They aren’t strangers, not anymore. They drop in a lot now, and walk with me until they grow tired. Always have done I suppose.
I can’t remember the first break-in, not one exact moment out of the many that have been stolen.
It matters not what they take, but what they leave behind.
They run wild and naked through my mind. Anxious and angry, demanding an instant fix or reassurance to make the bad dream go away.
They become so rowdy, so disruptive, they are just impossible to ignore. They peel my memory to shreds, piece by piece, and begin to rearrange it.
Intruders don’t always arrive empty handed.
Some of them arrive bearing gifts of temptation. Rich, rewarding temptation. Those sticky choices that can cling to my thighs and make them shrink.
Exercise has become the biggest temptation since I met my latest weight milestone, because it was promised. The ghost of what should be haunts my recovery.
Ellie promised that when I hit 50kg, I’d be allowed to go running.
The prophecy tries to unfold only by an Anonymous hand. She has gripped it in my mind, firmly rooted in the front above all else. Minutes of inactivity have been made more potent, and opportunities more obvious, mouth-watering. I’ve got all this energy to use up looking for trouble.
I should be allowed to slip among the other anonymous faces in a sweaty gym scene, I should be allowed to get fit. Get fit: oh the irony. To be fit, I have to put on this weight; whilst I appreciate Anonymous would rather it was muscle, she doesn’t quite get the full picture: I will never build muscle without first building more kg out of fat and kcal.
I should be exercising, because now I’m heavy.
I’m heavy all the time now.
I’m heavy now, even, and I should be exercising. It is a thought that is with me, always. Coping with it was easier when it was nothing more than an itch. This side of 50kg, the temptation draws closer. I can taste regret on it’s sweaty breath, and just hold mine until the feeling passes. One day, this too will pass. The anxiety will die down and rest awhile.
Is this yet another guest I must host in the name of recovery? Ellie clutches her thickening thighs and despairs: when will she be rid of this fat feeling? When will it be ok to be like this, when I should be exercising because I’m like this?
It would be so easy.
A simple matter of slipping my trainers into a bag, then smuggling it out of the house. I take a water bottle everywhere, that wouldn’t arouse much suspicion.
Remembering, of course, to change my online banking passwords and internet search history. Suspicious transactions to “FL LEISURE acc” on a regular basis could never be written off as impulse buys in a retail park. Google cannot retain a secret, least of all the lists of gym opening times; gym location; gym prices; gym gym gym. Not a dance club or a team sport: but a gym. Somewhere I would just slip into anonymity.
I’d be another Anonymous face in a sweaty sea. Brows bobbing up and down on the treadmill, surges up an erg and muscles dilating under the shoulder press. Electrolytes glitter in waterbottles; that smell of feet dancing with the dusty air-con. All I’d have to do was dress her up in leggings and give her a game face. Anorexia can wreck havoc under the noses of leisure centres, and they don’t even know it.
Even scrolling down sweaty pages feels. It feeds the wrong part of my brain. Anonymous doesn’t need any more energy than she already has.
Anorexia is constantly weaving a web of white lies to hide her smaller indiscretions; this wouldn’t be so different.
A small sedative has kept this temptation at arm’s length. I know that if I succumbed to this burning desire, truth would hold me hostage by my own guilt.
I hate lying. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Just like Anonymous hates confrontation. And so, if confronted, she’d lie. Just to protect herself.
And I know I could never live with myself if I let her.
Satisfying one thought would impregnate it with more: a litter of paranoia nipping at my heels with every second spent lurking in the dark corner of a gym. The door would swing open and in would walk my parents, my doctors; a friend, a fan – anyone who knows better than Anonymous how crucial it is at this stage of my recovery not to be tempted.
The door would swing open and in would walk a faceless stranger, who’s features would contort into that of my parents.
The walls have eyes. Cameras would stare me down as I edge into the room.
Paranoia would scrutinise every inch of my alibi. Guilt flares a harsh light and shows up all the loopholes. A thin layer of lies that would unravel should anyone ask why I’d parked on that side of town, why I’d logged into the gym’s internet, why someone who looked just like me had been burning hard earned calories on the treadmill.
Exercise is just another stranger. Another uninvited, unwelcome and unbecoming guest of my hungry imagination.
I know what happens to anorexics who are caught exercising.
They are displaced: signed off as intruders in their own lives. And so that life is confiscated, for they cannot be trusted to deal with it if they insistently elope with their illness. Out of their hands, that life is clinically altered, rebalanced. Out of their control, and their progress no longer theirs to hold up, proud.
Exercise threatens the crop of independence just coming into season. Lures it back into the ground, a slippery slope down an axis. It would be so easy.
Even now, how do you read this as anything but a lie? Why would you trust the word of someone so torn between the temptation, and the truth of the matter?
Perhaps it is that fickle thing called trust. There may still be some inkling of faith left in me to be honest about having these thoughts; these hurtful and damaging thoughts.
If I am brave enough to expose the intrusive thoughts, to ask for help, I will earn trust.
It is hard, only because Anonymous thinks she’ll be convicted to a clinic chair for harbouring these thoughts at all. There must be an amnesty, sometime.
Having these thoughts isn’t my fault: I’m ill. But Ellie, we must not act on them.
The only thing we must exercise, is caution.