I knew that it would have to happen one day. I mean, I’m not stupid; you have an eating disorder so sooner or later you’re going to have to talk about food.
Thing is, I’ve talked about food before. When I first asked for help as an adult I spent two years talking about food for an hour every week. Sometimes more when things were really bad. It was all about meal plans and strategies for coping with eating and being weighed and talking about how that felt and what tiny extra morsel could be added in as part of the ‘experiment’ that never ended. It went on and on, and round and round. My every waking moment was dominated by food – or the lack of it.
After two years of gaining and losing the same few kilos I’d had enough and I walked away. Long story short, I crashed and burned. Depression won and I was back in therapy, but this time with a different service and a different focus. Two years later I was ready to try giving up living on fortisips alone and chose to become an EDU inpatient to learn to eat again. But that sent me back down the rabbit hole into the world that never stopped banging on about food. That was last summer.
Back out in the real world I found my good intentions slipping through my fingers. The numbers on the scale at my weekly weigh in dropped, as did my mood. Thoughts of food were pushed aside by thoughts of dying. I hung around at the top of a car park a few times. I walked across roads, eyes closed. I stopped driving because the urge to accelerate into a wall was overwhelming. It wasn’t great.
But slowly, with a lot of help, I can wake up now and be fairly certain I won’t die that day. I’ve tried different drugs and I think they are helping. I have an incredible care coordinator who’s managed to blend two services for me so I have a food psychiatrist and a depression psychiatrist plus an art therapist who is open-minded about what we address. From the stories I hear of other people’s experiences, this is nothing short of a miracle. I do feel lucky.
On Monday I had my regular session with the food psychiatrist and he asked how therapy was going. I explained how we were talking about things from my childhood and revisiting stuff I’d covered in the past. That I was able to bring the urge to die out into the open and look it in the eye. Up to that precise moment I was pretty damn proud of what I’d been able to handle in therapy.
And then he said: “Don’t you think it’s time you talked about food?”
I swear the world shuddered. The room certainly went silent. I realised I was holding my breath as the fear took hold.
I’ve always believed that the food stuff was just a way to cope with depression; my way of functioning in a world that has no point. But recently there’s been a jagged little thought in the corner of my mind: why is it so much easier to talk about wanting to die than it is to talk about how it feels to eat a sandwich? Why?
So on Wednesday I took a deep breath and, when Sarah asked how my week had been, I told her about what Hugh had said.
An hour later I felt revolting and physically sick, but I’d talked about food. Unfortunately, I think I’m going to have to do it again. And again. And again. I don’t think things live in tidy compartments any more, so maybe this is the way to go. And no art again.
Bit fed up with it all, actually. Pun intended.
Thanks for listening.