Responsibility is an issue I find difficult to get my head around. For years, when in the depths of anorexia, I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to be responsible for my own actions and eating. No one should be telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing, what I should and shouldn’t be eating. No, it was my life and I wanted to live it exactly how I wanted. If I didn’t want to eat, why should I be made to? I wanted the responsibility to live my own life how I wanted to live it.
And in my first hospital admission in 2008 which lasted for one year, I hated everything and everyone who tried to take this responsibility away from me. I was sectioned, tube-fed and made to get to a weight I vehemently hated and disagreed with. Hence why, once discharged and given back the responsibility over my eating and exercise, I did exactly as I wanted; losing weight and showing everyone that they shouldn’t have pushed me so high, that I am my own person and I will do EXACTLY as I want. I was readmitted 4 months after being discharged. But my desire to keep my own responsibility remained. That is until my last admission in 2010. By this point I couldn’t cope with the responsibility anymore.
As it happens, in the previous years when I longed to be responsible and made a point to prove this when given the opportunity, it wasn’t actually me that was being responsible at all. Anorexia had been responsible for all my actions, all my thoughts, all my behaviours, all my eating. Anorexia had taken over my whole being for so long and then, when hospitalised in 2010 and told to eat, to not exercise, to gain weight; I couldn’t handle this responsibility. I could not take the responsibility to go against anorexia. And that is why sectioning and tube-feeding followed on this occasion. Not because like on my first admission when my desire to be ‘responsible’ made me fight against everyone and rebel, but because my inability to fight anorexia and take true responsibility for myself was too difficult a task.
I was tube-fed for seven months. I could not handle the responsibility to put food into my own mouth. Food…eating…life petrified me. I did reach the point where I could start to eat for myself again, but still, I would tell myself I HAD to eat because otherwise they would tube-feed me. It wasn’t my choice, it wasn’t my decision, and it wasn’t my responsibility. And on discharge, that is where the CTO has helped me, like I mentioned last week. It stopped me being solely responsible for my own eating and behaviour. This idea had terrified me…if I had been left to my own devices, left to be completely responsible I knew I would not be able to make myself eat. Anorexia was too strong.
This continued for many years after discharge in 2011. I could not consume a meal, a snack, a crumb…anything, unless my mum or dad were sitting with me. I needed them there to help me eat because otherwise I feared I could not be responsible for my own actions…I would succumb to the anorexia, I would hide food and I would restrict. And I didn’t want to do this.
Yes I wanted to lose weight but I knew this wasn’t an option with the strict boundaries of the CTO, so I knew I had to eat to maintain my weight but I could not let myself be responsible for my own eating. I could not sit there alone and put food into my mouth. God no, this would be the biggest betrayal of anorexia and I could not do it. My mind would tell me that if there was an option to restrict food then I HAD to take it. So I couldn’t cope with being left on my own to eat and being responsible for making that decision, taking that responsibility to go against anorexia. Over the past two year’s however, there have been occasions when I have been left alone to eat, when I could easily have hidden food or not eaten.
I struggled greatly at first and did restrict. Not much but just enough so that I reassured myself I was still anorexic, that I could still do it. It was a real challenge to put any food into my mouth without my parents being directly there. I would be wracked with guilt and anxiety if my mum left the dining table to sit on the sofa. I shouldn’t eat this, what can I get away with, an anorexic wouldn’t eat, I should eat it as it’s the right thing to do.
All these thoughts would race through my mind continuously while I sat at the table alone. Every mouthful that entered my mouth I had to tell myself that it was the right thing to do. I had to eat because otherwise I would lose weight and end up back in hospital. Eating was a huge effort when left on my own and I hated it.
And it has only really been the past six months that I have actually started eating and not thought about every mouthful. When my mum leaves the dining table now to go and sit in the lounge, I don’t agonise over what I am putting in my mouth, what I should restrict, whether I am being ‘anorexic’ or not. I just eat. Without much thought, without much stress, I just get on and do it. And this made me feel terribly guilty at first…when I realised I had eaten part of a meal without thinking about it…”how could I possibly eat and not think, just happily get on and do it mindlessly, I must be losing anorexia”. But the more I have done it, the easier it has got and the guilt has faded.
Now, I eat the majority of my meals without my parents in close proximity (we do eat dinner together most nights but they finish much before me and then disperse to the living room) and I do it without agonising over it. Most of the time now I can eat without thinking about it. And it actually feels quite liberating…to eat alone and not stress about every mouthful. But I do feel terrible for admitting this. It feels like am failing at anorexia. I am convinced you must be thinking that there’s nothing wrong with me because I don’t excessively worry about eating.
But these past 9 months I have started to live a more normal (and SLIGHTLY better life). I have made friends and am doing more normal things. I have realised that I like having these things and I want to keep them and improve on them. The only way to do that is to eat. Restricting and not eating will send me down the path back to hospital, or even death. But I want the path to friendship; I want the path to life.
And it is not to say that I eat absolutely everything that I am meant to 100% of the time. There are occasions when I find myself cutting calories. I know this is not the right thing to do but it occurs far less regularly now. And most of the time, as I said, I eat what I am meant to without overthinking. My behaviour and thoughts when I eat out has changed too. Initially it was very anxiety provoking and I would see it as an opportunity to cut out food. I wouldn’t cut out much, just the odd carb here or there, but enough to reassure myself…and enough to reinforce anorexia, which wasn’t a good thing.
But since the start of this year when I have eaten out, I have eaten everything served to me. And I now do it without even thinking about what I could leave or cut out. I know the calories in the food when I eat out so I know it is exactly what I am meant to be having. Leaving food when eating out now is not something I consider or would allow myself to do. I enjoy eating out with my friends and I will not let anorexia seep into this.
So I can now take responsibility for my own eating some of the time. And I can do so without great difficulty. I could not do it all of the time and I would struggle without the CTO. Five and a half years ago I couldn’t put a morsel of food into my mouth. Now, I can eat and not agonise over every mouthful. This is something I didn’t think was possible. I thought I would never be able to eat without my mum sitting there, let alone have times when I eat and don’t think about it! I still have a long way to go, but I have come a fair way. And I am not going to go back.