It hit me somewhere around 23. Three years of sleepless Oxford undergraduate life was enough for me. No longer does staying up beyond midnight to write, flitting from social to social, and juggling too many responsibilities for the sake of my paltry LinkedIn profile appeal. I’m all about crosswords and being in bed by 10 these days.
And, somewhere along the line, it actually became kind of cool to be twenty-something going on 75? Maybe I just find myself in unusual circles, but being a proficient knitter, a fan of garden centres, owning a patchwork blanket, and considering 9pm way too late to start a movie, is somewhat an esteemed lifestyle. We secretly all just want to win an award for owning the chunkiest cardigan, complain about noisy youths, and strut about in ugly, but oh so comfortable, oversized knickers. #cottagecore
However, with this woman living upstairs, the grandmother energy has been taken to a whole new level. You find yourself semi-transformed into a cotton ball monster after a visit to pathology, because with your ‘little old lady veins’ repeatedly refuse to give up any blood. You find it hard to get out of bed some mornings because of the pain and weakness in your joints, and the soreness of lying on one side for too long. You sometimes have to slurp high-calorie medical supplement drinks designed to combat malnutrition in the elderly, whose unfortunate gum to enamel ratio makes it difficult to chew solid food. You risk developing premature osteoporosis in your 30s. You risk potentially never actually being a real grandmother, not least because anorexia makes holding on to a romantic relationship semi-impossible, but because at this point my hormones have been screwed up so much that I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a real monthly cycle.
And don’t even get me started on the cankles. Gotta love the electrolyte imbalances and unpredictable water retention. And, in case you were wondering, neither is my bladder as reliable as it should be.
It's strange how this all started as a way to feel in control. To somehow add some level of certainty, strength, independence and routine to the chaos I found myself in. Though, the more I look at it...the more I realise how it has only made me more uncertain, more dependent, and more unable to control the chaos.
At least I’m not back in nappies...yet. But these physical complications are just the beginning. You'd be surprised; despite being so advanced in her years, the woman upstairs certainly hasn't lost any of her marbles. If anything, she’s only gained marbles over time. She's the most argumentative, manipulative, feisty, stubborn and sharp-witted tyrant I've ever encountered.
It's a good thing that I can be fairly stubborn, too. I find myself arguing with the woman upstairs a lot. I imagine we’d be terrible neighbours to anyone sharing a corridor with us. It’s also a good thing that, along with some of the more wholesome aspects of being twenty-seventy-five, such as my increasing appreciation of old church hymns, I’ve also taken to caring a bit less about what people might think of me. Thus, I’m nowadays very happy to break wind in the supermarket. And, albeit very slowly, I’m beginning to care less what the woman upstairs thinks, too. She’ll be cross if I put that extra dollop of HP sauce on my dinner? Good. I’ll be cross if I don’t get the extra sauce.
And, so, dollop by dollop it goes...slowly trying to reverse the clock so that, maybe, I’ll be well enough to be a real grandmother one day. I like to think that, given I began knitting at aged 16, I’d be a pretty useful elder to have around. I’d certainly be a comfortable underwear connoisseur.
However, one thing is for certain...and this is where my own stubbornness comes in. I will never, ever, EVER enjoy the smell of lavender.
Disclaimer: the side effects described in this post relate to my own current experience of battling malnutrition and needing to weight restore and won’t necessarily be representative of someone else’s journey. Physical side effects and weight loss can be a symptom of an eating disorder, but should not be taken as a sole indicator of how serious someone’s struggle is. You do not have to be underweight to have an eating disorder. Some of the most unwell people I’ve known have been “a healthy weight”. Eating disorders are illnesses of the mind. There is no ‘look’, and one size does not fit all.
“That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine.”
2 Corinthians 4:16-17