Another article I wrote, about what it feels like emotionally to have anorexia, in the hope that we can start bridging the gap between sufferers and people who have no idea what it feels like. I don't think it does any good to describe being starving hungry because people with a normal relationship with food don't have that prolonged experience.
I don't think its triggering (I hope it's not).
What does it feel like to have Anorexia?
I’m not going to mention body parts. It is one of my firmest beliefs that you have to stress over and over again that Anorexia Nervosa is, at the end of the day, a mental illness.
Anger. Overwhelming anger. It felt like I was trapped in a glass box, and I kept hitting the glass so that it would shatter around me and make me bleed, yet when people looked at me they couldn’t see any of the hurt. But I didn’t know how to form the words “It hurts” with my mouth so I just kept on smashing that box, and still felt like people were looking straight through it. I was so angry all the time. Anorexia took over my tongue and talked for me. Anything and everything that people said- it made me angry, always so angry, they didn’t understand, they were wrong, always wrong. “You’re unhappy”-“NO SHIT SHERLOCK.” “You don’t look healthy”-“How dare you assume the right to be involved with my life.” “You don’t need to lose any more weight”-“Right, and that’s your opinion, is it? Thanks for being arrogant enough to stick your oar in.” Sarcasm and black humour was the dish of the day, anything if it kept people away, anything if the thorns were sharp enough to turn their heads away when I wouldn’t eat this, wouldn’t eat that, sat hunchbacked at meals bent over with both physical and mental pain.
How many times did I try to make Mum believe I hated her, just so she might hate me too, as much as I hated myself and hopefully enough to help me not eat? How many times did I snap at her in the mornings, refuse to be in the same room as her, because I’d had a nightmare that she handed me breakfast that spurted oil when the spoon went in? How much did I take advantage of the fact that Dad was the quiet one and felt crushed beyond understanding at the fact that this was the second of his daughters to become anorexic- and yet he was still powerless? How often did I trawl their computer accounts looking for evidence of their internet searches- “How do I help my anorexic daughter?” “How to talk to anorexic daughter” “What to say to anorexic daughter” and I vaguely remember one that was just “Anorexia. Daughter. Help.”
After a while, things numbed out into one blurry, terrifying, lonely existence that felt like white noise everyday. The smallest things would tighten a knot in my chest that was blind panic, yet I knew that The Rules said I had to eat this, that, and the other at a certain time, that I had to please the doctors a little bit because otherwise I’d be sent to hospital- and if I went there, I’d lose all my playing cards and wouldn’t be able to deceive my parents at all. I was scared, scared of the doctors, my mum and dad, my brothers and sisters, my best friends, but no-one scared me so much as myself. Every few seconds I wobbled between “I need to tell someone, I can’t live with this, I’m dying inside” and “You can’t. You just can’t.” And every single time, the other voice won. And when my head was in first-voice mode, that was when I took a bite, immediately followed by the second voice “You can’t. You just can’t.” and “Fat bitch” and a whole realm of shit.
I still haven’t answered the question. The closest I can come to putting my answer is that its a non-sequitur. Anorexia makes you less human. There’s an urge to be superhuman, to deny oneself the need to eat. You’re trapped in between wanting to be above other people, and believing that you’re inherently below them in everything that you do. Anorexia “felt” like hell on earth, but I use the verb “felt” sparingly when I talk about this. In the midst of Anorexia you have an existence, but that’s it. You sense things in garish, painful and white-hot signals. Your mind hurts, all the time. I traced my recovery through the breakthroughs, which were suddenly seeing and appreciating the colour of the sky, feeling the breeze, crying as a response to a physical event instead of crying because I was so horrendously and chemically miserable, all the time. Feeling my way through the darkness to figure out how to pick up on temperature signals, tiredness signals, hunger signals. I had to fight my way to a life of feeling rather than an existence of… existing. I guess that’s what it feels like.
People see physical scars. If you see someone with a leg missing, you can pretty quickly sum up that person’s life story- likelihood is, it was a crash, warfare, infection etc. But you can’t do that with someone with an eating disorder. You can’t look at someone and see inside their mind, feel how they feel, put labels on each life event that tied up into a neat little package spelling AN, BN, EDNOS, COE, the list goes on. An eating disorder is a mental illness, and as such, you can’t SEE it. You may see the effects for a certain amount of time but any sufferer will tell you, its the people who assume healthy weight = healthy mind are some of the most triggering people you’ll meet.
"Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic." - Herman Melville, Moby Dick