A restored weight brought significant changes to Dylan’s personality. This thoughtful, troubled young man became filled with a gleeful energy. The most obvious facet of this was his sense of humour.
Very abruptly, Dylan started to find any mistake made by another patient hysterically funny. Any misjudgement or error, any humbling sign of human fallibility or limitation was met with shrieking howls of derisive laughter that went on too long. The more awkward his victim became, the longer the laughter would last.
I guess Dylan would consider it affectionate banter, but it didn’t feel like it. He would persecute any of us for even the tiniest slips. My first encounter with this new Dylan was when I took my trousers off one night and my balls were peeping out of the left leg of my saggy old boxer shorts. This undignified, depressingly ordinary occurrence set him off on paroxysms of glee that kept bubbling up, even in the darkness after we’d turned the light out.
On another occasion, near Christmas, a care assistant was talking about the deceptions she had to enact to maintain the fiction of Santa. Every year she had to leave out a carrot for the reindeer and a sausage roll for Santa, which her husband would eat, leaving a sprinkling of crumbs. At this point, Dylan interrupted, saying, “Who leaves a sausage roll for Father Christmas?! It’s supposed to be a mince pie! AAAAH HA HA HA HA! A sausage roll! AAAAH HA HA HA HA!”
Nonplussed, the care assistant and I tried to continue the conversation. Dylan would not allow this. He was going to ridicule the poor woman and nothing would distract him.
People with eating disorders are very emotionally vulnerable. Dylan knew this. They are also very anxious to be liked and included because they feel so alienated and dislikeable, so there was a lot of pressure to join in this “banter”, to be part of the group. Almost reluctantly, shyly, the other patients followed Dylan’s lead. We found ourselves the focus of the room’s derision, with a fiercely disdainful Dylan as its nucleus, but an oddly lack-lustre, almost apologetic outer ring.
Since this facet of Dylan’s behaviour had first appeared, I had refused to be drawn into it. I just stared at him blankly, refusing to even crack a smile. Despite the pressure to be a “Good Sport”, I wasn’t going to collude with my own, or other people’s humiliation.
I’m not an original thinker, or particularly principled. In fact, I think I’m naturally conventional, but, by (bad) luck, I’ve often found myself part of outgroups. Or, at least, considered myself to be. Normally, I’d keep my mouth shut and skulk in the background, out of harm’s way, so it’s a testament to Dylan’s essential good nature, and that of the other patients, that I, in my most vulnerable and risk-averse state should feel confident to stand, openly, against the group.
 I guess this started when my proudly Scottish parents decided to move to the Republic of Ireland just before I was born.