I write, not because I feel that I deserve any special merit for what I have been through. I do not claim the following pages to be worthy of special attention. I feel the need to share my experience precisely because it is not extraordinary. Day after day the amount of individuals bound – or bound to be bound – by the same fate seems to escalate at a worrying scale.
Many volumes have already been written on the subject. Some stories that have been published in the past are those of lifelong destitution and hardship. When I read through such heart-rending pages, I feel guilty. I was privileged: gifted, happy, pampered, cared for and loved; my anorexia hit me just as hard. There have been self-help books, medical accounts and explanations in so far as they exist. However, when I was ill, such documents only served to guide me further into my illness. Whenever I came across a symptom I did not possess, I was quick to put it into practice too. When I studied the ways in which to put on weight, I assiduously did all I could to perform the opposite. Anorexia has a perverse way of twisting a helping hand into a forceful grip that drags the suffering patient deeper into Hell.
What I desperately looked for at the time, and still wish I could find today, were details as to what happens when one does begin to recover. After accepting that one has the illness, after seeking help, after beginning to put on weight. When I began to eat again I was so afraid the hunger would never subside. I was afraid I would start to binge permanently. My idea of a gargantuan portion may still have been another’s slimming dish, but when – how – would I learn to understand what a ‘normal’ quantity really was? Why was I no longer able to digest certain foods for a while? Was the weight going to stop escalating at some point? How could I know if I really was totally okay? What did that feel like anyway? No one realises how difficult the last few steps actually are. No matter how well supplied with crutches and support, I was still exhausted, afraid and incredibly confused. I needed someone to tell me what recovery was like. I wanted to hear a trustworthy real-life version of what I was to expect. I wanted a ‘role-model’ with whom I could identify. I want my book to answer those whose questions still are not met. And I want to stress that anorexia is an illness. It is a cancer of the soul and it is nobody’s fault. It can be healed.
Anorexia creeps into the family. People close to the victim often suffer just as much. They feel just as vulnerable and frightened. Very often they will manage to handle the situation as long as their loved one is still on the road to recovery. However, when the one they cared for finally does pull through, such individuals, faced with demons they managed to silence for so long, will typically spiral into similar or other forms of depression in turn.
I wish I could offer a coherent ‘once upon a time’. I wish I could say exactly when it all began, where and how and why. I can trace no traumatic experience that suddenly turned my world upside down. My story is not that of a miserable childhood shattered with horrifying tales to recount. I did not drink (a lot), I did not smoke (that often); the only drug I knew of was that sweet raspberry syrup I was sometimes given as a child to help me sleep. Mine is the dreamed portrait of a perfect little girl come from a perfect family of five living in a perfect House & Garden home with a puppy dog and a big
kitchen and an innumerable amount of perfect friends. My life was perfectly balanced and I was perfectly happy: everything was in perfect blissful, innocent and harmless control. Then control took control and I was left with no control. It took me years to work out that things didn’t have to be perfect.
Perfection is a disease that wipes out all that really is perfect in life, only to replace it with an idealistic approximation that keeps us in a constant state of dissatisfaction and disarray. Perfection was my disease; anorexia was my perfection.