This might be a good time to introduce my room-mate, Dylan. (I’m getting mightily bored of talking about myself.) As the only male patient before I arrived, Dylan had 6 luxurious weeks with a room to himself, but this is a repurposed Edwardian town house and its largish, high-ceilinged rooms comfortably accommodate two beds. Given the sheer number of people waiting for places in eating disorders units, sharing was inevitable.
We were both apprehensive about it, especially after I realised that the old lags, who were about to be discharged, had been here for 6 months! If we were to share a room for this length of time, it was imperative that we got on. Each of us feared that the other might be an intolerable moron, or a dreadful bigot. Worse, what if our room-mate discovered just how dislikeable and exasperating we each were?
You see, I snore. That’s why I don’t like sharing a room. It only takes me one night to squander any goodwill I’ve managed to build up during the day. According to the many exasperated and hollow-eyed veterans who’ve shared rooms with me, it’s my inconsistency that disrupts them so. Apparently, I will be quiet for long periods, so long that they often think I’ve stopped breathing altogether, before letting out an enormous, window-rattling honk. (Jo reckons I suffer from “sleep apnoea”.)
Anorexia is an attempt to suppress or control your base instincts, yet in sleep your true self is revealed: the grotesque, malodorous animal that you’ve spent all day trying to deny. Snoring is the perfect example of this. In your most unguarded moments, when you are most essentially yourself, you piss people off. You are a burden on them, requiring, at best, a demonstration of virtuous tolerance. It is a frank admission of your fundamental dis-likeability and it’s completely beyond your control.
This isn’t helped by intense, nasty night-sweats. The dietician reassures us that this is an inevitable part of returning to a healthy weight. In sleep your body is restoring tissues. Converting food to glycogen and internal fat reserves requires energy, ironically, and respiration, the process by which food is converted to energy, is an exothermic process: it produces heat. That’s no consolation to you when you wake with wet sheets clinging to your skin while sweat drips off the back of your knees. It is rank and squalid.
And, as you are unguarded in sleep, so you are vulnerable. What’s to stop my room-mate, worked to an ungovernable fury by lack of sleep, from rising in the night and smiting me as I lie, supine and defenceless, sprawled in my swinish, slovenly, sty?
Sure enough, on my second night, I was woken by Dylan, roaring “Oh for FUCK’S SAKE!! “Snrk? Gschwink?” I replied, wittily, opening one bleary eye to see Dylan punching his pillow.
For the rest of the night, I kept starting awake in alarm.