Life Without.

Hello again.  And how are you, this grey and rambling morning?

Something i’ve thought about a lot, in the past, then kind of accidentally tried to ignore for ages, but now am thinking about again – a very compelling thought, actually – is this: getting better and recovery from eating disorders… what does that even mean?  What would happen if i just… stopped bingeing and vomiting?  Ate only what and when i intended to eat, not restrictively, not overdoing it, barely thinking about it the rest of the time?  Ceased to give a fuck about all the things i so obsess over or fear now, or at least went through the motions, living life as if i didn’t have any eating disorder, a bit like Pascal’s Wager.

It seems to follow without question that i’d feel “better” – but how?  How does “better” actually feel?  Bulimia makes me feel rotten, psychologically and physically, of course.  I have no time or money because it all goes on you-know-what.  I have no energy or enthusiasm, no motivation or  inclination.  I don’t understand the concepts of “fun” or “happy”.  My concentration span’s a joke.  I have only a vague idea what daily, weight-maintaining meals look like – for as long as i can remember i’ve only ever been anorexic, or on a weight-gain programme in a hospital; or i’ve tried to do it “right” but look where that’s got me.  (Scoffmore Bingeypukesville, in case it had escaped your notice.)  Plus of course there are all manner of other complications and layers of misery, lots of other things wrong with me: so many things that i’m so used to, i suspect i barely notice most of them anymore.

I realise that, in a strange, fucked-up sort of a way, i consistently choose bulimia over other people and things, over life itself.  It wasn’t always like this: i used to fight it.  I used to feel like a woman possessed when “it happened” – like the loss of control you get when you’re on a bike, careering down a hill, suddenly realising too late that the brakes don’t work.  Shit!  Too late!

It’s not like that anymore.  Now i’m wise, if you can call it that: i know the bike has no brakes, yet i get on it time and time again, knowing what’s going to happen and that it’s going to be messy and miserable – but going ahead with it all anyway.  Why, i’m always asking myself.  Why the fuck do i do it, when i actually do not want to?

But i do realise that the only way to stop is to stop; and i also realise that there’s nothing so simple or easy about that.  If it were, i’d have done it a long time ago, believe me.  I can’t remember a time when i wasn’t bonkers, so quite frankly i’ve no point of reference.

But surely there are others out there who wonder the same things and maybe even have an inkling of how things were and/or could be again.

Back to that all-consuming (‘scuse pun) question.  How would it feel, i wonder, if all of a sudden i stopped eating cack, stopped bingeing/overeating altogether in fact, stopped skipping meals, stopped throwing up… and started eating consistently healthily, exercising sensibly and treating myself with care and respect?

So yeah, presumably, physically and psychologically, i’d feel “better” – but what does that actually mean?  In what specific ways?  I always feel sick, sore, unhappy and listless and can’t remember a time when i wasn’t like this: like i said, i’ve nothing to compare it against.  I can’t imagine what Life Without an eating disorder would be like, so how can i head towards it?  It’s a genuine, not rhetorical, question – i want to get there, need to in fact, but… how?  How, whenever i put a foot on the proverbial path, it turns out to lead me into a dead-end and off a cliff of confectionery?

Assuming i’d have loads more time and, eventually, money, how would i spend and save these fascinating resources i barely know?  Would i achieve greater things in work, study and life?  What would it feel like to be calmer and to get a grip, to have a fuckload more time and money to achieve greater things in my personal, academic and professional projects, to not constantly feel on the edge of a breakdown and like i can’t cope with even the smallest of things that life necessarily throws at me?

I suppose it goes without saying, really, that there’s only one way to find out.  Try it for a day, lovey.  Just for one day.  But you know what – it isn’t that simple.  I may admit to “choosing” bulimia over life, but when you’ve been doing it over and over again for years, decades, how do you Choose Life?  How do you choose, when there isn’t an alternative option – or maybe there is, but i’m buggered if i can see it – it’s hardly a choice, you know?  I don’t know how to even look for, let alone find and act upon, that fabled other.  It’s a well-trodden path, this; the other is so overgrown i can no longer see it.  I’m not sure i even know it’s there.

Maybe we all are drawn to take the path of least resistance.  But some people can tear themselves away, see and take Frost’s famous “one less travelled by”.  I don’t know how to do that and i don’t know how to find out.

Does anyone else, reading this, who has any kind of detrimental disorder, wonder this sort of thing too?  Do you have an idea in your head as to what Life Without would be like, be it lucid or vague?  And do you have thoughts on how to get there?  Maybe you remember what it was like before the eating disorder.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to eat normally, live normally, not constantly fret and worry about food and everything, not ache all the time, not get scarily dizzy if i so much as tip my head back, not feel numbly depressed, devoid of emotions and like death or dying most of the time.

The other night, when i was even more down and full of self-pity than i clearly am now, i ended up having a horrible, uncomfortable conversation with a mate of mine who, quite frankly, doesn’t need my problems on top of her own. It went a bit like this:

Me: “Mehhh mehhh mehhh!  Mehhh mehhh mehhh!  Blah blah fucking blah!”

Her: “Oh for fuck’s sake, you’re depressing me. Shut up and snap out of that downward-spiral mentality or you’ll never get anywhere.”

Well, my words, not hers, but that’s basically what she said.  And it was entirely fair and a hundred percent true: i was just talking myself into a tizzy.  I do it a lot, i know.  It’s a pointless, stupid habit and one i need to break – again.  In fact i did manage to break out of this chasing-my-own-tail bollocks briefly, admittedly when i was in an eating disorder hospital, but unfortunately i slid back into my Bad Old Ways gradually after i got cut loose and now i’m pretty much back where i started.

But, as i said to her, somewhere along the line i got old and tired and the fight went out of me.  Which is a shitter, cos i need it, eh?  How do i get it back?  I don’t know.  I have a fascination with other people’s “turning point” – because i’ve hit a sticking point.  I want to stop all this crap but i’m stuck, somehow.  That was how the conversation started.

But when she said stuff like, oh, it takes lots of determination and positive thinking, etc., i kind of got… well, not cross, but i suppose i did the equivalent of rolling my eyes because this is precisely what i don’t have and can’t find, despite searching down the back of the settee and the armchairs: i’ve lost the will and the motivation for so many things so how do i get it back like some people do?

Case in point: i was a committed vegan for about a dozen years – for all the “right” reasons, i hasten to add, and nothing to do with cutting out foods to lose weight.  It was because i really believed in it (and still do) and i wanted to step lightly on the earth and opt out of all that exploitation and cruelty and oppression (of humans as well as animals), not to mention the impact on the environment… so actually, no, it wasn’t difficult. It took some effort, because of course you initially have to check ingredients on packets and whether cosmetics contain fish scales or dog’s testicles (i kid you not), whether shoes and belts and guitar straps contain leather, which restaurants and caffs will happily make something nice for you or piss in your risotto, and so forth, until you get used to what is and isn’t suitable for vegans, plus you end up learning how to cook a lot of things from scratch.  But if you really want to do something, these are trifling hurdles that can be kicked over in an instant.

Then i went back to being vegetarian and ended up anorexic* – again, not eating animals was NEVER about restriction; indeed i’ve no idea, really, why i stopped being vegan – and now, although i’m still very much a strict vegetarian (no, i do not eat fish!  Since when did they grow in the ground?) and although i still believe very strongly that a vegan diet is the “right” choice, although i know how to do it and there’s nothing i particularly want to consume or buy that isn’t vegan… i can’t seem to muster the motivation that i used to find so easy.

So that, i concede, is my sticking point.


You know, what i feel like doing right now is, kind of, screaming and smashing something.  I say “kind of” because i don’t know what that thing is, mind you.  I think it’s something intangible: the barrier i’m up against at the moment, psychologically, perhaps.  I feel like i need to kick and bite and break that unknown, nameless something but, i think, perhaps i turn that fury upon myself because i don’t know what it is i want/need to break.  So i break myself.

What am i so angry about?  Oh for fuck’s sake.  It used to be “everything” but now, well, i just don’t know.  I don’t feel angry – or very, very rarely and even then, it’s incredibly fleeting.  It’s quite possible i just block it, numbing myself out with bulimia; but i don’t do it intentionally.  I do get these frankly nuts, recurring, incomplete thoughts, such as “i want to smash myself up” or “i want to break my face” but i know that’s not the whole truth.  I also get sentences like “i want to go…” and i suppose i kind of want to end that sentence with “home” but i don’t feel i have a home, nor ever have had one.  I suspect that’s part of it all, as well, but what the fuck?  I’m not homeless, i’m not isolated, i have friends and family; i really am very lucky – so what’s missing?  Why don’t i belong anywhere?

For a while i thought “home” was with my girlfriend, but when she recently dumped me, i was slapped with the realisation that that’s no longer an option and maybe never was.  I feel lost and adrift – even more so than before.  And i know from past experience that the heartache never goes away, you just kind of live with it; and, you know, i really don’t need another gaping hole in my soul.  I’m enough of a mess already!

But it’s tough shit.  There’s to be no screaming and breaking things for me.  Instead i just sit around in my pants eating sweets, half-heartedly trying to apply for jobs or do my uni work, just feeling mildly sad and mostly drained.  I’m nearly a middle-aged woman, you know?  Like i said, These Things i Do have become so ingrained that – like my flatmate yelled when, stretched to breaking point, she had another go at me the other day – it’s just something i do every day, as part of my daily life.  And i give the impression, at least, that i don’t give a fuck.  Again, entirely fair – her anxiety rockets sky high because how can anyone live with someone who’s always in the bathroom, puking when she’s trying to have her tea, puking when she’s trying to work, puking when she’s trying to sleep, puking all the fucking time because, quite honestly, i don’t think i can stop.  Not without some major intervention.  But as we all know, there’s nothing out there for those of us who just try and carry on as best we can, nothing unless your BMI drops below 15; when we all know that you can die from eating disorder related complications at ANY weight.

Which is kind of why i just don’t know the answers to my own questions. I’ve no idea what it would be like to “just not do it”.  Would i be calmer?  I don’t know.  There are many other stressors in life: i accept and welcome this.  But i don’t think bulimia calms or soothes me, like some people might feel their eating disorder does.  It just makes me miserable and, as i said above, numb.  Lethargic, listless, no motivation, no give-a-fuck, nothing.  Depressed, rather than calm.  If there is a (rare) day when i don’t binge or overeat and i get into bed having had a “good”** day, i feel pleasantly surprised at best, but also frightened of and resigned to the “fact” that i’ll almost certainly binge and purge tomorrow.

Back on the subject of money because, yeah, i’m afraid this is something of a chip on my shoulder.  Good grief, this is an expensive illness.  I’m incredibly frugal in all other respects, except this one.  I don’t mean i deprive myself; i just don’t need many possessions to feel like a valid person.  I couldn’t give a shit about fashionable clothes, i don’t enjoy going out to nightclubs or bars, i quite like ONE drink because the decent stuff is, well, nice, but hate getting drunk and i only smoke a couple of roll-ups a month, if that. The things i enjoy most don’t cost anything or are very cheap – a walk in the park, a free gallery or museum exhibition, my mates’ bands playing in seedy pubs, pottering around in libraries and reading.

What would it take, then, for me to get better?  What needs to change?  What do i need?

Trouble is, when people ask me that (and healthcare professionals often do, of course), i have nothing useful to say.  I don’t know what would make a difference because i’ve always been like this, innit.  The only thing that’s ever stopped me from doing what i do was being under constant scrutiny by a nurse in an eating disorder hospital.  And that’s not a long-term solution.  I can’t ensure there’s always someone else around: life doesn’t work like that.  I certainly can’t live my life in a hospital.  I can’t even get a short-term symptom interruption programme, for fuck’s sake.  Chances are i’ll be dead before i get even any outpatient ‘help’ at all and i can’t honestly say i’m that optimistic about what that’ll entail, having tried and failed so many times in the past.

But after all this outpouring of misery, all right, i mayn’t be optimistic in the way i used to be, but i haven’t actually given up hope.  There’s still O.A. which i used to go to, though it obviously didn’t help me then because i ended up almost killing myself through starvation and threatened with section if i didn’t go quietly (i went quietly); but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for me this time.


*This is, of course, a vast oversimplification of the matter. I’ve had some kind of eating disorder for as long as i can remember.  Being vegan certainly improved things, for a good long while, but it never really went away because, well, it’s never that simple, is it?

** Yeah yeah yeah, all-or-nothing thinking.  I don’t really think like this.  I was just being lazy and trying to describe it in a way i thought most people would understand, without being EVEN MORE long-winded than i already am.

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Published in: on 11/06/2011 at 1:59 pm  Comments (5)