7 April 2018

“You’re better off alone...” said anorexia

Anorexia thrives off us most when we’re alone with our thoughts. That’s the reality. No doubt about it.

It’s like I’ve said before, the illness is like the most abusive best friend, who in reality is a bully, that you will ever meet. It’s when you’re feeling tired or lonely that her voice and those thoughts feel so comforting. When everything else feels out of control, it’s like that is the voice that can comfort you, and give you a little bit of control back, is a trusted confidant, the one who understands.

Of course those of us who’s quietened our illnesses know that that control isn’t real, it’s an illusion but when you’re in the grips of the illness you don’t realise that this is what is really happening. It’s only through therapy and distancing yourself from the illness that you realise where that comfort is coming from.

I’ve described having anorexia before as being in a relationship where you’re living with domestic abuse every single day. Being absolutely devoted to somebody who can make you feel like absolute goddess one moment, and then with the click of a finger make you feel like absolute shit, worthless.

It’s that moment when you’re alone and the atmosphere flips that you feel most worthless. It’s because anorexia is really good at convincing you that you are better off alone, but nobody is coming to speak to you because you’re not worth it, that you need to sit be quiet and not speak to really think about what you’re doing ‘wrong’, to make sure that you’ve added up all the totals, to make sure you found a plan or a plot to lose weight, what to restrict to gain back control. And that’s the problem it’s at flip between wanting to be alone and then being terrified that you are alone and you can’t cope with those thoughts.

These feelings, and subsequently when you’re ill, the actions that come with them, feel so real. Even after recovery they are there for me. I guess it’s like an alcoholic not being able to forget the way that a bottle of vodka used to make them feel, longing after it, even if you stick to having a lemonade.

The way that manifests nowadays for me is my mind is convinces me that I need time alone, I need to just do nothing and sit. Have no plans, see nobody. Yes, that is just general tiredness every person gets, but some of it is to make sure that my life is in the order that anorexia can deal with. It’s to make sure that I can eat at specific times though, and it’s to make sure that I’m not distracted from eating disordered thoughts, by actually living a life. I challenge myself on a daily basis to not cancel plans or indeed to make plans and find a way of doing them. Yes that pisses off anorexia, I crave a routine that some people would consider still disordered and Yes, I hear about it later, but I’ve learnt a way of coping with that.

Early in recovery that’s not so easy. Almost impossible. You can’t shut it up. You don’t have the tools to be able to stop that train of thought, or counteract what the voice is telling you, to the person stuck with anorexia it’s as real as the bed you’re lying in. This is why people need to be around the people that are in the grips of an eating disorder. Don’t let them be alone with her.

Don’t allow them to sit alone with those thoughts because We all know the more times you hear lies the more they seem like truth. Especially when you’re vulnerable and you want to hear things that make you feel better, not things that make you anxious. The more Ana can get someone alone and isolate them, the stronger the grip gets and the harder it is to shake it. I remember my family saying to me when I locked myself away when I was ill that I was just ‘festering in my thoughts’ and I used to get angry with them thinking that, they just didn’t understand those thoughts were making me feel better. Now, looking back they were right. All those days and nights I spent alone not talking to people not able to connect with people or concentrate on anything else just strengthened the grip the anorexia had over me.

I was convinced it was my only companion, and always would be my only companion. To me, Ana was the only person I could trust and the only person if you want to say like that that ‘who was watching out for me.’

This week I’ve been reminded of how this felt, and seen it happening for myself with somebody else battling their eating disorder. No one around them for hours at a time. Those who are meant to be caring for her, don’t seem to understand that isolation, boredom, lack of conversation or stimulation isn’t helping recovery, isn’t helping them see the other side of their illness. What they don’t seem to grasp is it is actually helping anorexia strengthen.

I just hope that people who don’t know what it’s like to be in a bit abusive relationship, either with physical person or a mental illness like anorexia, wake up and realise that all the protesting of company, The slamming of doors and the cries of wanting to be alone, is all the abuser speaking. What that person really needs time to build trust, open up, and realise that there are other people in this world they can trust, and the person they trust the most right now, is the one that wants to tear them apart.

Nowadays for me, this is reminding myself to not say no to my boyfriend coming round, not saying I need to be on my own and my head hurts, but actually except that having the company, even if I’m quiet, is better than sitting alone. I know that it is a trap to believe she’s the only one that can make me feel better, because ultimately it doesn’t.

Fortunately through recovery I know her tricks, so this is a reminder to others that this is one trick the illness WILL use on everyone. Don’t let it.

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