree. The common name of Polygonum persicaria is redshank or lady’s thumb.
    That aside .. I think you are amazing and I am here. For you. Anytime x

    Liked by 1 person

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