Anorexia has colonised this hollow, solitary interior. Since diagnosis, I’ve tried to perform the role of recovering anorexic, working hard to get better for the sake of his family. I always try to fulfil the roles demanded of me, for the reward of attention and approval.
When I began meeting Abi, the eating disorders specialist, I tried to work out what she wanted me to say and then said it, so I could get out of there as fast as possible with the minimum fuss. I was non-committal about how I was doing, emphasising my few concessions to recovery, while avoiding mentioning my relapses, not actually lying, but misleading, trying to imply that my lack of progress was just modesty and a fast metabolism.
I wasn’t fully aware that I was doing this. It was automatic, and it never even occurred to me to be open and honest, even though I knew Abi’s scales would give the lie to my excuses. “The scales don’t lie”, Abi says. The idea of admitting and facing up to my genuine state of mind and behaviours, was virtually inconceivable. Instead, I just agreed to everything. Then, at home, I simply disobeyed their rules, didn’t take their advice. I radically reduced eating targets to a fragment of the amount of extra food I’d promised, down to irrelevant pinches, literal lip service. Abi would say “I want you to add in a matchbox-sized piece of cheese” and I’d reply “Yes of course. Wonderful. Thank you.” But all the time I’d be thinking “Just agree to everything and get out of the room. Then we can decide what to do.” At home, I’d think, “right: cheese. I’ll start with a thumbnail size and then work up.” Of course, I never did work up. If anything, the cheese would get smaller.
I’d increased my exercising to compensate for any increase in calorie intake; I reneged on promises not to exercise, by reducing it, a little, then letting it creep back up. I compensated, mitigated, balanced out. I always told myself that I was working up to doing the right thing, taking it in stages, that I was just postponing the confrontation until I was ready.
And then, of course, I’d lie about it, exaggerate the efforts I’d made, play down the exercise I’d done. I didn’t lie deliberately, but I maintained a different interior reality to the one I expressed.
Safe in its secret chamber, anorexia continued to flourish.
It was really only the collagen shots (which came in irreducible, measurable doses) that made me put on weight at all. And the bread. Yet I told myself that I’d made progress, achieved my goal of not dying. That was all I was aiming for. Then, in some vague hypothetical future, I thought, with the constructive input from Phillip, the wonderful psycho-therapist Jo had found for me, I’d get on with dealing with the psychological roots of the problem.