This brings me back to the gates of Ascot House. (I’ve got so far behind in recounting my experiences there that I was discharged quite a while ago, now, and am back home, so these blogs have become reminiscences.)
This was the first time I had encountered other anorexics or experienced group therapy. Both were daunting prospects. As I’ve said before, we’re horribly antisocial and irritable. We’re fools who don’t suffer fools gladly (including ourselves), so crowding us all together into one building might seem explosively reckless. In reality, though, we hold our grudges weakly. It’s almost impossible to act on them when you are being ambushed by paralysing anxiety caused by small portions of risotto, or seeking refuge from your own thoughts by napping all afternoon.
I was also resistant to group therapy. I grew up thinking that the “self-help movement” was a form of charlatanism that encouraged a pathetic self-absorption, self-indulgence and self-pity. In retrospect, this attitude seems rooted in fear of what might be revealed, or at least what you might be betrayed into fabricating. The controversy over invented memories was a gift to people with my mind-set. I’m repeating myself.
Faced with having to participate in group therapy, I could muster the threshold motivation that got me into the room; I could state that I thought therapy was necessary and that I owed it to the people I loved, but then I froze. There didn’t seem to be anything useful to say. There didn’t seem to be any benefit to being there. How can discussion alter the structures of your brain, anyway? The brain is a physical organ, for fuck’s sake! You can’t alter the structure of your liver by talking about it, can you?
But the NHS was paying huge amounts of money for me to be here. Highly trained professionals believed it could work. I owed it to them at least to try. After all, I wanted to be helpful, to be useful, to be liked. I’d promised Jo and the children and Abi, who was recommending me for treatment, that I’d embrace the programme. I had to persevere.
How ironic, incidentally, that a condition that probably demonstrates lack of self-worth and a desire not to be a burden, should end up costing everybody so much time, effort and money. Doh!