Trigger warning: fairly detailed discussion of disordered eating behaviours in this post. I've tried to soften it as much as possible, but some detail remains as I deemed it important to the context of this anecdote. Please read with caution if you think this could be harmful for you.
People often say to me that they don’t understand how I can dislike food, assuming that somehow I find food unenjoyable or even repulsive. Others, cringe, add that they wish they didn’t like food as much as they do...or even that they could have 'a bit of what I've got' (actual quote).
Aside from the surely obvious(?) unhelpful nature of such comments...there's something here that I've got to try and articulate. I don't dislike food. At all. In fact, I absolutely love it. Which is what makes this illness twice as cruel.
I find myself constantly between a rock and a hard place. Carefully and consistently treading a dichotomous line. It takes all of my energy just to remain upright.
I desperately want to cook and eat my favourite foods. Rachel's favourite foods. Not even....I desperately just want to eat 'normal' foods...prepared 'normally' like 'normal' people. Gooey baked camembert with warm garlic bread; Indian takeaway with naans and dips; my Dad's glorious homemade lasagne; Black Forest gateau; American pancakes with all the toppings. Just a nice, normal, slice of pizza.
But, I also desperately don't....can't....won't? I'm not sure which verb is best. Everything just has to be strictly calorie-controlled, measured, and accounted for. I have certain methods of doing things and certain limits that meals must fit into. I can’t even properly explain these rules. But I just know that, if I don't follow them, I don't feel safe.
Feeling safe is a funny concept...it's so subjective. What safety looks like, means and feels like differs from one person to the next. Not eating enough calories makes me feel safe....feeling safe is not always rational, evidently.
Every mealtime it feels like a tug-of-war between two desires. I desperately just want to eat and enjoy a delicious sourdough pizza with all the sundried tomatoes, anchovies and mozzarella (shout-out Franco Manca)...but, I desperately can't right now (and not just because of the #lockdown).
So, what's the result? Well, at the moment, it goes a bit like this: I have a basic, boring, plain store-bought pizza which has a calculated number of calories in. I pick off some of the cheese, and add some vegetables on top to kid myself into thinking I'm eating a properly-topped pizza. I cover it in dried garlic and chillies so it doesn't taste so bland...and, after spending most of the day worrying, I eat it for dinner.
And it still tastes bland and unsatisfying and nothing like Franco Manca. I feel oddly proud of myself from a recovery point of view for 'conquering' pizza, and yet oddly proud of myself from an anorexic point of view for managing to fit 'pizza' into my rigid and controlled structure. A win-win, I suppose.
Yet...in reality, neither side is satisfied and I'm more miserable about the whole situation than proud. Because, I've tugged and tugged in this tug-of-war, but the rope hasn't even moved.
Next time I eat pizza, it will be done properly. When I'm ready. No funny business. No messing around. With extra olives and a large glass o’ Pino Grigio, per favore.
"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." ~ Winnie the Pooh