500 kcal

Trigger warning.

In order to recover from anorexia, one must put on weight.
0.5kg per week, until the symptoms subside.

In order to gain 0.5kg per week, one must eat 500 kcal more than their daily requirements. Everyday, for the whole week.
One has to eat an extra 500 kcal everyday, for every day of the week.
500 kcal, 7 days a week
That adds up to 3500 kcal everyweek. Extra. Everyweek.
In order to recover from anorexia, I have to eat 500 kcal more than what I do already. What I already do isn’t enough. A medicinal measure of progress: my weight – my number – has been unchanged since November. I need to eat 500 kcal more than enough.
The problem is, eating enough is already too much. It’s too much for Anonymous to cope with: so much disorder to be dealt with.
When will any of this ever be enough? I’ve had enough.

In order to recover from anorexia, one must put on weight.
Layers, and layers, and layers.
Doctors’ encourage anorexics to put it on one layer at a time, at a speed with enough momentum to maintain itself, but not too much to blow a fuse and send the carrier into a despairing, confused blackout.
It is a substantial layer of 0.5kg per week.
Try it on piece by piece, assembling a costume to crawl up the axis onto the next stage of recovery. There, the world will be waiting to see what gargantuan monstrosity appears. Anonymous can feel the thrill of the onlooker waiting to see my transformation. Another layer that will be stripped back sometime, to reveal reality’s chuckling face: don’t flatter yourself. Who would even be interested?

In order to recover from anorexia, one must put on weight.
500 kcal more than this ample diet working it’s way through the time I have yet to get through.
500 kcal more than a diet already bursting at the seams. A diet stuffed full, and futile.
500 kcal more to be melted down and trickled down shrunken veins. Great canals of blood pumping 500 kcal into my heart. Galvanising my brain into action for a while. 500 kcal lathered over porous, brittle bones. They shiver when I pass a wheelchair, or see someone on crutches. Rattled, I cross myself. That could be you if you’re not careful.
One must eat 500 kcal more than they need to function as they are.
Here is the great sadness: I only function. I do not flourish.

Increasing is wearing. Food dances on my tongue, swilled around with the poisonous words Anonymous mutters as I chew. Anorexia poisons food with her thoughts so I don’t touch it. Every missed mouthful is consumed by my illness, just so it can maintain itself. It grows strong with less, as I will with more.
I have to put on this weight.

It has been a while since I last recognised an actual increase. They are starved off, strangers in the midst of a treatment plan. Anonymous is so paranoid about them trespassing into my mouth, that she randomly arrests any morsel of food she suspects to be dense enough to smuggle in illicit calories, and then brands the word “increase” upon it. She has cheapened a label, causing the value of a real life increase to sore. When I find one, it is to be held in bewilderment and awe.

I often find Ellie scavenging on these offcuts, desperately trying to find some indication that it had been real: she had really seen an increase. This usually happens the night before clinics, the night before she is to be put up and judged by her doctors: “So, Ellie. Did you increase?”
Let us look at last week’s plate of empty promise.
My milk measure bulges just over 200ml; four chia seeds spray onto my porridge as I open their packet; the barista making my skinny coffee looks shifty. Anonymous scrawls the word “increase” into my food log, and burns those extra calories before my eyes.
There is not enough fuel in these lies to maintain recovery.
In order to recover from anorexia, one must put on weight: 0.5kg per week.
In order to gain this weight, one must eat 500 kcal extra everyday, 7 days a week.
A heaped teaspoon of honey pales under scrutiny. That will have been an extra 22 kcal at the worst.

Anorexia has led Ellie to believe that 500 kcal is in touching distance. I am convinced that a small, painless tweak to my diet would be enough to send it spiralling up and out of this illness.
Everything becomes subject to calorie speculation. Predictions made based on anorexic data, drawn from the fact that any calorie will be a big one.

500 kcal is not as easy to get to as I think it is. Proof of how far anorexia addles a brain is found in my reluctance to face the ugly fact that 500 kcal is more than a heaped measurement, or even just an extra glass of coconut water at a dodgy time of day.
Ellie waves an avocado in my face: look, an increase! Well, this is certainly looks more like an increase. Half an avocado is a solid extra on your plate. A great lump of anxiety clogging up Anonymous’ clear run through the day, dodging food and triggers as she goes. Despite my wracked nerves comping through this meaty flesh – it isn’t enough.
Half an avocado? That’s 120 calories, tops. 380 to go now Ellie.
A banana? An almond? What about a smoothie?
The point only seems to show itself to me. Here is the point, sharpened and clear cut: I don’t want to get bigger.
I just want to be recovered. I just want the worst to be over. If only weight gain wasn’t so painful.

In order to recover from anorexia, I must forget where I left “enough”.
My “enough” was mine to find and mine to lose, my body’s requirements and my body’s right. My “enough” pales next to another persons, and there it awaits their judgement. My “enough” was left too long in anonymous hands, and was squeezed too hard.
My current “enough” looks too much by comparison: well over the recommended daily calorie allowance of a normal female of my age.
What was “enough” then, is not enough now. You need to eat more, Ellie.
It’s not enough.

I don’t know when recovery will ever be “enough”.
I have heard what is coming up there, above the ‘anorexic’ weight range. There, the anorexic is expected to roam, picking off food despite the number, no matter the feeling.
There will be so much matter to feel. The maintenance course is a heady dose with unpredictable, invisible side effects. Doctor’s will see me dragged upwards and ditch me at a BMI of 20: a number I have never let myself reach before. Not since I was 13.

Treatment starts with but is not limited to, a number.
I simply refuse to see how one can possibly make a story out of numbers. There is no character development or story twists when the plot just ambles up and down and across an axis, losing a bit of itself each time it looks down to check where it is, and where it might be heading.

Every week, my nurse repeats it.
Every week, my nutrition repeats it.
Every day, my parents remind me,
and every second, Anonymous avoids it.
500 kcal, everyday.
She doesn’t fight. She’s a coward. She’ll just shield her eyes to block out reality, and stay safe and stagnant in denial.
This week, I’ve been trying. I managed to meet a sort of increase, I think.

The moment to increase arrives and I feel unsure how to greet it. Should I just go for it? Stuff the ting in my mouth and hope it doesn’t come back to bite me later?
Or perhaps I’ll wait, give myself time to prepare for it. If I think it through, perhaps the thoughts will straighten out, order themselves on their own. The disorder will cease over time, won’t it?
Time is growing thick and going fast.
In order to keep up with time, I need to be putting on weight. I’m about to be left behind.

This morning there was a smoothie crisis. The smoothie in my meal plan was let out one or two kcal, in an effort to lure my diet up the great 500kcal. Ellie was granted permission to try a new smoothie, one she had been eyeing up out of a recipe book. This one would be thick and flavoursome, full and fruity. Frozen banana frothed up and foaming, thickened by avocado and sweetened with – get this – a medjool date. Spinach crunched in rapture. The calories would tip the day in favour of recovery, I could feel it.
So I did it. It slipped down, smooth and silky. It was heavy, leaning against the walls of my stomach and oozing through my intestine. A increase, surely – I finally found an increase.

The numbers lay low with the truth. They had to be lying when they denied an increase had ever passed through here. After running through it all over and over, I must concede here. That smoothie was not an increase. Anonymous simply replaced the original with a bulkier one, and docked a few calories later in the day, to make up for regret. All without me realising.

I cannot judge 500 kcal, but I will judge how I react to it. That increased feeling is both a punishment and a prize, depending on who I fight for.

All other variables aside, – confidence, communication, constant-crisis-aversion – the tale of treatment comes down to numbers. An incomprehensible series of numbers plotting Anonymous on her journey out of my life.
If I don’t gain any weight this week, I’m going to be in big trouble.
If I don’t increase my diet by 500 kcal in time to pull myself together, layer by layer, the doctor’s will carry out the fearful examination of my future in treatment they have been threatening since stagnation.
There will be a terrible reaction, and the rapid spread of anxiety and change; and it will be all my fault.

There is nothing else that will solve or explain weekly-weight-gain-gate, than fear. Only fear will tip me over the side of this crisis.

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You know what’s better than an EXTRA banana with coffee? An extra banana dipped IN the coffee.

I have a banana in my bag.
Ellie said today, I’d eat a banana with coffee. With – not instead of. So she put a banana in my bag.
Now, I have a banana in my bag.
With three days until my weigh-in, this is all I’ve got. An inability to cram, clear confusion, and an extra banana in my bag.
An extra 100 kcal.

In order to recover from anorexia, one must put on weight until the symptoms subside.
Treatment tries to weight out a voice, wait out a feeling. Eventually, they are said to grow small enough to be manageable.
Food will recover me, not cure me. Treatment seems to be the gathering of layers, pinching them together, tighter and tighter, compress them and squeeze them slowly until the pressure finally drops, and a character emerges. Thus, a story may start: featuring numbers, yes, but also feelings.

In order to gain 0.5kg per week, one must eat 500 kcal extra.
Note: an increase will never be found in a feeling; for it is only a number.

Reader: I hope you have picked up on the repetition in this post. For it is only by saying it over and over again, can the realisation be summoned to stand on the present ground.

What will happen if you gain weight, Ellie?
You’ll gain weight.
You’ll gain weight.
You’ll gain weight, and life will go on. So they say.
Only this time, you’ll be choosing to go with it.

There is nothing more I wish to add in this post. So long as I make a meal of weight gain, I don’t deserve to indulge myself sharing news and views.
Good things are important in recovery, but they are lonely without someone to be with.

I need to eat 500 kcal more today.
I need to eat 500 kcal more today.
I need to eat 500 more today, and everyday after that.
To recover from anorexia, I need to put on weight.

 

The Chronicles of Christmas

Christmas was there, peering over the cusp of just a few days. The atmosphere had mounted advent. It was building, it was beginning to charge. Excitement clashed with stress on the streets, fear melted down by nostalgia’s wrath at home.
Anxiety was lit up like a Christmas tree. Great flashing figures were frozen in a festive stance, dangling off anorexic branches. They’d slip – surely.
The tree was bloated with presents, my family feverish with festivity. I watched them in the grip of Christmas, and grieved for the joy I still cannot hold onto whilst clinging to Anorexia.
This year though, I touched it. I felt for the joy Anonymous has trained me to turn against, and I touched it. I unwrapped Christmas, and found a collection of moments.
They are mine forever, to treasure and keep.

Christmas day itself was so bright, I was blinded.

The pandemic of stress sweeping across the world’s kitchens on the 25th December was baying in the oven. My parents’ time plan was lathered in goose fat, and it began to slip about under the pressure. I had prepared anxiety for the onslaught of smell and stress and sobs and sighs that would ensue in preparation of my family’s Christmas lunch. Even walking the long way around the house, I felt my father sweat. That turkey was cooked by his concentration if nothing else. Perhaps it was the looming scrutiny of the nine family members, perhaps it was the heat. Perhaps it’s just because it is Christmas. It happens every year in every household, so I had to be prepared for it.
So it was to be that I would avoid the kitchen at all costs, and plate up a cold meal at the last minute. It was with some reluctance that I agreed to try something different for lunch on Christmas day. Something special, to celebrate a year of recovery wins. I opened my ‘safe’ cookbook, pulled my calculator towards me, and began to break down each recipe. Pencil marks branded each serving size a calorie content. It was by this process of elimination that I made my choice. A herbed nut loaf. This Anonymous-approved meal, prepared the day before, was not without it’s own festive surprises. I measured out a serving size – a sixth: 3cm – and began to saw away at the dry crust. Specs of nut fell away from the knife’s blade. The wrinkled skin cracked from side to side, and chunks of squash sank out of sight. The walls of my nut loaf trembled: and suddenly I couldn’t tell what was slice and what wasn’t. 3cm of crumble collapsed, again and again. I butchered the remainder of the loaf, eventually salvaging 2 cm of crust and a spoonful of crumble. Whilst my cousins filed past, plates piled with parsnip and potatoes, I glared at my plate. Daring it to be bigger than I had convinced myself it really was.
This dry pile of crumbs had some calories left over from my usual lunchtime quota, so Ellie cut up a fig and weighed out an apple. Anything to wet my appetite that was rapidly decreasing as the day wore on, pushing me towards my place at the dining table.
There was a saga with the sprouts. These green gems, these misunderstood buds of festive joy: the only part of the traditional Christmas meal I have ever negotiated with Anonymous. As the kitchen was hotting up, the lunchtime hour nearly upon us, I became aware that our deal was under threat. It was carnage in the kitchen. Too many hands and too many cooks manhandling too many of my clean, innocent sprouts. Anonymous had no idea how the sprouts were going to be boiled. She had always held her vegetables hostage, but now they were being lost in the family feast. Unable to hold it down, I threw these words over my parents as they edged down their to-do list. One solution would have been to take a handful, and boil them separately in the annexe. That way I could monitor them. But that wasn’t the point: this simply is not the point of a gathering at Christmas time. The whole day, Ellie had been fighting to feel included. I wanted to share the responsibility of sprout-consumption; I wanted to walk on common ground in the conversation after the meal: “delicious sprouts”. Thus I had to persuade Anonymous to hand over control of them. She didn’t want to let them go, she didn’t know how they would be treated. Would they be subjected to seasoning? Salt, sugar? Unnecessary sprinkles over their delicate skin? What of the saucepan: had it been washed throughly – was it clean enough? Was this not the pan you used to boil your ham in yesterday? I conjured calories from the dregs, and watched them sink beneath the boiling water that the sprouts were dancing in. Mum, Dad, how will I know?
You just have to trust us.
Yes, but how will I know?
Ellie considered this. She peered past their flushed, frantic faces, into the steamy kitchen. The stress sprouts were causing me was decidedly less than that of chaotic Christmas cooking, which my parents were just about on top of. They could do without this, Ellie. We could all use do without this. You just have to trust them.
Celebrate the trust I have, despite the doubts I am desperate to unload.
The sprouts survived the cooking. They made it to the serving bowl, to the sideboard. I nearly did too, only stumbling when I picked up a clean spoon to take some. There was meat on that sideboard; bacon. Bread sauce, gravy spittle. Nothing looked clean to Anonymous if I had been dirtied by a blind eye.

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How controversial.

At the table, Ellie perched on her pain threshold. I picked up my knife and fork, which Anonymous swiftly took and began to stab me with: goodness, what enormous cutlery. The prongs were silver and strong, great gulfs torn between them. The knife would have flattened my nut loaf in one sitting. My first mouthful of that Christmas meal was air. I peeled away from the table unannounced, and reappeared clutching my small knife and fork. Ellie settled into her chair, and turned to her right. The conversations around the table were woven with each other. Voices layered over each other, pauses to pour wine or drink wine or dine with wine. Alcohol was an anxiety that ran away from me during the meal: I had expected it, for it was Christmas.
To my right, my grandfather and I shared sparkling water. I paced my mouthfuls, trying to match his so I might close the gap between finishing my meal, and waiting for others to finish theirs. With no food to watch, Anonymous’ eyes begin to wander, and they often settle on me, sitting there, wasting away under the onslaught of calories I just consumed just by waiting for someone else to finish their meal. The minutes restrained by etiquette dig into my side. My grandfather tore a shred of turkey off with his fork. He sliced a sprout, he speared it, he swirled it in thick, velvety gravy. The crust of roast potato crunched and crumpled against a smooth ball of stuffing. A small morsel assembled carefully, mindfully. He lifted it to his lips. Then paused. He finished his sentence: string of wise words spread before me. I couldn’t read them properly, anxiety was starting to blind me with spots of electric panic. The clock was ticking, and my nerves were racking up calories. When the full stop dropped, he placed this delicate forkful in his mouth, and began to chew. Once, twice, again. And again. Time sank back into my seat as he picked up the conversation again. That wonderful, soul-reviving morsel anorexia starves me of. Oh Ellie, I’m so hungry for this. I’m craving contact with people left on the other side of your illness. How sad for my grandfather’s wisdom was wasted on a narrow, anorexic rhetoric.
Where I hung off his every word, I felt Anonymous claw at them, shove them aside, hurry them along. And it hurt to watch: it was painful to endure. The Christmas dinner fight will be defined by my insistence on listening to my grandfather speak, at least until other people got up for seconds.
I lasted through that course. By the time heads were turning to their empty plates, inclining towards the kitchen where trifle and figgy pudding and cream and chocolates lay in wait, I was exhausted. So I retreated. I put my knife and fork together, and left them all to it.

I had identified possible black spots on Christmas day. The sticky bits I would be expected to sit still, and the stale ones where I knew Anonymous would force me into exile. The times Ellie would gasp for air, away from the fug of fun she still can’t quite manage in more than hourly bursts. On my time plan, I scheduled in scraps of activity I could chuck at Anonymous, just to keep her quiet. In the bleak midwinter of the afternoon, those sickly hours between 2 and 4, I shouldered Anorexia and heaved it outside into the cold. Onto a public footpath. Until I reached the summit of anxiety, and it all calmed down with the setting sun.

I needed breakfast before church: nobody sings well on an empty stomach. Nor can they walk up the rectory footpath, stand and sit and stand and sit at the organ’s cue. Without breakfast, Ellie, where will you summon the energy from to shiver in the pews, or cling to the words of God? How will you focus on your faith. This tattered faith. The one so unrecognisable in this anorexic war. Yet here it still is, it survived. What can this faith give you, but the courage to be still for an hour during this Christmas service.
Walking up the lane, I asked my Mum yet again if it was ok to sit. The third time, she took my hand and sighed. “Ellie, of course it is ok.” then she leaned in, making sure the gravestones were out of earshot. “That’s why God gave you a bottom!”

In the lead up to Christmas, I worked my way through a to-do list, staying busy, staying Anonymous. I was being chased towards the big day, when it became clear that I was missing something.
At the end of term, the reception class put on a Nativity play. Alas, this was not the simple tale of the birth of Christ. Lo, let it not be presumed that Mary and Joseph hunkered down in a stable before the divine child. This is not what happened, according to the children. What really happened, actually, was a cow picked a fight with Joseph. One of the Kings had a toilet break during their dance and the sheep were in fact better at herding a flock of four-year olds than the shepherds. The angels never did grasp just how far to not pull their dresses up on stage. The Inn Keeper had less to say about the whole thing than the Inn’s Door. As for the Inn Keeper’s wife, well. Disgruntled puts it plainly. Away in a manger, life went on. I was lucky enough to witness this retelling, and humbled by the hope they conveyed in their Christmas message, however unwittingly. Here, take this old news: this good, hopeful news. Fresh from a four-year old: here is a story of hope.

Here I present to you the Chronicles of Christmas, these acts of faith. I earned back confidence in myself. The best thing is: I coped with it too.

I made it to the summit of the festive season, overcoming the scarp of social events and high altitudes of emotions I can barely contain on a day-to-day basis.
I allowed myself an extra 50kcal at breakfast: because it is Christmas.
Even being able to eat breakfast at the kitchen table – for 7 consecutive days – without moving the clutter of Christmas decorations off it, is quite a feat. Not least because Anonymous has had me exiled into the utility room during my meals up until now. How wonderful it is to eat somewhere warm, to be allowed to enjoy a meal in entirety without sacrificing something.
Faith follows me like a shadow. I can never quite see it in entirety. Nor do I realise it is there, stalking every step I take. This Christmas made me grieve for what I lost, and protect what I have. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to bring it into the new year.

This Christmas gave me time with my family, the most precious thing Anorexia took from me.
A collection of moments: making crackers, decorating the tree, riding the air closer to the big day. We haven’t watched Love Actually yet, that’s tomorrow night.
’Tis the time of year to celebrate what we have, despite all we must carry.
There is no present, like the time.

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“Merry Christmas all! And Happy New Year.” x

Precision Theory

No Mum. I can’t try just one Kale chip.
Which one? Of what veg:oil ratio?
There is, say, about 57kcal per 23g packet. Of that packet, what percent would I then be eating by having a single kale chip?
Let the value of the chip be unknown. Now, Ellie, find the meaning of eating just one.
Imagine how that will stick out in my food diary. Lunch: OUT @ Pret a Manger: Festive Salad box; 1 x Kale Chip. (And then what – describe it? Large leaf approx. length of index finger. Salt crusted and curling at edges, a deeper shade of green – suggesting longer cooking time?)
Work that one out on the scales. It will surely show up in my weigh-in. Uh huh, even that one.
Yes I do eat kale. And yes, it is considerate of the manufacturers not to adulterate these lush leaves with anything nasty; any additives; any anorexic pesticides.
But Mum, that’s not the point.
No, no thank you. I’d rather eat the whole bag than sneak one.
Well I’ll tell you. Look here at this neat little packet, very pretty yes? Decorated in all these numbers down the side, an exact measurement of kcal and g. Of course that’s exactly what will be in the packet. That or less. One can trust these companies to scrape by with the bare minimum: they cannot make a profit by being generous.
What are you doing? No I don’t want a packet Mum. That’s not what I meant. I was just making a point.
An exact, precise point.

Control variables in my life are being monitored.
This constant counting and recounting, documenting what I let happen today.

Anonymous applies precision theory to the science of weight gain.
Weight is an important source for my nurses. It tells the simple tale of my week in recovery.
But it is a clumsy and fickle thing, weight. I don’t trust it.
Every Monday morning between 10:02-10:07, I stand on the time and place to recover. Anorexia scrutinises the number flashing from the scales. Staring down, she stares it down and strips it back.
Immediate checks on that number are carried out. My weight could latch on to a heavier vest, or get stuck in the grip of an extra couple of hairpins. A wall of water may get stuck in my cells after that extra glass last night.
Anonymous counts and moderates all the variables controlling my weight, not just my food. My clinic uniform is thin, lightweight. A single cotton layer that is proving ever more difficult to maintain now winter is closing in. Six studs; one glass of water aloud at breakfastime. Four attempts to wee prior to entering the ward. I record the size and timeliness of stools as the pass, or not pass. Meals from supper the night before right through until breakfast are calibrated and checked by the clock.
Any reason to accuse weight it is lying.
Things are not improving.

Precision cuts anxiety down to a size I can manage.
To achieve precision, Anonymous questions everything until every answer is the same. Nothing is ever worked out, yet here she is working on it all the time.
Tablespoons levelled, scales balanced. A full life, half emptied. Dressing on the side. Just in case something slips past, just in case something is added to my life.
Precision theory forces a solution to get comfortable, and forces a thin answer from the lips of change: soon. But not yet, we can’t be better yet.

Cage myself in precision, knowing I won’t survive in the wild and random world.
Ellie took me out there once last week.

I padded into the kitchen to find Mum bending over a pot on the stove. The air was thick, wrapped in a herbal hue. I could hear mushrooms cackling as they were tickled by tomatoes.
This ratatouille recipe had been giggling in the pan not five days ago. Enough for two. I watched my parents slurp the spiced sauce whilst I nibbled on a lonely creation of my own. Ellie looked on indignantly. She must have missed something: ratatouille didn’t seem to be as worrying as it was rumoured to be. A bit of olive oil, perhaps the tomatoes splitting their sides as they giggled in a sugar rush. Perhaps we hadn’t missed anything: perhaps it was just a miscalculation.
Anonymous scratched her head again as Ellie handed her mother three plates. Just a portion, please. An Ellie sized portion.
Thick wedges of stewed vegetables sank onto porcelain. We shared a supper together, delighting in the madness of not knowing who had that bigger slice of courgette, the larger spoon of sauce. They were roughly the same: and roughly was fine. Roughly was rustic, homemade. Marked out to be interesting and unpredictable. The same definition of life, wouldn’t you agree?
There were no numbers to add up. The supper just worked. This plate of food didn’t need to be questioned, for it was perfect.

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Feast your eyes.

The next day in the clinic, I wasn’t weighed. It’s a doctor’s way of throwing Anorexia’s eye off the ball. We will never know the impact of that Ratatouille.
I pondered the meaning of ratatouille, and tried to weigh up the possible impact it would have had on my calorie intake. An anomaly of 50-100kcal, perhaps? Ellie considered this no further that evening. She is learning, slowly, that a blip like this doesn’t tarnish the bigger picture. If anything, it adds some colour, some character.

Let’s look at the bigger picture. I see no points, only smooth learning curves.
When Anorexia focuses my sights on a small, sick number, it is difficult adjusting my sights onto the something as big as Life. I can’t bring myself to look this big brute in the eye. Look away so I don’t look back; not scare the future away by staring longingly.
I just stare down at the scales, focusing on the immediate and imminent anxiety the next mouthful of kcal could bring. Then let Precision be the only comfort when treading the exact route to nowhere.
Anorexia looks after the details. It’s all she can cope with, it’s all she can reach.
That’s why the portrait of an Anorexic Life is so bare, so dull.
Predictable brush strokes skirt life’s boundaries, missing them.
Barely scraping the edges.

Precision is an exact science, whereas Hope is only a theory.
I’m experimenting with Hope. Using the nut theory I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was weighed today.
I walked into hospital proud, prepared. I smiled and cried, and let relief rain down. The number went up, and so did the bar. Now, Ellie, you need to keep going. You need to keep gaining.

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Let’s be having you then

We never could have predicted the outcome of the Nut Experiment. Neither Ellie nor Anonymous thought it would give birth to a new age of Hope. A precise point, somewhere in the future.

Miss Davies

A hand reached out to take a sandwich.
Amongst muddy knees, running noses and paint splashed cotton, I watched the boy push his hair out of his eyes and bite into it. Marmite squeezed between his fingers. My breath stiffened, and waited.
His face cringed. “Wow, that is STRONG.”
“and so SALTY.”
Marmite is not a political issue in my household. Anorexia hasn’t wasted kcal considering it before. I had tried to prepare for the responsibilities of my new job, but not this. Not a marmite sandwich.
Fresh out of lessons, the children teemed into my classroom. As “Miss Davies”, I stuff their snack, activities, tea and energy into three hours and clean the set ready for the next day. In a week, “Miss Davies” survived the administrative health checks, and passed the food handling assessments (I’m laughing too). “Miss Davies” built a den in the woods; modelled paper hats; dressed Barbie in Ken’s clothes; and conducted bulb-planting in the playground. Alas, the competent facade fell away when “Miss Davies” had to make a batch of marmite sandwiches for tea.
I’ve never been confronted by a marmite sandwich before in my life. Anonymous, unhelpful as ever, volunteered the logic that other people need more. To make Ellie feel better, other people need to be eating more.
The knife scooped out a gleaming blob of that satanic spread. Like an oil spill, it engulfed the bread. A rusting of breadcrumbs was the only evidence there had been any in the first place. More guesswork and suppositions were spread, layered and quartered. Served up on plates as the children began to cheep.
He swallowed. I held my breath.
“There’s NEVER this much marmite!”
“… can we have some MORE?”
Miss Davies waited, then released the air she had cornered in her lungs. “What do you say?”
“Can we have some more PLEASE?”
The comments about the next batch were thinly spread. Yet the content quiet devoured every last mouthful.
I looked down at Miss Davies’ hands, now covered in food. For the children, it seems Ellie can wash her hands of that fear. She has no choice: let them eat marmite sandwiches.

Anonymous drew back from my new job as soon as it was offered to me. She plucked words from the job description and twisted them into an anxious script.
This 3 hour window each weekday lets in a blast of uncertain energy expenditure, and sucks her afternoon walk away. Anonymous’ calorie budget gets scrubbed out by random bursts of sitting or standing, bending and crouching.
The children’s menu was sniffed at when she spotted smelly foods and sticky foods.
‘What-Ifs’ and ‘Protection Procedures’ decorated the walls with worry.
Anxiety swept the classroom and could predict the acoustic bedlam: riotous laughter clashing with squeaky shoes and marble run. Noise still shakes me like an alarm: one day, it might shake me so hard I’ll fall into distraction, and something bad could happen.
Getting this job at this school would scavenge a day away from my other job as a waitress: would save a day treading Ellie slowly into the ground.

Everything about working in that restaurant hurts.
The moist and dingy conditions sustain anorexia, and Anonymous strains have become tangled in the strings of my apron.
Anxiety runs riot across a floor mined with shopping bags, ducking as the blitz of shattering glass rains into my shoes like water. Puddles of anorexic sweat mingle with the unidentified fluid objects that claw at my toes, the smell clinging to my shoes. Paranoia is placed precariously down the crooked stairs into the dungeon: the kitchen that imprisons a handful of exhausted chefs and one poor, unfortunate waiter. The tribute, who was volunteered by some higher power to run food to table 10 – 63 – 42 –
My nurse watch in horror as shifts devour 8 or 9 hours apiece. Time is swallowed up standing, summating the lunchtime rush, trekking as far away as possible from the carnage tearing through my own head.
Anonymous enjoys the show. She watches me dodge a fistful of peas thrown by another perfect toddler. She grits my teeth and takes orders for steaks, fish pies, burgers. Anonymous nestles Ellie under the people whose mouths fill with saliva, sugar and salt – but never a please or thank you.
The air in there assaults me, and my anorexia flares up. I hold offensive articles at arms length and march at a pace, just to get to the table in time to escape again.
My breaths are rationed, and confined to several ‘safe spots’ near the ventilation. Ellie literally holds her breath until the end of the day. Fumes rise off customer’s plates even after they’ve finished.
Miss Davies’ hands are protected by napkins each time she has to pick any dishes up. They provide a thirty second grease barrier, before they too become sodden. A wheezing disinfectant spray cannot save the cloth that wipes up all manner of sin.
Anonymous sometimes breaks out in a nervous rash when serving overweight people. I cannot reuse the air around them in case I catch fat. Their money is held by the corners, their card payments contactless. It is one of the most shameful symptoms of my anorexia, one of the most hurtful.
With the high risk of exposure, any cross contamination is washed away in the sink next to table 56. Every time I walk past it. My hands are cracked from the chemical sterilisation.
In the car, my waitressing costume is quarantined. Shoes are removed and placed in a plastic bag, wet wipes wiping the grime off my forehead, the cleft in my nose, my frown lines.
Work will always follow me home, and catch up with me just as I walk through the door. There Anonymous is confronted by the trauma of her job, my parents, Billy. Please Billy, please don’t lick me. I’m filthy, I’m filthy.
In the shower I wash away the day.
A day’s work somehow makes the ends of reason meet, and I can afford a better snack: Anonymous lets me have a slightly bigger date, or heap my teaspoon of honey. Only by enduring a gruelling day do I earn that.

There is a thin reason for staying in this job. I just need that hit of High Intensity Harm. It is an expensive addiction. It has already cost me kcal, days in recovery pcm, and car parking.
Anonymous won’t cut the apron strings. It fits Anorexia: the monotonous routine, the warm superiority I am wrapped up in watching someone else eat whilst I starve. The Anonymous waitress is an ironic character: almost the fool, only better. She thinks.
I need to quit, I need to get clean.
Just not yet. If those 8 hours of exercise are stripped back, I don’t know what will be uncovered.

I watch Autumn’s generosity, and am in awe. Trees lay down their leaves before the retreating daylight, and welcome the violent, blustering storms as they pass through. The air releases the pressure, and nature lets go. All the energy stolen by summer is now returned to the earth. Sinking under piles of dead leaves. This, the seasonal retreat away from things that are over-ripe, chewy, no longer useful. I watch Autumn simply let’s itself go, and drift slowly back to earth.

Anorexia’s mother tongue will die out as the weight comes on. A dialect riddled with baggy pants will slip into the past tense. Only my words will retain an Anonymous accent. Struggle is covered up in Anorexia:
the stamp of a diagnosis.
– join dots of blood with drops of sweat
piece together broken
promises and roll,
roll strands into a joint or a line but thin keep it thin
thinner still;
bottle it up and put it on ice,
drink me dry, lick me clean
use the s word or r word or x word against mine, and your own;
then leash a tag, a stamp, #metoo –
#toomanyhashtags.
Explain the holes.
– what Change forgot to take away.

There is a conspiracy of silence. One day, it will be uncovered.
I’ll kick a pile of leaves talked down from their twigs. My thoughts will straighten into a strong, natural line.
My nurses are going to start pushing me now: our approach thus far has been too weak, too baggy. I need to eat in front of them, but I also need to talk to them.

A job gives me something else to chew over during the day. Something that isn’t myself, a piece of my mind, or food. I chew so vigorously polishing cutlery, or herding children, just to drown out the sound of my thighs expanding. In the clamour of the classroom and racket of a restaurant, Anonymous sucks on a sweet peace of mind.
I know which job Ellie enjoys the most. I know which job is sustainable in recovery.
Being anorexic makes me a good waitress.
But Anorexia is a language children don’t understand: they want to be sat with. They want a marmite sandwich. Long may that be the case.

In the mirror, I can see Change smile in all but myself.
I still can’t put my nuts back into my meal plan: not since they were taken out weeks ago. They are stuck.

Yes, I watch Autumn declutter with apparent ease.
I need to face the cold, icy reality of anorexia and recovery.
A winter of weight gain is inevitable: nature needs me to let go, and trust that the sun will rise on the other side.
Practice makes perfect: perhaps the first step is just closing your eyes, and swallowing. Get it over with.

I learned something delicious at school today.
Ellie has been practising so hard at thinking about sitting during the day. She learnt the theory, but didn’t have the conditions to test it. A pupil pushed me into it. She stood before me clutching a book, and wanted me to read with her. Oh, reading. That nourishing, liberating joy – that needs practising over, and over, and over. We sat for an unprecedented length of time, we devoured a chapter.
She learnt a new word, and how to train a dragon.
I learnt a new meaning: one that could help without hurting.
The sitting became irrelevant: it just didn’t mean anything anymore.

Looking at myself, I never found happiness. Perhaps I’ve been looking for the wrong thing: maybe it is meaning that will be uncovered,
if i recover.
I’ll never learn what it could mean to recover, unless I do.

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Do I look like a ‘Miss Davies’?

(An aftertaste: Anonymous is a fool to think looking after children is any less exhausting than walking. They are exhausting, but not draining.)

A Life in the day

It starts with alarm.
Armed with a routine, Anorexia gets me out of bed in the mornings to confront them. Anonymous sets about emptying the day.

Act 1, Scene 3: Breakfast.
Everything ticking along nicely: the dishwasher emptied; curtains drawn. Radio 4 humming under an Anonymous monologue. The stage set for a successful breakfast.
Then Dad comes in a line early, and I am thrown.
The door clatters in it’s frame. The kettle groans; teacups clink; a teaspoon heckles me from the sink.
I lost my place in the breakfast script: there was no order to work through to ensure I measured every tablespoon accurately. Now I’m going to be late. Hurry, stop getting in my way. Let me get on with my life.
Cue: an anorexic panic. Insults, agitation –
and so the scene dissolves.

Act 1, Scene 3: Breakfast – take 2.
Everything ticking along nicely: the dishwasher emptied; curtains drawn. Radio 4 humming under an Anonymous monologue. The stage set for a successful breakfast.
Then Dad comes in a line early, and I am thrown.
The door clatters in it’s frame. The kettle groans; teacups clink; a teaspoon heckles me from the sink.
I lost my place in the breakfast script. Now, now what.

A daily grind bores away the day, a day structured to hold up anorexia.
What I’m going to eat later stalks me out of bed.
The breakfast sequence is followed by a string of stills in front of the bathroom mirror. I push the morning through the smaller hours by faffing and floating between rooms, gathering piles of socks and moving them from the bed to the cupboard. Back into a draw.
Time becomes bloated with movement.
I leave the house searching for something to do, somewhere to tip all these unwanted minutes. Sitting in the driver’s seat sends my heart racing, so I manoeuvre within a 25minutes radius. This is my tolerance limit. At traffic lights my legs jig and my back twitches. An angry exorcism of leftover calories is only complete when I am out of the car – standing.
My morning out is carefully choreographed between a narrow spread of aisles, alleys and side streets. Carpark metres, a street sweeper, a window displaying the same set of disguises it had the day before. And the day before that.
Ellie comes up for air for 20mins midmorning. A clash of meal plans and an anorexic plot, in which I have a coffee. I gobble up the extra minutes in situ, and stuff them under the nib of a pen. As I write this, I’m sipping on my regular skinny latte (“Is this definitely skimmed milk?”). I won’t reach the end of this paragraph. I only have a few mouthfuls left. We need to be getting home anyway, or I’ll be late for lunch
Before I eat, there is a 40mins palate cleanser: home, sink, scrub, change, down stairs for a bag, up stairs to replace the bag, downstairs and into the kitchen. Up again for that scarf I deliberately left there, just to squeeze another 14 steps into the day. Food preparation will take up enough standing space to justify hiring out time for lunch.
Are you bored yet? I certainly am.
But wait – the day has barely begun.
The sticky hours between 2 and 3 pass through me reluctantly. The clock hand crawls across it’s face to hide it’s shame. The impossible task of doing nothing: freezing bananas, rearranging the fridge, making trips upstairs with the laundry: half a pile at a time.
Standing up against the tyranny of time.
The final push to the summit of the day: my afternoon walk. Come rain or shine, sleet snow and sorrow: thou shalt roam aimlessly, with nothing to lose but kcal.
(With irony): Another nugget of anorexic wisdom.
It’s downhill from here. A shower washes supper gently down the steep slope of the day. Only then can relief rain between the pages of this notebook.
It is only by achieving anorexia, that I earn the right to write.
Soon, I can put this all to bed. Emptying a day means there is nothing to make dreams out of. Instead, I listen to Ellie snore through Anonymous’ regret at having survived another day in recovery.
Then it’s time to wake up.
How I wish I could ride that snooze button a few minutes longer.
But you can’t Ellie. You’ll be late.

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Seconds sank into the mud

Variations on a theme:
Weekends: 9hr shift at restaurant. A workplace routine is already in place.
Hospital clinics: subject to appointment type, doctor and duration. Move walks from pm to am accordingly.

A fluid family life was cut off by my routine. Coming and going with tides of day trips and mealtimes became stuck in the past. Anorexia diluted quality time together and reduced it to drips through the day: the gap between my snack and shower; an cross over around lunchtime.
In this arid loneliness, there is nothing to get in my way. No obstacle that helps inactivity hoard kcal into mounts of kg.
You’re in my way. My brother wakes up during the faffing phase and trips me up on my way to the bathroom. My Dad cuts the lawn on a dry afternoon, nuturing irritation into agitation. They abscond my radar and come home without sending out a precautionary text message, so I can plan around their arrival. Noise soaks into the air and makes Anxiety sweat.
They never speak to Ellie during the day, only tolerate Anonymous’ howling if they dare cook themselves a stir fry. The stench of food injures her. Like rubbing salt into a wound.
Billy, stop jumping up. No. No Billy. You cannot come on my walk: your little legs will tire, and why must you stop and sniff so often? Cuddles later Billy, you’re making me late. I’m late for my shower.
His wagging tail slows, and dies. When the day is tired out, there is a slot to cuddle my Billy. It is my favourite time of day.

Daily habits are props for Anorexia.
Reading a newspaper every mealtime gives food a side order of politics and opinion. The BBC and the Times feed productivity levels. I’ll sit at a little table in the laundry room, by the window. I know I won’t be disturbed in there. I’ll have the peace of mind to concentrate on my food and paper.
The washing up must be undone before I start eating, just so Anonymous feels she’s earned her carbs.
That smoothie bowl can’t just look the best: it has to be the best. Something to do with achievement, “some might think”.

Old hobbies were easily killed off by an obsession with exercise.
Broken strings curl around my harp like roots around a coffin.
Books gather dust as I struggle to keep on top of the pile with only 30mins of reading before bed.
If time goes spare and rests back in a chair, it hoards calories.

Beyond these four corners of this life lies recovery: Ellie is sure of it.
I can’t see the point of recovery whilst tripping along in a hunger high, waiting for change to calm shallow storms.
There is no point, only a smooth learning curve.

The challenge for a few months has been to throw pinches of disruption into my day.
Moulding my day around someone else’s plans had me withstanding a painful 20mins drive to meet a friend for a walk, instead of asking her to come here. To save the sitting.
Moving supper back by 45 mins meant I could eat with my family. So far, the calories haven’t surprised my body. As far as we can tell, Ellie hasn’t been tricked into snacking afterwards at all, even if she eats earlier. Huh.
My camera roll has depleted this month: not every meal has been captured and retained for future reference.
I set a timer at 15:02, and buried 15mins between the pages of Zadie Smith. Anonymous found me a whole chapter later.
I checked my phone before 6pm.
In the midst of the perfect breakfast, I let that teaspoon lie.
If I look after the habits, the routine will look after itself.

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It was magical.

Here is proof of doing something different: news. A change. This just in: I have been offered a job in a primary school. Yes: I put my anorexic confidence out there. Sat during the interview and everything! I even risked spending a moment sitting, reading through the application forms before 5pm.
How nice to do something that won’t hurt.

At the end of the day, one day, Recovery will work better than anorexia – Time tells me so.
Ellie struggles finding something to live for, in what she lives with.
But at least she is trying. Every exhausted time.

Try harder.
– and so the scene dissolves.

Moveable Feasts

My decision to defer university for another year left devastation in it’s wake. Every day sinks deeper. Loss is a natural disaster, and it has taken a while for grief to catch up. Finally, it has arrived.
When the “whether” broke and the decision dawned on me, the pressure dropped and sucked anxiety away.
In the few days that followed my deferral, Anonymous took cover in the eye of the storm, and let relief rain. Together we watched the waves of anguish build as September approached. The ghost of my leaving date leered.
I wade into another day of Recovery. My reason to eat was washed away, and disorder was left in it’s wake.
It is a storm too big to get over. No, all I can do now is get through it. Slash through each day as it comes. Stand away from the tides of triggers, and wait for it all to pass.

We are all trying to grapple with what has just happened. I have been feeling my way down the levels of grief, gathering my thoughts together. Denial was first to disrupt the calm climate of relief. It passed by in relief: shrugging off questions, and letting distraction shield me from the nip in the air. Realisation froze over in the following week. The sugary rush of relief passed, and now grief craves a home. Somewhere to place this feeling, some direction or purpose.

Here is grief.
Ellie found words with no meaning.
Pages of writing for nobody to read.
Illness there for nothing, but health.
No doubt to eat, no regret to drink. No satiety for the full.
Nothing to make anything from.
A plot lost in the story.

I also found a body. Let us examine this specimen here, in the mirror: where it was first discovered. It was last seen 2kg ago, stumbling across a weight graph towards a hospital admission. Notice it was discovered far from the inpatients unit: it must have endured those 2kg just to escape more intensive treatment. Goodness, it has been through a lot in the short space of two months.
Food complimented Ellie by rushing to the parts she is most proud of. Fat flirts with my face, the weight on my cheeks only trying to make my smile come back. High priority was given to my face in particular: the one that speaks for and represents the brain it cradles. This aid was distributed to protect my brain. I suppose I should feel flattered that Ellie believes this mind is worth protecting.
This weight is incriminating: it proves that in this instance, Anonymous lied. Time blew over what Anorexia blew out of proportion: that extra 2kg didn’t look as horrifying as it should have. Had the scales not pointed it out, I probably wouldn’t have noticed. Of course, now it is obvious. Now, it’s the next 2kg I’m worried out.
The eye of the storm watches me deciding what to do with the body.

Grief broke Recovery’s image: now I see a liar. It told me I would get out if I gained a little weight. Struggling against the tide of grief took kcal..

Anonymous wrapped her arms around my meal plan, and squeezed it tight.
My glass of milk was reduced to a dribble in a cup of tea – decaf – sipped to stretch my “snack” hour out. Nuts rained like bullets into the bin, they were the first casualties in the retreat. Anonymous blocked up all calories leaking in through liquid, resulting in a breakfast drought. Today, she eyed up my yogurt. How many kcal is it worth trying to save, Ellie?
The storm broke, and restriction soaked up the floods of panic. Still, they come in waves. I caught Ellie’s eye wandering, looking at Anorexia in awe.
She’s still got it.

After being pushed into a crowd of emotions, I withdrew. I turned off my phone, I left work after only 2 hours. Still, I couldn’t escape time. It was crushing.

From behind my closed door, Anonymous spied on my family. Ellie progressed backwards and responded only to the adrenaline surge that beat her head against the wall.
Where I couldn’t control my emotions, I controlled my environment. Anonymous counted the calories on my parents plates before she made a meal of preparing her own supper. She caught a whiff of unsolicited cooking – 15:00hrs; 09/09/2017; a slow cooker – and defended herself with venom. The world turned against me, so I turned my head against the wall: one, two, three. Doors that shut with a crack, squeak, sigh cued an anorexic attack.
One, two, three.
Pennies and pins dropped, and cracked through the house like a whip. Kindness and cruelty were made mute, their tongues cut off on eggshells.
The calm after the storm never arrived, the rage just kept building.
One, two, crack –

The paintwork is bruised from where my head hits it. I use the same place every time: the strong and silent type, the sort my parents would never find out about. If it weren’t for the screaming.
Self harm is just another form of grief: just another action that will never have the words to explain itself. The injured character, looking for a victim.

I couldn’t contain Anorexia. There was just so much to manage, and I needed her help. In such turbulent times, the only permanent thing is change.

After the storm, I pieced together an existence for Anorexia to work on, and for Ellie to work with. Sifting through lies, limits and numbers; trying to disorder kcal to reorder kg.
I asked for my job back, and squashed all temptation of university under administration and paperwork.
A dream of other offers a full recovery can offer swam before my eyes. Travel, writing, good books, a different course or different –
wait. I’m getting ahead of myself. I think it is just so Grief doesn’t catch up with me again.

A gathering of thoughts, a triggering job, and Time.
This is what has been left over.
A reason to set an alarm in the morning.

Losing university is just another loss. Another one. What, Ellie, have you got to lose now? What is there left for Change to take away?
Life cannot be this greedy. If I only asked, perhaps it would give something back. Like Time. That slippery, omniscient narrator: the one Anorexia cannot stop. I must spend this time wisely: or else Recovery will run away with it.

I looked back at my decision as it receded. Unshaken, it holds its head up high. It was made right, out of honest reasons for which I am proud of. As are my parents and doctors. I don’t trust my own thoughts because they are infected, but I know this one is clean. Everyone was having it: I’m not ready for university yet. It is not the ned of the world, as it seemed at first. As if the world has any sort of limited to meeting my deadline of returning to university now. No, I just need more time.

This is a blot on my manuscript. A mistake.
Reading over the last two weeks, I can see my characters turn on each other. The narrative changed. It’s nature turned erratic, and I lost my place. I can’t remember where I left Recovery.
This is not how my life was meant to be.

The plot, and Ellie’s blood, thickens.
How empty those words sound, how grievous.

Mind: the Gap

Every morning, I unfold Body Image and examine it in the mirror. The glass fogs up with smoke.
From under piles of leggings and wooly socks, I pick out the same pair of words I wore yesterday, and the day before, and the one before that. They don’t suit each other very well, but they’ve been crammed next to each other in a sentence anyway.
The mirror cracks into a smile, and the girl bulges from side to side through the glass. Anonymous leans in and looks for my new number: she looks to see where that 0.5kg went this week. Damage to Anonymous’ shell dimples my cheeks and plumps out the cushions around my legs. Whispers of health pass by in a curl of strengthened hair. A single blush graffitis a perfect shade of pale.
Anorexia keeps my body caged in an image, and accessorises it with her thoughts, and her judgements. They are narrow and unflattering, fiercely protective of the sharp edges the marks her boney borders.
Ellie looked at the image before her and shook her head, wondering why weight must be in the foreground. It takes up the whole picture: the only hard evidence that recovery is passing through. It just seems so out of proportion. Far too big and taking up far too much space.

I put Body to one side, making sure it was folded up so the creases were as thin as possible. The mirror gaped at what was left of my Image. Ellie, Anonymous, and myself. A gathering of unsavoury characters, and a story full of holes.

I had negotiated a 4 week gap between my hospital assessments, in order to prove that I do not need to be admitted as a day patient into the Eating Disorder Unit. It never occurred to me that I had just dug myself another hole, and found another empty gap to fill.
My plate was piled high with promises: the dietary increases would start tomorrow. The scales would fall away to weight welcomed with pride. Time would crack, and prise Anonymous away from my meal plan. Ellie would testify that she could react to Anxiety in some other way than cutting off her crusts, or watering down a smoothie. For four weeks, Anonymous has had nothing to eat but her own words. Here is the bitten word: weight gain.
Anorexia fed me denial for the first week. Surely, I didn’t need to increase my diet. All this food is far too big, and takes up far too much space. It wouldn’t be real, just a trick of gravity.
-0.1kg.
The second week, I dithered in my comfortable gap between an increase, and an intention. +- 0kg. An anomaly, surely. Ellie had been gnawing around the hull of her strawberries, and licked the spoon twice. Those teaspoons of hummus had been heaped for heaven’s sake. Still, the image flickered on the scales.
The third week, I was pushed into it. Anonymous’ logic was sweet as I ate it, and spat it out. A tablespoon of nut butter melted into my porridge, and it conjured up a miracle. +0.5kg.
Don’t let that slip between your fingers, Ellie.

It is so easy to talk myself out of increases, so I literally have to eat my words.

I unfolded up those numbers, and held them up into the light. Then realised what I was looking at. A gap had opened up between my meal plan and my metabolism. That’s the crack my efforts were falling into.
Ellie closed her eyes, and braced herself. It was so deep, and so dark.

Anxiety has been trying to talk me into staying in this hole, I think. It’s hard to tell, because I don’t ever fully understand what it’s trying to tell me.
When it tries to speak, rational words become strangled, crushed by the pressure of so much emotion climbing upon it from such a height. Change looms up there, and it alarms Anxiety. So it starts making all this noise.
Listen, Ellie. What is Anxiety actually trying to tell you?

My brain hasn’t got the kcal to waste on thinking efficiently. Ellie is so out of practice in dealing with her thoughts, that she ends up over-thinking. This often results in a obsessive surge, and then Reason blacks out. Anxiety has to take over: someone has to reestablish order.
It spat thoughts in my face with every mouthful.
An extra centimetre of cucumber burnt my tongue like acid.
A Times article on the possible – improbable – irreversible damage a whiff of bacon can wreck on metabolism crippled me for days afterwards. I hobbled around work in the coming days, desperately trying to shield my nose from the aromas rising off my customer’s plates.
Suddenly, my legs were being prised open all over again. Food blared between the pages of my magazine. I was catching fat from that person on the train and this person in the queue. An angry, vengeful rash of pregnancies and STIs came back to bite me from the past.
Thoughts gathered together and descended upon me like a mob. Time was chewed up and pressed harder against this four week window. Failure stared straight through me.
Of course Anxiety felt threatened. She was crying out for help. Anorexia is in trouble, she is being exposed.
Your friend needs help. She helped you, remember?
Each hour was littered with signs to turn back and retreat into my hole.

There were cracks just waiting to swallow me up as I advanced forward, trembling with fright from the spectre of hospital food.

Looking into the future, Anonymous can already see cracks that will trip me up further down the road to Recovery. That one just there, the one hiding just behind my mirror. And over there, the gap between “weight restored” and “recovered”. That’s a hard fall there: one which nobody cares about, and nobody takes seriously.

Some holes are placed just where Anonymous can trip other people up too.
The space between your mouth and my ears is dangerous. Meaning leaves your tongue with good intentions. Healthy compliments fall ill as they travel over the gap of understanding. When I receive them, they are twisted and tortured into Anorexic weaponry.
It is so easy to offend Anorexia: just remind her she is failing. Just point out she is weak enough to let me get this healthy, to “look so well”. When someone falls into this trap, Ellie gets dragged down too. If we look so “well” at this weight, Ellie, why should you want to gain any more?

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Anonymous worries if Ellie looks too happy in a picture.

Anorexia tries to press her image up against your screen, so the gap in your knowledge widens. My social media pages are subject to censorship: she has an image to uphold. She needs to maintain her anomity: it is what keeps her safe.
Let us unfold a few that have been cast out. I wear them well.
Here, a plate of food. Pictures of food: proof of Anorexic failure. Ellie: are you eating solid food yet? This is one hole Ellie wants to explore. I have now set up a ‘sister’ instagram account where I can put pictures up of some of the (very exciting) food I eat. It can be found @eatenbyellie and is designed to add detail to the picture of Ellie, who is recovering. And she is proud of it.

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I just want to show off how pretty food is 😉

Ah, what about this one: Ellie wearing something nice. I had dithered in front of the mirror for hours. Shall you wear pretty, or thin? Whichever is more comfortable, or whichever you feel the most confident in.
Any image of me is fed to you in self-defence. Anorexia isn’t cool: it is freezing. And so very lonely. I struggle to see friends who will only have a memory of Anonymous. I am still competing against my own ghost; even if Ellie is so much better than she was.
Please, don’t offend Anonymous. She is my friend, and I trust her.
Scrolling through loneliness and desperation and inadequacy: other people can be blind to what is pictured on a screen. Look for that gap. Can you hear the screaming?

In the mirror, I can see holes in Recovery’s smile. The gap between my assessments made it crack from side to side, and reveal a set of perfectly disordered gaps in my understanding of this illness. Somehow, I fell through a crack.
Nestled in Now: somewhere between the past and the future, I am trying to find a face to pull over this gaping hole. Perhaps covering it up is as inefficient as Anxiety’s communication. It’s just that finding something to fill all these holes summons Fear from the pit of it’s hovel.

Recovery will work with Nothing to make Something, and it will possibly mean Everything. I have learnt that it will possibly be drafted and redrafted, edited, scraped, compared and contrasted with the other side of the gap, the other side of the argument. Always trying to be bigger and better and thinner than the last mouthful of words.
Ellie just needs to keep chewing through the knots of her confusion.
Eventually, Recovery will unfold another image of life beyond maintaining the image of a thin body. Surely, it will be more filling than this morsel of life.
Because this just isn’t Ellie. Anorexia simply isn’t me.