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  • Writer's pictureRachel

Prodding the Mattress

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

No, this isn’t a low-budget spin-off of Touching the Void. This is what I call the mental health version of “only I’M allowed to beat up my sibling!” 

Sadly, I don’t have siblings, but from what I’ve gathered from the movies and observing the behaviour of peers, there seems to be a unique love-hate relationship that exists between brothers and sisters. You can insult, tease, and bully your sibling perfectly acceptably until the cows come home…but as soon as that bully in the playground starts picking on your sibling, a line has been crossed. Only you are allowed to speak negatively of your sibling or treat them badly. No-one else has permission. 

Anorexia isn’t my sister, obviously. There also aren’t any bullies in the playground that have it in for her. To be honest, she’s actually the school bully. She is used to getting her own way, pushing me about, and bagging the top bunk. She has to be in control. She lies above me in that top bunk in the dark, waiting to jump out at me when I’m least expecting it. 

Most of the time I put up with it, because trying to stand my ground is so exhausting. But, increasingly so, little by little, I'm starting to stand up to her. I'm starting to throw insults her way, too. Prod her mattress from the bottom bunk, as it were.

Though, it recently dawned on me that I don’t like it when someone else tries to do this for me. Parents and friends, of course, look in and see the woman upstairs pushing me about constantly. Naturally, they see it fitting to throw some shade her way. I can see why. But, for some strange makes my walls go up, and I find myself defending her...getting angry at the fact that other people want to insult her. I find myself...oddly possessive, protective even. As if she's my sibling, only I can call her that nasty word. Poking the mattress from the bottom bunk is my prerogative, not yours. 

If I'm being honest, this just shows that I'm not fully able to say I want to get rid of her, yet. Though I despise her, I'm scared to lose her. That can seem hard to conceive for anyone who doesn't have a woman upstairs, or bunk beds, or whatever. I draw a semi-parallel to Stockholm syndrome. But, even I don't know how it’s rationally possible that I can acknowledge the existence of this Stockholm syndrome, yet still be gripped by it.

I don't want this to end this on a negative note, because my realisation of this has actually been a really positive thing this week. I haven’t really acknowledged my protectiveness of anorexia up until now, because I hadn't really started to prod her mattress hard enough for that discomfort to be felt yet. Slowly, but surely, however, I am prodding harder...and she's starting to get aggravated. 

Friends, encourage me to prod, but let me do the actual prodding myself for now. 


"At this point in my life, I'm just trying to not miss the goodness of each day, and bring my best self to it."

~ John Mark Comer

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