This isn’t a poem, this is a post about anorexia.
Mainly, because I need a quiet space to say this shit. This corner of the internet is my space – a place where poems usually float about and strangers from other creative islands send back messages in bottles. Forgive me then, if you are also writing from some distant island, and expecting to hear blank verse. I don’t have any today.
My poems have become more and more infrequent – this is because I’m working on a Masters in Creative Writing, and I’m writing a lot of prose. My space to write has become wider, more public – it involves people who I interact with on a daily basis in that terrifying relationship of honesty and love, criticism and encouragement. But even so, I find myself returning here when I have something I need to say but cannot say.
Something not for the classroom, if you will.
It’s strange what counts as not for a classroom. I have sat through I painstakingly slow critique of a piece of life-writing I contributed which danced around some childhood issues and dragged up the ugly word ‘abuse.’ I sat as a companion spoke about the narrator in my piece (me) as perhaps being sexually attracted to the man molesting/harassing her, I sat quietly and took notes. They were hard critiques to stomach – my internal child flinched at her every word, but the writer in me was interested, detached, concerned with the integrity of the piece. If that was what she thought the piece was saying, so be it. That’s writing for you.
How is it that I can take that, those memories, and put them in to the classroom?
And yet, my anorexia sits like a bear on my chest, unmovable?
I cannot do it.
A girl in our class wrote a piece about an anorexic Aunt. My lecturer spoke at length about how anorexics were self-obsessed, self-absorbed people, and that they were detached from reality. A friend from class saved me by asking if we could have a break for some water. I went outside and nearly had a full-blown panic attack.
I cannot do it.
But I can write about so many other things that lie close to my pain; I can and have written about affairs, depression, familial sickness, sexual harassment….
I have been an anorexic since I was ten years old. I have fought against my eating disorder more years than I have not had it. Sometimes I wonder – is that all I get? Ten years at the beginning when I don’t think about food every day, when I don’t have to fight that bitch inside me who makes hunger taste like winning, like comfort, like love. Ten years versus the rest of my life – the rest of my life spent fighting.
And I’m not chronic. I haven’t been for a long time. It goes in stages, like waves over years. Some years are shallow years, where I barely get my feet wet and I can’t even remember drowning, and then others, like my early years at university, I can barely keep my head about water.
So why? Why can’t I distance myself enough from the beast to look it in the eye?
Part of me thinks its because she lives inside me, this wolf that is anorexia, the fat-skinny girl with no arms and no eyes. How could I possibly pull her out of myself and look at her? It would require surgery, anaesthetic, like pulling out a kidney.
And what would I replace her with? What would live in that gaping, bloody hole that used to be her presence?
I think of anorexia that way. Perhaps her space is getting smaller, year by year, and maybe when there is no where for her to live she will finally fuck off and move out of my body and my head, but I don’t know how to make the space disappear.
I can eat normally (I do) I can eat healthily (I do) I can refuse to buy according to sizes, and wear what makes me feel good whatever the label says. I can talk to people about the long road of recovery, about the little voices, about learning to live with your demons rather than pretending they don’t exist, but I can’t….
There is so much I can’t do.
I can’t stop looking. Mirrors, car widows, shop fronts. I hear her voice in every glance, ‘Ugly,’ she shouts, banging on the door of her room inside my head, ‘Ugly! Fat! Not good enough!’
I can’t stop listing. Every day, it adds up. Exactly what I’ve eaten. When I was young I made a list on paper, now my brain makes it for me without asking. Every day. I don’t look at the list any more, I force myself not to look or think about that part of my brain because just seeing it in my minds eye and knowing what’s on it is enough to drive me crazy. But it’s there. Every day. A tally up of foods and drinks. Unconscious action. Uncontrollable.
I can’t stop counting. Numbers. Numbers everywhere. I never counted calories, it wasn’t part of my thing, but I count everything else. How many cups, how many cakes, how many days since or until, how many hours sleep, how many minutes exercise, how many inches, how many sizes, how many, how many, how many.
I can’t stop hating. I hate my body. I hate living in it.
I’ve been anorexic for fifteen years. A lot of those years have been full of awareness – I know what being an anorexic means, much like a recovering alcoholic knows what being an alcoholic means. But I still hate my body.
I still hate living in it.
I still feel the surges of disgust, of loathing, and the unbearably strong impulses to stop eating, stop eating, eat less, exercise more, hold tight onto the reigns of myself so that I bleed inside and shrink outside. Pull tighter. Harder. Become a slave to my own willpower. Become a slave to her.
This is not a poem.
This is a post about anorexia and how even after so long…
I can’t stop.