Ellie is taking part in an experiment this summer.
An extensive study on how far I have come in recovery, and how much further I have the potential to go.
From tomorrow, Change will be injected to all parts of my life. I will be leaving home awhile, and working in a land far away from my parents, doctors and comfort.
It is a job that people with long, important names thrive in.
Time will go haywire. Long days chasing students into activities, followed by curfew watches and counselling.
I will be away from an environment that nurtures the growth of recovery.
In order to adapt, I must test the power of the following belief: “If it is not trying to achieve recovery, you shouldn’t be doing it.” – Ellie, June 2018
This is going to force Ellie into uncomfortable positions. It will demand that she is flexible, that she pushes herself over the thin boundaries we have abided by for years.
She must bow down before her meals even after they aggravate Anxiety. She must lay herself down in favour of heavier responsibilities, and take up calorific arms against exhaustion to prevent failure. Over 500 students will push Anonymous over the limit, but Ellie must choose to tread carefully, following everyone else’s lead.
She will be expected to over-stretch the anorexic marks and, by doing so, will tear the knots out in handfuls.
This will be a juggling act. A never before seen routine: the spectacle of anorexia being forced to work with sleep, society, food and duties. They will all be tossed into the air and ordered, leading each other through each day, into a week. Two, six.
This is the purpose of this experiment: to see if a healthy routine can be developed and maintained in a new and threatening environment. This rich, crowded and exciting community could spawn all kinds of culture in Ellie. If I can adapt to unchartered territory and still navigate towards recovery, the ends of the earth could fall away to reveal more opportunities in the future.
During this experiment, we shall observe the anatomy of Change.
It’s skeleton could be made up of something so simple as belief. Might we direct it further, and establish what exactly makes a strong belief? What power might it have to manipulate the facts?
We might see a single positive belief topple Anxiety, one worry after another. A domino effect of realisations.
We may be able to identify signs of disease with ease. Even in that blurry future, we can already anticipate the vulnerable aspects of Change.
In this case, there are several areas of concern. One is exercise, the other is food.
How will Anonymous react when she is exposed to exercise? How might we prevent her catching the need to do any?
The spectre of different air, different scales and different mealtimes is already enough for Anonymous to predict that her weight will rocket the moment her adventure begins. This we know, this thought already established. What we are attempting to learn in this experiment, however, is what to do with that thought.
That infectious and frightening thought.
My meal plan will have wounds slashed into it by my timetable. What we must observe, is if Change can nurture the decision to cover the wound in calories so it can heal. Otherwise, it will simply leave a hole for hunger to thrive, and my recovery will start to rot.
Yes, we must scrutinise Change. I am so desperate to find evidence of independence. I am so desperate to prove I can manage.
There are other variables to consider.
Some have been easy to control: I have found somewhere to live that promises to be clean and quiet. A little kitchen for me to carry out the rituals of food preparation.
I have arranged medical provision when I arrive and will be weighed every week, just to check Change doesn’t have any destructive adverse effects. I will also be returning to my clinic mid-way through the summer. The corridors of the hospital wing I have haunted for over two years will be yearning for me almost as much as I will them.
Other variables are less compliant. The animal emotions that rage towards my plate, the thoughts Anxiety hurls my way to ward off Change. The unknown corners Anorexia can whisper from: I can walk that far.
Then there are them: the intruders.
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.
They call my memory a liar and retell a story of what really happened. A chronicle enhanced with extra senses and superpowers: oh, how I delved into another person’s head and rummaged around their judgements. How I chose the bad to take away; how I baited karma to bat it’s eyelid: a butterfly’s wing blinking in horror. The future is written off already. Intrusive thoughts take justice into an anorexic head, and squeeze it thin.
And of course, they’ve the additives that come with anorexia. Starvation syndrome, even when I feel so heavy, makes a light bite for anxiety. I’m so hungry for reason, I attach myself to the strongest one I can find. And normally, it an alien one. Imagined and unreal, but totally believable.
The damage isn’t what they take. It is what they leave behind. The ghosts of a paranoid future.
They come at their leisure.
At school, as I listen to a four year old child break down words – one letter at a time – time crawls out of my control. It lags behind my whirring thoughts, and soon I feel the chair under my bottom grip me, now for too long.
As the energy grounds onto my mat at the close of a yoga practice, I cast any energy back down into the mat. Ellie grounds herself on her spot in the studio, and retreats into herself. Waiting for her, is a thought.
An alarmed and angry thought suddenly pops up into my mind and refuses to budge. As the class quiets into stillness, it starts to fidget. It pokes and twists, stabs a knife into recovery’s back. It is the most difficult of all the yoga poses: shivasana – that of utter stillness. And an anonymous thought cannot hold with it. My energy is taken and ricochets up off on a tangent, flying sky high and terrified of the very thought of sitting still for 4 mins. The intrusion makes noise in my head, and disturbs my practice.
I cannot practice being me as I am in that moment, with an intruder hijacking my thought processes and driving them into a fat and maddening future.
What if this happens when I’m away?
This is what we are working on. This is an experiment on how well I can cope; even if only with my own excitement!
(Food for thought: define “well”?)
We expect Change to aggravate the intruders, so have made preparations for them. Intrusive thoughts never leave, but they can be encouraged to stand aside by distraction. I am expecting to be busy at work, and hope it will be enough to force a threat’s sharp point out from my side.
I think I can do it.
– Another thought, another belief. What power might positivity wield?
An Anonymous subject in a summer uniform.
Let us see what happens.