“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend…”

(“Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read” – Groucho Marx, (I think))

I’ve just read an article by Louise Gray, author of The Ethical Carnivore, about her bulimia. She says “Food…is bound up closely with emotion” (The Observer Magazine, 11.03.18) She’s not the first to say that, of course, and her bulimia is very different from my obsessive exercise and gentle food restriction, but it’s worth remembering, given the storms of emotion we seem to live through and cause.

Incidentally, Louise Gray used to be the environmental correspondent for The Daily Telegraph. She says “I felt responsible for waking the world up to climate change and every day I felt I was failing…I saw the world as a terrifying place, but struggled to explain to anyone why, or to accept that there was little I could do about it.” This is surprisingly similar to my experience of the drought that appeared to have some part to play in triggering my anorexia. We both experienced terror about the pitiless, overwhelming threat of climate change and a sense of helplessness to do anything effective to combat it. This was probably intensified for me by a biological imperative to protect my offspring. Our eating disorders appear to be an attempt to wrest back some control and preoccupy ourselves with something absorbing yet achievable. Phil always tells me that we make the best decisions available to us at the time. If you develop anorexia, it’s to avoid something that, at the time, appears worse. In the face of a truly dreadful threat, self-starvation may seem the better option.

I’m also reading Decoding Anorexia by Carrie Arnold (2013, Hove: Routledge) which was recommended to me by the head of research at BEAT. I’m only on page 10, but, so far, it’s fascinating: accessible, but also reassuringly scientific. Ms. Arnold’s thinks that Anorexia should be considered from a biological, genetic point of view, rather than as a self-contained system of psycho-social causes and effects, as therapists tend to view it. As you can tell, this informed my thinking around my mother’s attitude to anorexia, which I discussed in my previous post. It is highly illuminating to remember that thought is bio-chemical; chemistry both causes thought and is thought. Thought initiates further synaptic chemistry. Odd to remember this, but exciting. I don’t know what conclusions she’ll draw from this. It confirms, for me, though, something I’ve been saying for a while: although quite possibly triggered as a coping mechanism, anorexia causes, or at least enhances, the anguish it assuages.

Finally, I’ve found an interesting point from a review of Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of control, by Barbara Ehrenreich, in the Observer New Review (08/04/18). They gave terminally ill patients who had an overwhelming fear of death the active ingredient from magic mushrooms, psilocybin. Apparently, this substance suppresses the part of your brain that constructs your sense of self, and the patients lost their fear. They experienced “ego-dissolution” and become comforted by “a profound sense of unity with the universe”, The universe “seethes” with life. Self is simply one, temporary, structure in it.

Ok. So, we know that starvation dismantles the brain, as it ditches non-necessary functions. Carrie Arnold (Decoding Anorexia, 2013, p.6)confirms what I suspected, that the mortality rate for anorexia largely consists of suicide and heart attack. Perhaps this is why anorexics are so blasé and unconcerned with the death of others, and so reckless with their own lives and health: their sense of self is becoming eroded or corrupted. I’m becoming obsessed with running, despite the possibility that I might drop dead. I need to stop this.

Incidentally, “erosion” and “corruption” – why are these (admittedly arch-conservative) terms not the ones associated with change? All this talk of “Disruptors” and “Progress” is a capitalist myth, as I keep saying! Ditch your old self and buy a new one from an officially endorsed vendor!

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