Anorexia – in the open or in the closet?
I wrote this article for another web site a few years ago. I thought that with the Christmas season just around the corner it might be helpful for anyone out there who is feeling the pressure to “eat and enjoy yourself for once” when the thought of food just makes you want to throw up.
to eat or not to eat? ———————————–
“My name is Maureen and I am an anorexic.”
Actually I am not sure that every anorexic is one for life. Perhaps it is similar to being an alcoholic… it certainly isn’t something that you one day consciously opt to become as in “Gee, I think I will become an anorexic – that sounds like a good idea…”
Becoming anorexic is usually a last resort. Your life is out of control. You can’t control what is happening in your life – but hey, you can control what goes into your mouth, right? Sounds like a good way to get a bit of the control you somehow lost back into your life. Sometimes you don’t even realise that you are controlling your food intake. It quietly creeps up on you and then one day you look in the mirror and all you see is fat… a huge gross person who looks ugly and disgusting and will only look better and be accepted if she (or he) loses weight.
Bones sticking out are a good sign… means some of that disgusting weight has gone. It’s never enough though… always more to lose… more bones to show… turn sideways in the mirror and see how flat you can make yourself. More trips to the gym… more ways to lose that fat. Your clothes get looser and looser. Every time you step on the scale, there is less of that ugly fat to be weighed. All good signs – to the anorexic that is.
You become an expert in the art of moving your food around your plate… without actually putting any of it in your mouth. Sometimes you do put some food in and chew and chew and chew and chew. One baked bean feels like a mouthful of straw… indigestible straw that you keep on chewing and chewing until you want to throw up. How can ‘just’ one baked bean feel like that?
Well, to any ‘sane’ person of course it doesn’t but to the anorexic I can assure you it does.
I became anorexic way back in the days before it had a name. I was a teenager who was not eating very much. I was taken to the family doctor who told my mother to make and or buy my favourite foods and get me to just eat a little bit at a time. That (plus something to increase my appetite) should do the trick he said.
I asked the doctor what would happen if I took all the ‘appetite increasing’ pills in one go. He looked shocked. Why would you want to do that he asked and promptly changed the prescription. So… needless to say I didn’t take any pills and about the only thing I would eat was chocolate baby pudding; a teaspoon would take me a few hours to eat but to my mother at least I was eating something.
As I had no idea at the time why I was doing this, I was fortunate that circumstances changed at home; I grew older, left school and got a job. Independence to a degree! My appetite improved and I began to eat more. Never a lot of food, but just enough to keep too many bones from appearing!
Some years later, trapped (as I saw it then) in an unhappy marriage and unable to leave, my old friend anorexia raised its welcoming head again. For over a year I existed on black coffee and cigarettes, the odd lettuce leaf and occasional square of cheese. My husband didn’t like the way I looked… he told me I was flat-chested and very unattractive. I looked in the mirror and saw myself become less and less female… less curves and (as I realised much later) I was becoming more male-looking. I thought I looked good… the flatter and more shapeless I could become, the better I felt.
Obviously I ate enough to survive (or you would not be reading this article!). Being thin was how everyone knew me. I seemed to exist on the edge of starvation most of the time. I gave up smoking as I realised the cigarettes were controlling me and I wanted more control in my life. I went to the family doctor who prescribed a low dose of valium for me. Now I was a drug addict. But at least I ate more.
I hoped that this current life would end soon so I could come back in another, hopefully happier life. I could not end my life myself… I just hoped that a runaway truck would find me as I walked along the pavement, or perhaps someone would drop a huge piano or flower pot out of an upstairs window while I was walking by. Even better still, perhaps I could take all my valium tablets at once. Nobody realised how unhappy I was. My mother used to tell me that I should be happy with what I had… two lovely children, a husband who didn’t beat me or keep me short of money or have affairs, a beautiful house. What more did I want?
I wanted to be happy. I was sure that happiness was the magic word.
I ‘took’ all my valium tablets one day. Actually I knew that I had only swallowed two of them. I hadn’t got the guts or whatever it took to take them all… I just wanted someone to understand how utterly unhappy I was… a cry for help. The biggest response I got was from my mother… “how could I do that to her.” She didn’t understand.
My dreary life (as I saw it) continued. I became more and more used to the way I felt. I regularly showed up at the doctor for my elixir of valium. I would say to him here is the druggie again, come for her fix… He always smiled and said when you are ready, you will know. Then you won’t need this anymore.
One day I started going to a psychologist (how I ended up there is the subject of another tale). We had many long talks about my childhood and my mother’s influence in my life. It was a very cathartic experience. So much so that three months later, I got divorced, stopped the valium and began a ‘new’ life.
Years passed with no thoughts of anorexia. I had various relationships during this time, had a good job and went to the gym on a regular basis. In 1997 I met my current husband via the Internet (another story to tell!), went to live in the US, enjoyed my life immensely and three years ago we came back to South Africa to live here.
My weight was fine to others. To me I still battled to be as thin as I wanted to be. I used the word slim instead of thin but it wasn’t what I wanted to be. I was slim but in the dim recesses of my mind wanted to be thin. “My old friend, Anorexia, where are you when I need you”, I thought!
Some months ago I accompanied some family members to a weight loss workshop based on EFT. I knew I didn’t need to lose any weight so I just went along to see if it would help the others. Previously there was always this little voice inside me saying eat more, stay in bed later, don’t exercise so much… I had no idea why I should have this little voice. I tried to think anorexic thoughts. Perhaps if I could be a ‘little’ anorexic that would help me lose those last few kilograms and I would then be thin again! I was too happy now in my marriage and in my life and no matter how hard I tried, I could not get any of those old thoughts to reappear.
Over the weeks of the workshop, I had a huge revelation. Using Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), I discovered that a part of me was worried that I would, once again, become anorexic. The little voice wanted me to eat just a little more, exercise a little less, in case those thoughts actually reappeared. Using EFT, I understood what had been happening and resolved the issues!
Immediately I began to eat less, began to exercise more. Excuses for not exercising disappeared! I used to crave chocolate (don’t we all???) but I have to say that since using EFT on the little voice, I have not had any chocolate; I can’t even work up any enthusiasm for chocolate. The chocolate marzipan logs that I used to eat on a regular basis no longer feature on my shopping list or in my shopping basket! So, once again, EFT worked its magic. I really have never seen or heard of anything else that helps so many things in such an easy way.
My definition of thin has changed now. I no longer have a ‘need’ to concern myself with the weight aspect, rather it’s how slim and trim do I look. I have more energy and can fit into all my clothes. I weight train three times a week now as well as walk six days a week, two Pilates classes a week and water ski once or twice a week. What more could I ask for?
I threw away my scale. I weighed myself about a week ago on my son’s scale when I was at his house. Wow! I weigh more now than I ever used to (apart from when I was pregnant) but so what? I waited for the voice to tell me how ‘bad’ I must be to weigh that much… but the voice was silent. For the first time in my life it really doesn’t matter what I weigh.
Does anyone walk around with a label on them saying ‘I weigh 55 kgs’ (or 60kgs or whatever). I have never seen a label like that. Who cares what you weigh if you can fit into your clothes, you’re healthy and you look good? Certainly not me!