At my final meeting with the NHS Eating Disorders team, Abi and Jo said I needed to be admitted to an in-patient facility, and Abi said Ascot House had a good programme. I shrugged. I was too tired to have an opinion.
I was in no position to object.
I was in two minds, the perennial anorexic’s condition.
I took everything on trust.
After a few days, though, I became more alert. Alarm replaced listless, befuddled acceptance. Each meal was a cliff-edge. I wanted to shout, “No! Wait!”, as a plate, heavy with food, was thrust at me.
And it did feel like I’d been hurled off a cliff: an uncontrolled, flailing fall, through precipitate air, with disaster rushing up to meet you. Like most anorexics, I was just trying to keep a handle and a lid on things, because otherwise it felt like everything would go to hell in a handcart. (Anorexia generates the very anxiety it comes into being to resist.) And here they were, expecting us to eat as if there was no tomorrow, as if there were no consequences, as if it didn’t matter.
I had no idea of the medical theory or ethos that the programme was based on, if any. How did I know they knew what they were doing? What WERE they doing? What had we let ourselves in for? I had given over all decisions about every aspect of my life to an organisation I knew nothing about. Didn’t this just encourage emotional and intellectual dependency? It was like joining a cult.
I needed, very much, to trust these people not to lose control of me or my weight or my state of mind, but now I was having doubts. I was resisting.
I’m wary of reducing anorexia to an autonomous parasite that’s wormed its way into my head; that’s too simplistic and too forgiving an explanation: I’d just be blaming it all on somebody else. However, in retrospect, these doubts did resemble a creature, one that cannibalises my thoughts to form its own, that was beginning to feel vulnerable, to squirm and lash out in distress. That’s what parasites do when they’re put under pressure.
The therapy team have a perfect reply to these doubts: this is a voluntary unit. You haven’t been sectioned (yet), so if you resist treatment, why are you here at all? Are you ready to admit that you don’t want recovery, that you’d sacrifice everything and everyone for your right to starve yourself to death?
Very far away, across oceans, a voice was whispering, “No, but, seriously, what IS the problem with eating? What do you think is going to happen?”
And that is blasphemy.