Jo sometimes accuses me of “Gas-lighting” her over my anorexia and whether I’m eating enough. She says, “You make it seem like I’m the one who’s mad!” I say, “I’m not gas-lighting! I’m reassuring!” (and, anyway, why does anyone have to be mad?)
I feel indignant. She’s accusing me of being calculating and malicious, and, most importantly, domineering. As this blog repeatedly demonstrates, I like to view myself as the poor afflicted martyr to a terrible disease, triggered by HOW BADLY life has treated ME. not the other way around! I’m not the Brooding Tyrant!
Jo maintains, though, that the disease is. When she berates me, she claims it’s the disease inside me that she’s attacking. The problem is that, to get at it, she has to go through me. And that’s pretty bruising.
Anorexia is a mendacious little bastard and it lies to me, as well. Or, rather, I allow myself to be convinced by its equivocating logic, because, one level down, it’s being completely honest. I know exactly what’s going on. At least I do now, after years of meeting with Abi and Phillip and Jamie and writing this blog and talking and talking about it.
I am thus entirely complicit. This shouldn’t surprise us. We’ve discussed before how the whole ghastly monster is not only rooted in our psyche and experiences, but has cannibalised our brain to create itself. It is made up of grotesquely distorted and distended pieces of us, of our normal behaviours.
The rituals of restriction are mantras that helps us deal with other difficult aspects of our lives, largely the anxiety caused by starvation! (Hurray, we’ve created a perpetual motion machine! We’ll make our fortunes!)
What I do is, when driven to confront my illness head on, to make that dreadful choice, I just put it off until I’m ready. Perhaps I’ll never be ready, but I don’t have to deal with that right now. In fact, the thought is very stressful, so, in the meantime, I’ll carry on with the comforting rituals I’ve put in place to deal with stress, arranging the cosy, fortified nest of my life.
When reassuring Jo, I’m responding to, and dealing with, the immediate challenge from her anxiety and anger, and promising myself I’ll get around to dealing with the restrictive eating later. That’s what I do when I don’t implement my meal plans fully – I’m delaying taking the plunge, although I fully intend to do it later – manana.
Jamie, at Ascot house, suggests you can look at this in evolutionary psychology terms. We’ve evolved to deal first with immediate threats, that confront us right now. However, as our brains have developed we’ve become able to create monsters in our own minds which we perceive to be just as real as a sabre-toothed tiger lurking in the bushes, and which we respond to with equal intensity.
The important goals of recovery are so remote they’re almost theoretical and can only be achieved by overcoming a whole lot of hardships and trials along the way. Because of this, the more immediate threats have much more urgency, and dealing with them leads to much more immediate bio-chemical rewards: relief, well-being.
This is a wonderfully forgiving idea and thus a relief to us guilt-ridden wrecks: it’s all to do with our limbic systems, or our sympathetic nervous systems, or something. The human animal just isn’t that well designed.