My resistance to treatment is reinforced by an automatic scepticism of it. I squirm at the very idea of therapy and feelings and all that girly nonsense. It smacks of self-obsession and I assume nothing will come of it.
When forced to own up to my condition, I want to say, sheepishly, “Apparently, I’ve got ‘Anorexia’”, making quotation marks with two fingers. Then I want to snigger with a toxic mixture of derision and embarrassment, dismissing the condition, those who diagnose and treat it, other sufferers, and myself, all in one craven act of betrayal.
For some reason, I can’t see a tangible link between my underlying experiences and attitudes and my thoughts and behaviour. Considering my own thoughts feels like following a road into a valley: I can see a road climbing up the far slope, so it’s reasonable to assume it’s the same one, but god knows what’s going on down on the valley floor.
This makes me doubtful of all explanations: I just don’t see the connections. When we’re talking about other people, the various theoretical models of brain function and process seem relevant and plausible. The feelings of another person, and the reasons for that feeling, are equally speculative, so there’s no reason why they shouldn’t go together. However, when applied to myself, the explanations seem self-evidently false, and therefore pretentious and self-pitying. To me, to define something as rooted psychologically, is to deny it substance, to make it non-existent. Character, thought and behaviours have the fixed solidity of concrete and do not need to be reflected on. Any deviation from expected norms has a profound, metaphysical falsity. It is “attention-seeking” “silliness”, and is as motiveless as the villain’s commitment to evil in a badly thought-out movie. Destructive thoughts and behaviours are somehow untrue to the point of being unreal, not cut from the fabric of reality, but rather that of fabrication and unreality. They are “wrong”, both in terms of being “bad” and “in error”.
Of course, all these attitudes are nonsense. All behaviours are bio-chemical facts. Even if someone is acting up to a condition, that’s still the manifestation of a psychological state, so it’s worth asking why they’re doing it. Anyway, we anorexics trump scepticism with the sheer ferocity of our commitment. No matter how unknowable and nonsensical our aims, we’re willing to risk death in pursuit of them. That’s got to make the nay-sayers back down, especially as we’re too hungry to care what they think!
My problem is that I don’t believe my own excuses. Something must cause me to starve myself, but I disbelieve any explanation I could come up with. I treat it almost with levity, thinking, “oh come on! I’m not actually ill! I’m just, sort of, pretending.” This may partially explain why I continued to abuse my common sense and the resilience of my body, day after day, with incredulous glee when it continued to function at all, despite the clear discrepancy between my exercise-driven 4000-calorie expenditure and the small amount of food I allowed myself to eat.
And I suspect my profound disbelief in my own psychological states has deep implications. I seem to view my inner self, my deepest thoughts, as somehow unreal, illegitimate. I am, in my own eyes, a ghostly, insubstantial presence, with little weight or importance. This allows me to dismiss the harm I can do, not only to myself but also to my family. What impact could my behaviour have, for goodness’ sake? They’ll be fine.
Is the anorexia a demonstration, of this sense of insubstantiality? An illustration of it?
My sense of self is critically damaged by the sense that I’m not valuable, which, in turn, drives my desire to be active and useful, which became twisted into the desire to control my eating, because, in the absence of any other laudatory characteristics, at least I don’t have to look like an unwashed, sweaty, hairy-bellied slob. In an attempt to balance the metaphysical books, I also wanted not to have too great an impact on the earth, reduce my consumption and my footprint, almost literally. Become light. Evaporate.
Legolas walks on the surface of the snow as the rest of the nine wade and wallow through the drifts. He is ethereal.