It is strange to feel you have transgressed, to feel you have disappointed and upset people – betrayed them, even, without having done so with any malice. I haven’t given in to a sinfully pleasurable temptation. I don’t feel that oily, staining shame you get from viewing an individual l transgression. I don’t feel the regret that bites like an axe, deeply and sharply into the roots of your self as you realise you’ve betrayed your core principles and are not who you thought you were.
Instead I feel like I’ve just been toddling along, harmlessly being myself, but this has triggered disdain and rejection from other people. I am toxic to them. I have a sense of shame, but it’s more general, holistic. I guess this is more damaging. If you’ve made a single error you can isolate that fierce remorse, apply it only to that action, and try to make up for it, atone for it.
In this situation, however, while no less upsetting or shaming, it’s easier to shrug off the obligation to do anything about it. You can endure, mumble, mournfully, “Well, I guess that’s just me. I’m not fit for human society. I should go and live alone in a hole in the ground.” Then you don’t have to change your behaviours at all.
I tend to curl up, all weak and powerless, and endure. I pull in my limbs and head like a tortoise, protecting myself inside a carapace of placatory but non-comital murmurs, and I wait for it to end.
I say to Abi that it’s not as bad as she paints it, that I’ll sort it out, increase my calorie uptake. She doesn’t believe a word of it. She has too much experience of the mendacity of anorexics. We’re just trying to reassure, but the urge to get off the hook, to make it stop, makes us lie through our teeth.
The thing is, I don’t know how much you or I can trust even what I write in this blog, or say in mitigation or excuse because I’m not sure how much of this is the plausible voice of the anorexia itself, just as I’m not sure when I’m talking to Abi. It’s very very difficult to disentangle the demon from the “true you” anorexia is formed from you; it’s normal, justifiable behaviours taken to grotesque and damaging extremes; it grows from your root stock. It is you. or an aspect of you.
Yet it occupies more than its allotted space in your head. It possesses you, but this doesn’t absolve you of responsibility or blame. You are entirely complicit: Anorexia was your idea. You let it in. You entertain it. It serves your needs.
So, in one way, Abi is like an exorcist. She is directly addressing the demon in her quiet, excoriating diatribes: “I abjure you; I renounce you in the name of all that is sacred: of family, of love, of health, of the NHS, of the Mental Health Act 2007, section 4a…” The problem is I’m the human shield, tied to the front of the tank; mine is the vulnerable flesh that feels each blow, that bleeds.
And, in another way, Abi’s not an exorcist. She’s talking directly to me and telling me to get a grip before I do more permanent physical damage to myself and psychological damage to those around me, as well as to my relationships.
Ah! Yes: duality: ambiguity, uncertainty, ambivalence, “being in two minds”: the defining characteristic of the condition.
At least she’s taking me seriously.
I discussed this with Phillip, later. Being taken seriously creates its own problems. It gives you an identity; it embodies and consolidates you.