The Anorexic Voice Has an Answer for Everything
I don’t hear it as an actual voice in my head, and I don’t see it as a little devil on my shoulder. I don’t give it a name and I don’t give it all the attention it cries out for. I know it isn’t always right, but it’s always there.
As with any illness, every person’s experience of it is different, as are the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with the feelings that surround it. But one thing remains the same – however it manifests itself, the “anorexic voice” has an answer to everything.
It’s a voice that defies logic. How many illnesses can you think of that somehow make you want to get worse? That make you go to extreme lengths to go against nature? That make you put your illness before everything else? That makes you carry on ravaging your own body despite knowing it could eventually kill you.
When you’re in hospital and people are trying to get you better, they tell you food is fuel and your body is a car and the car needs fuel to work, but by that point you don’t care about the car and you’re past caring about how well it works, if at all. They tell you that food is medicine — just as chemotherapy is for cancer or an inhaler is for asthma. But anorexia is a mental illness — one that doesn’t want you to “get better.” The “anorexic voice” translates better to fatter, and that is the last thing it wants.
I’m OK. I’m not that bad at the moment. I’ve been much, much worse. But I’ve also been better. I’m not “fine.” I am aware of that voice creeping slowly back in. When people around me talk about food and weight and calories, when I’m eating something that at my worst I wouldn’t have dreamt of eating, when I’m clothes shopping, when I’m in a supermarket… the list goes on. I’m not even sure if it ever went away. Some people think full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but how can something so deeply ingrained for so many years just disappear completely? Maybe we just get better at fighting it, until our own voice and logic become consistently louder than the anorexic voice. Whatever the case, in my case, it’s still there, getting louder, and I’m not happy about it.
I don’t want to become gravely ill. I don’t want to be hospitalized. I don’t want my life to be punctuated with blood tests and weigh-ins and therapy appointments. I don’t want to become unsociable. I don’t want to lose my hair and color and identity. I don’t want to become that skinny zombie I was years ago. I don’t want to be stared at. I don’t want attention. But I do want to be thinner than I know is healthy. That matters. And it’s a slippery slope.
I’m trying to not lose weight, but I’m also gripped by the familiar fear of gaining it too. I’m sitting somewhere in between, where I have a grasp on rationality but am also questioning everything. That myth that I’ll feel better when I’m thinner is one I reluctantly fall for and fight against at the same time. It’s tiring, but I’m trying.
I know I’m not the only one — there are so many people in the same position as me; who know they are ill but not ill enough for help, and those who are ill but, as they’re not literally dying of starvation, don’t get picked up… until it’s too late. Too many people are slipping under the radar and they are the ones who will not develop an illness, but continue an illness beyond what we ever thought was possible. I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the cycle in action and I know for a fact if it isn’t caught early, it just continues and gets worse. We can, and should, do more.
You could say I’m not trying hard enough, but that voice is part of my history, part of me. I wish I could ignore it. I wish I could ignore every weight or food related comment I overhear. I wish I could eat what I want without guilt and deal with the consequences. It doesn’t rule me, but I don’t rule it. I’m struggling. That’s where I’m at. The in between.
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If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline: 800-931-2237.