“Mummy I’m scared.”
“What of, darling?”
Once upon a time, Little Miss Ellie was told to never talk to strangers.
Then one day, she was wandering around at twilight, lost. A cloaked figure appeared and offered to lead her home. There was no cackle or hunchback or bushy tail: this stranger simply didn’t seem the type. After all, she said she would help Little Miss Ellie, and make her happy. So they walked further and further into the unknown, until the inevitable:
“My, what big teeth you have!” exclaimed Little Miss Ellie.
Anonymous smiled, her jaws glistening with saliva, “All the better to eat you with, my dear.”
Little Miss Ellie was gobbled up.
Anonymous was licking her lips and looking forward to her next course, when they found me. A grizzly scene, I can assure you.
Little Miss Ellie was kidnapped, and now I have been reduced to the body of a child.
Children cry when they are scared, threatened or want something. They cry when they realise how small they feel next to villains so big. They cry when they are hungry.
I am a child and have been discharged to the School of Recovery, expected to grow.
It is a bleak institution.
My timetable is a meal plan.
I am given milk at morning break. There are no P.E lessons. Any deviation from the code of conduct is subject to disciplinary action.
Period 1 is numeracy: the most important lesson. I won’t leave Recovery unless I pass all my modules in weight, intake and BMI. It is my least favourite subject.
I struggle in the self respect classes, but with time am vaguely getting the hang of it. Practice makes perfect.
I am trapped in the same four walls of this classroom, trying to teach myself how to live.
I just passed Unit 1: the action of eating.
Now that I can chew and swallow with “dexterity”, I have to learn how to eat. Topics in this unit include spontaneity, and variety.
But because I won’t step out of these four walls of the classroom, I am failing this class.
I will only eat what is prescribed.
I will only eat at my set times.
There is no spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down: not unless I let myself have it.
I have moved prison cells: a meal plan is much more comfortable than starvation, but it is still restrictive.
There is one teacher who pops in now and then, hooded and faceless.
I’m never working hard enough for her, never achieving anything sitting in that classroom.
She calls me names, and tells me to give up. That I don’t deserve to get better; that I’ll never get there.
I’ve learnt to recognise that teacher for who she is: a selfish illness and a boastful disease. A liar, a child catcher and a predator.
It makes me feel ill just listening to her.
“Mummy I don’t feel well, I am not up to a day in Recovery. Can I call in sick?”
… oh wait.
I often walk to the perimeter of Recovery, my toes inches from the boundary line. I try to challenge myself and step beyond it, out of my comfort zone: have carrot instead of celery; have a little dressing on a salad; eat the walnuts sporting the label “eat me”.
Too often I lift my foot, and look up to see a nameless, faceless creature lurking in the shadows. I run to safety, leaving Little Miss Ellie screaming in counterpoint with the shrill cackling of Anonymous.
She is always watching me.
I never thought I’d come face to face with that child catcher.
I may not believe I have a right to my body: but I know Anonymous certainly doesn’t. Nor does anyone else, I’ve recently realised.
It is childlike not to share: not childish.
I have to look to a life outside of recovery, for the good things that will come with hard work.
Being warm; sex; socialising; wearing a bra again; periods.
The absence of bloating and farting and burping: the symphony of a dormant metabolism.
A* for effort I hope. My attainment may be questionable, but small changes are being noticed. I haven’t felt anxious around other people’s food recently: I even washed up someone else’s plate without thinking of the calories diffusing through my skin from the smell of it.
My grades have stagnated at 40kg. BMI 13.2.
I am failing on paper but thriving in the playground. Good news: my heart rate is up to 50 bpm!!
I look for a line each day, and when I see Little Miss Ellie beckoning yonder, I breach it. Then the boundary moves: a new day and a new challenge.
I am being watched by a child catcher. She can only whisper from the shadows: in the end, it’s my choice if I choose to listen to her.