Thursday, 9 October 2008
In my days of reading self-help books to fight the ED (and I must have read pretty much every single one now!) I came across a quote from a psychiatrist who believes one never recovers from an ED, one simply comes to 'an understanding' around food.
I actually think this can be the case for some people in recovery. In 'normal' times, when I am not abusing my body with anything but nicotine, although I will eat, I still think about every mouthful which goes inside me. There's almost a whirring of cogs going off if I am having a meal at a restaurant, mentally calculating fat contents, calories, sacrifices to be made next day. If I have a meal which is made with, say, a cheese-based sauce, I know I have to have salads for a few days afterwards. I rarely allow myself a pudding, but will dip into other people's at their invitation. I haven't actually derived much gastronomic pleasure in 'normal' times, but at least I have been at a healthy weight and looked well.
About 18 months ago, I gave up red and white meat. Not for ethical reasons - for dietary ones - and chose to eat fish and seafood. I have always enjoyed anything which 'swims or sticks to rocks', so the decision was not a hard one! Since Christmas, whenever the girls are staying with us for the weekend, we have started a tradition of having Sunday Roast together. This entails a hell of a lot of work, admittedly, but it's worth it for us all to sit and enjoy our time together, discussing our week gone and week to come. I have attempted the chicken on a couple of occasions and end up feeling ghastly afterwards. My digestive system just cannot cope with that type of meat any more.
Ironically, I love to bake and cook. I will bake for hours on end making all sorts of sumptuous delights for the girls and Ian. And I DO derive great pleasure from seeing others enjoy their food...in a slightly wistful way.
I find myself checking out the shapes of other women in the street, particularly if they are with a man, and feeling envious that they look so comfortable with their bodies. Curves on a woman are still beautiful in my opinion. I don't think I look attractive, but this ED isn't about my looks; it's more about my self-loathing and punishment. I often can feel rather jealous if I see women tucking into chocolates, crisps, 'fatty foods' - I have never felt sanctimonious about my 'control' (or lack thereof) and seen myself as superior because I am 'thin'. Never. I am just jealous of them and how they are able to go from day to day without batting an eyelid about what they eat.
Both our girls have beautiful bodies. Rosemary has a figure like Catherine Zeta Jones and as Beth pads out, I imagine she will be very similar. Rosemary will often talk to me about my ED and I am always open with her - the more she understands, the less likely she is to follow my pattern, I hope. She has girlfriends who have had anorexia and thinks it's sad. Knowing what it does to a person, first-hand, I think is giving her knowledge, and knowledge is power. She has laughed with me and said, I don't think I could ever be anorexic, Mum - I love my food too much! And I hug her, kiss her and tell her that's the best thing I could ever hear.
She's a very grounded girl, these days - especially now that she is back living with me and Ian. She craved a normal family life and it took her a while to realise that she had it, hence a few lairy moments over the last 10 months. Since returning to High School after summer break, she has become a different person in some ways. She and Ian get on marvellously, which warms my heart - sometimes, step-relationships can take a turn for the worse, can't they?
She's going to France on Sunday with her school and I had to sign a permission slip a few weeks ago to allow her to sample frogs' legs and snails. I was quite shocked that I had to sign this! When she saw that I had agreed, she showed mock indignation that I could subject her to it. But I explained that the choice was hers - she could choose to refuse if she so wished. She suspects she is going to be brave enough to sample the frogs' legs, but probably not the snails. I told her they were the best bit. I had snails years ago in South Africa. They were out of this world! Although they didn't stay down...
Ian and I have some weird and wonderful conversations at times. Last week, on the way back from the counsellor, we stopped for a drink at the pub and he asked me, if food had no calories, fat content, health connotations, what would your meal be? I was allowed three choices of starter, main and pudding. I chose the following, which made him blanch somewhat:
Eland on brown bread toast
Barbequed baby octopus on a fresh orange and green leaf salad (something I sampled on a daily basis in Surfer's Paradise, in Queensland)
Seafood risotto, heaving with lobster and squid
Cheesecake: blackcurrant; and Baileys (this counts as two choices!)
The cheeseboard with loads of pongy blue, strong cheeses, Camembert, Brie, Double Gloucester, the white crumblies such as Lancashire, Cheshire or Caerphilly and lots of Digestive or Hovis biscuits. No puffy water biscuits, thank you!
He, in turn, gave me his. Which involved fillet steak. So that night, I cooked it for him. I'd bought a fantastic chunk of prime fillet from our local butcher rather than the supermarket and it was lovely. And he told me it was the best steak he had ever had in his life, which is praise indeed from Ian where his steaks are concerned!
I know that Ian wants his curvaceous Annie back. He has become wary of complimenting me at times in case he puts the idea into my head that he prefers me like this. I know he isn't that shallow. I know that Ian never puts any hold on what people look like; he's only interested in what's inside their heads and hearts, so there is never any pressure from him to conform to some 'Glossy' ideal. One of my friend's daughters has been under inordinate pressure from her boyfriend to be thin. He has eaten away at her self-confidence and thus she has eaten away at her heart. She developed anorexia, much to Alison's dismay and sadness.
What don't ED sufferers understand about food? Why don't we shake off the low self-esteem issues? Why do we punish ourselves by denying ourselves something which is vital? And it is a denial. Drug and alcohol abuses are not denials of vital things. Yes, they can ruin vital things, but they are a partaking of something extra. Bulimia and Anorexia stop your enjoyment of something wholly normal and wholly necessary for survival. And it sucks.
So, I do hope that an understanding is reached at some point for me. And a true one - not a wishy-washy, I-Must-Count-Every-Calorie-Which-Goes-Inside-My-Body understanding. If I have rambled, I apologise. It always helps to get my confusing thoughts down, though...