However, I didn’t feel I could remain complicit. I tried, pathetically, to find a way of washing my hands of the responsibility. I told Dylan that I thought he should tell the staff what he’d been doing. They were competent adults trained in supporting us through these things. I also told him I didn’t want him using my needles to do it. I didn’t want to help him hurt himself and I didn’t want to get in to trouble for having needles. I wanted him to stop.
Dylan flatly refused to stop or to return my needles. He looked angry. He said, “I just don’t want to be reminded of it.”
I said, “well, if you don’t want to be reminded of it, you might want to stop doing it repeatedly”
He shouted, “FINE, THEN. I’LL JUST STOP BEING ANOREXIC, SHALL I?!!”
I responded, coolly, “Yes, if you could, Dylan. That would be lovely”, which is a pretty good return, I think. Then I ruined it all by yelling back.
Well, I was stung! I knew he wouldn’t want to give it up, but I guess I’d hoped he’d appreciate my care and concern for him. Where was the tearful bonding, with Dylan telling me how hard it was, but how grateful he was for my sensitive, clear-headed support? I hadn’t expected the conversation to take this turn. It felt like he’d taken me forcibly by the elbow and rushed me along a path of his choosing.
I recognise it, now, as a typical anorexic over-reaction caused by his alarm. He very much didn’t want to give up the means to embody his pain. He needed the scabs, the puckering flesh, the scars. Giving back my needles would leave him bereft, stifled by his own smooth skin. It was a very threatening prospect, so he responded with the fierce, combative panic of the anorexic, an attempt to overwhelm the threat with an emotional Shock and Awe campaign, or perhaps Sturm und Drang.
I guess I ought to have been flattered because Dylan was treating me with the unreasonableness you’d direct at a parent. That suggests intimacy and ease with my presence: acceptance, something we all crave. And, in fact, I properly shouted at him, in a sort of outraged dad or teacher way. I think I may have said, (god, this is embarrassing) “Don’t take that attitude with me!” He had manoeuvred me into that role.
And this is important. Dylan really was in bad shape and genuinely needed the help he was refusing, but I didn’t want to betray his trust. I guess I cared about the little fucker. By forcing us into each other’s company 24/7, Ascot House had ensured our lives, and thus our recoveries were inextricably intertwined. We were forced to think about, take an interest in, and care about each other. This distraction from our own inner turmoil was highly beneficial, coaxing up green shoots of cognitive and emotive renewal, of empathy (much lost; much missed.)
And that is how Dylan helped save me.