I saw Abi recently. When she weighed me, the scales kept registering 59.9, then 60, then 59.9. I was thinking “come on, come on…” but no, 59.9 it was: I’d lost weight.
Abi tore into me. In level, unadorned tones, punctuated by long silences, she told me that:
• I’d have to be recommitted, but not to somewhere as nurturing as Ascot House; I’d end up strapped to a bed with a cannula up my nose (ok, that’s my embellishment.)
• I’d lose Jo and the kids, because Jo had said, explicitly, that she couldn’t deal with it again.
• But maybe, Abi suggested, that was what I really wanted, that I wanted to be alone and if I could encourage Jo to throw me out, I could achieve that without responsibility or blame.
• She, Abi, suspected I’d starve myself to death if that happened, but it might be the curing of me, if what I was signalling was my unhappiness in the relationship,
• in which case I should have the courage to directly address it with Jo, not kill myself.
• But whatever the outcome of that, Abi felt if I was to continue to lose weight, with my children entering those vulnerable, impressionable teenage years, she’d consider it an act of neglect, and she’d be forced to involve social services.
I was mortified. I’m 48 and here I was, being told off like a schoolboy! I guess I could’ve walked out, saying, “I’m not putting up with this! I’m an adult!” because I’m sort of here by choice. (Abi can’t do anything with me if I won’t co-operate.) But is it really a choice if the options are to work with Abi and recover, or destroy my family and face destitution and an imminent, lonely death?
I go to Abi because I’m supposed to be committed to recovery. I’m supposed to trust her to do what’s necessary to encourage me; and, in return, I promise to do what she asks. (No Eating Disorder Specialist would be so naïve as to trust an anorexic!) To walk out, even once, would be to dissolve the agreement between us. By deciding what I was willing to listen to and what I wasn’t, I’d be rejecting her help, and thus the NHS’s. I’d choose not to listen to the all the cringe-worthy things that need to be said and so I’d be abandoning the struggle. I might never get another such opportunity, and, even if I did, I’d always know walking out would be a possibility. And that would ruin my resolve.
So my job is to sit there and endure. And I can do that. I’m used to disappointing people and making them angry, letting people down through my own inadequacy or weakness. And I’m used to being harangued about it. I’m cool.