So the food thing (aka starving myself – best to name it for what it is) is spiralling. It’s getting out of control and I am really scared. Nina has come down with a cold, and I am now terrified (not an overstatement, the thought of being ill literally floods my body with terror) that I am going to get it and 1) not be able to see K on Monday, and 2) not be in a good space to return to work on June 25th. Already the thought of going back to work is overwhelming me and I know that after the stress of the past nearly 4 weeks I need to start looking after myself in all the ways I know how. And yet I can’t eat.
I haven’t had a relapse of anorexia like this for probably 18 years. Suddenly it feels bigger than me. It is in control of me. I had forgotten what it was like to be in the grips of it, to know I need to eat and yet not be able to. I had forgotten that it actually takes over and that the tight, hollow tummy becomes familiar and comforting. I had forgotten that it leads to a complete loss of desire to eat. It is like a switch has been turned off inside me and I can’t find a way to turn it back on.
I can see all the reasons I need to eat and try and avoid another illness. I am singing with my choir on Friday evening and taking Nina to see Taylor Swift at Wembley on Saturday. I have therapy. I have stuff to do at home, parenting to do, things to organise. I get to ride my bike and go to the gym if I am not ill. I will be ready to return to work after my time off. And none of this is switching my brain back on to eating normally, or even semi-normally.
This evening I did have a load of vegetables and a veggie burger. And then a massive dose of effervescent vitamin C and some zinc tablets, plus my usual supplements. I drank some smoothie. I hoped this might trick my brain into remembering that eating and self-care are good. It hasn’t. I find the orthorexia stressful but this is something else. This feels like it knows no limits. It is taking me over. I feel lost inside it. Overwhelmingly stressed that it is happening but not able to stop it at the same time. It sounds ridiculous I know, but it is what it is.
So this evening I am stuck in a place of high anxiety, aware of the spiralling that is happening and scared because I feel unable to stop it. I had a bath with epsom salts and tried to relax but my jaw is clenched and my tummy is tight. Yesterday I wrote I know I’ll get back to eating properly as the shock of losing K before I’m ready wears off, but in the past 24 hours it feels like something has shifted and this thing has taken me over. And right now I feel stuck between two terrifying alternatives – eat or get sick. The thought of eating terrifies me. Putting on the weight I’ve lost in the past 4 weeks terrifies me. And getting sick terrifies me too, even though it would just be a cold. It would disrupt therapy and disrupt everything else and I cannot handle it. And the longer term picture of anorexia is clearly not something I want to return to. I hadn’t realised how dangerous the behaviours are, it’s been so long since I’ve been in this place. And when it last happened I was maybe 17, it wasn’t so scary, I didn’t have grown-up responsibilities that depend upon me not spiralling into an eating disorder. It used to be scary back then, but this time it feels so much more serious.
A month ago life felt so much better than this. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t like it has been the past 4 weeks. I have just been clinging on desperately for the past 4 weeks, with the rupture, the bug which led to having to go to hospital, and then K’s news, and suddenly here am I. Stuck in this place. I need to get out of it, but I don’t know how.