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The miserable world of 'It'
Many times in my very insignificant life I have heard this word; balance.
Of course, as horse rider, that line of letters appears quite frequently, but people try to adapt it for many things. It is always incorporated into our world. We have a balance of work and play, brains and beauty, and unfortunately health and illness.
Keeping the giant golden scales of everything equal is ridiculously difficult. If you summed up all the worries each person has for just one day and put them in your mind, you would crush into an eternity of utter misery. There are always those who seem to get it perfect and have everything you would die for, a common aspect of a teenager’s existence, especially in a wealthy country like England. And despite the millions of times that other people’s hardship is smeared all over the media, we still can’t imagine the exact pain someone has, only our own. We are always trying to find a balance on earth, but we often fail. For example: poverty.
Poverty is one well-worn word. Countries that aren’t economically developed and all that. No matter how much money we pour into those who suffer, we still have the tiniest spec of self sadness hidden away deep in the crevices of our heads. Those poor people who are starving and homeless with no choice, no matter how willing they are to fight for a better world.
I’m really using that little paragraph as a contrast. It is a good way of looking at an opposite of my position, and a lot of other kids. You see, I AM starving, but in a very different way. I’m hungry for reasons, famished for solutions, begging for an outcome.
Anorexia Nervosa is a nasty little thing. People can think it is some new-fangled illness brought up by the social world constantly hypnotizing teenage girls to be something they’re not. Or they think it is glamorous and strange, a thing that punishes and is severe. Some think its nothing but a state of mind.
There are hundreds of little categories you could file an ‘anorexic’ into. There’s also bulimia, its sibling and its distant cousin compulsive eating. Not everyone who experiences it is the same; they each have their own little niche in the ever expanding world of eating disorders. I’ve seen some odd and scary things people will do to themselves and say about themselves. It is impossibly hard to look beyond these peoples’ appearance and see the real desperation and emotion inside. They all have something more to them than their-still disputed-illness. They have friends and family as usual, they have aspirations, simple and incredible. But the one thing that bonds us all is there, that thing.
Some call it a ‘voice’. I don’t know if you could exactly describe it as that. It is almost an urge or a compulsion- A little insect burrowing away at your brain. It is always there and it tells you how to live every second of your life. No matter how much it irritates you, you still deny that is its not there and that you are in control of yourself, but you definitely aren’t.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, I have Anorexia or I would assume I do, it’s still unclear. But as I’ve mentioned, it’s not all of me. I am also quite eloquent, and thought it would be a good idea to voice some of the many parts of an eating disorder. People might not have all of these traits when they are ill, but I had them, and this is the best way I can release my anxiety.
So, in conclusion, I’ve found a way of killing two birds with one stone; I can give myself a little space to rant on but also hopefully give some other person out there reassurance and advice on how to find a ‘balance’ with their eating disorder. And, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, keep reading. It will start to make sense and you might just have a little understanding about what I am and what it is.
So let’s start of with the basics. Anorexia Nervosa is an illness, a mental illness. But to some this is still a controversial belief and many do deny that it is more than overly obsessive people trying to push their bodies to the limit. It happens mostly in teenage girls from well-off backgrounds, but also occurs in boys and technically could affect anybody.
It is where said person usually decreases their intake of food or purges food, or exercises continuously to control their weight, appearance and general estimation of themselves. It can become the most important thing in that person’s life, even if they don’t realize it. If a person has these sorts of traits and others (I’m not going to go on about scientific, psychological text book junk that doctors see as eating problems) and are losing drastic amounts of weight and becoming very malnourished then they most likely have it. If you have any ‘symptoms’ but are still in a healthy state, then it is called an EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specialized). I am quite sure that I had this for a while, but I let it slip and started spiraling down the big black hole of ‘Anna’; the name a lot of therapists and mental nurses alike would name that wretched creature burrowing into the minds of regular humans.
Don’t despair though, it can be cured. Often you can suddenly realize what it is doing to you and throw it against a brick wall in full throttle. But for others, it’s hard, long, perilous journey. They say the average time someone suffers from Anorexia is four years, and that however many weeks, months or years you took to become ill, it will take at least the same amount of time to get better.
I think the easiest way to address Anorexia is as an ‘It’. ‘It’ can rarely be distinguished as an image or figure that you can see. But, as for the ‘It’ sufferer, I’d rather call them ‘Table Kids’. Mainly because during my stay at an adolescent mental health hospital, that was what girls and boys with this ‘condition’ were called. All the new ‘Table Kids’ had to sit on a certain table and be watched until they were trusted not to throw food away, and to have encouragement from nurses when they really were struggling to eat. Hey Presto; ‘Table Kids’.
So, ‘It’ and ‘Table Kids’ is how I will describe the illness and the unwell in this book, just to keep the reader on track, and not get too formal.
It’s incredibly hard to decipher how ‘It’ comes about. I know that I met ‘It’ when I moved onto senior school.
You people wouldn’t guess that a Table Kid was once very chubby, but I was. Not just in my own head, but really clinically overweight. A lot of Table Kids start out like this. It simply means they try ridiculously hard to lose weight. People assume that it is just a matter of peer pressure and teenage perspective and modern media and all that hype, but it has some darker origins.
I’ve always believed that everybody has an element of self-loathing. I very much doubt that there is a single person who doesn’t contain the minutest amount of disappointment in their heads about who they are. No one is ever entirely happy. It could be about body, intelligence or just how successful a person’s life is. You might guess that a Table Kid just wants to lose weight, so they go on a diet and it goes too far, but I really doubt that is the case. When I stumbled into ‘It’, I just didn’t want to eat anymore. I felt no reason to. I hated the way my body was; too big here, too soft there, and as I became more tangled in the spider’s web of ‘It’, I started to be obsessed with how much I could eat without feeling guilty. That, for me, was the most dreadful part. I had to endure SO much of this quite natural self-loathing. Every time I ate, Every time I thought of eating, every time I rested or just wanted to participate in anything, ‘It’ would oppose.
However, it was not just eating or exercising, but any experience that could be pleasurable. ‘It’ could only be happy if I was engulfed in my own vile misery. It’s as though ‘It’ is a policeman. ‘It’ enforces certain rules. Everything I ever do has to be checked by ‘It’ first, to make sure the monster approves. Soon enough the Table Kid is a puppet to this greedy, petulant creature, and it seems much easier to give in and obey, until it beguiles them into believing that ‘Its’ thoughts are their own.
I’m sure I haven’t amazed you yet. I am only a spec in this dirty concoction of sinister thoughts. I have seen things and thoughts that are very odd, and very far from reality, and I am in no way as ill as some of the people I have encountered.
This is my few thoughts on what it does to me and others, the album of an anorexic…
Let's see now...OCD
OCD, otherwise known as ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ is quite a common mental illness, and often comes along with eating disorders. For some-in a way- lucky Anorexia sufferers, they do not experience OCD, which makes fighting off ‘It’ much easier. But, unfortunately for me, I had some real issues with OCD, even before my realization of also having an eating disorder.
OCD is usually ritualistic behaviour and thoughts that go to the extreme. It could be counting numbers or washing hands until they are red raw and bleed or only performing your daily routine in an EXACT way. Having rituals might not seem like the end of the world, and most people might think they are really uptight on cleanliness and where things should be and where they go, but when OCD is severe, it is the end of a world with a point, because all you are living for is the way in which you perform your once regular duties, and everything you once enjoyed becomes a dull, difficult chore.
My little preference was numbers counting. I’m from a bright background; mathematics and science is in my nature. I enjoy things like physics and numeracy, because they have rules that are nearly always followed and rarely have exceptions. Having things clear cut and shown out in a plan really reassures me, and would most likely assure anyone with OCD.
If you ask any celebrity or even a friend, they’ll say they are obsessive. People think of it as a good excuse to sound different and unique. But anyone who is proud of having rituals is, in my opinion, a very pathetic person. The truth is; everyone is essentially ritualistic! Nearly every being on the planet has a certain way of going about things. It’s how we function. But my OCD had me entrenched, and I was powerless to overcome the ridiculous commands I had to do, because an urge in my head told me that something unbelievably terrible would happen if I didn’t, but I still don’t know what that something is.
As mentioned, OCD is like the dance partner of anorexia. They go hand in hand, waltzing up and down the Table Kid’s head. I have reason to believe I encountered ‘It’ because of my obsessions.
As a small child, I was…fussy.
I had issues with contamination; the idea of sitting on a seat after it had a previous behind on it was truly horrifying. I liked to wash my hands-A LOT. As you can imagine, I was quite prone to eczema because of this.
I also feared radioactivity. I would sprint past electric pylons, stay a good distance away from the microwave, and freak out if my brother pointed the remote control at me (just because he knew how much I hated it).
These might seem silly, and I admit they were, and they never affected my life. People never noticed, and I just believed I was very, very regular. So these traits slid by without notice, they only really mattered when I had responsibility.
I was lazy as a little girl. Nothing interested me and I spent most of my life with my eyes smeared against a television screen shoveling ice cream into my mouth. I had no incentives in life, but why did I need to? I was only young, and I just believed I could put off effort and growing up. I thought I had all the time in the world. I was, and still am, a terrible procrastinator.
Eventually, as I moved on up to the senior school that was Battle Abbey; I realized I needed to do something with myself, so I turned to my mother.
Like most kids, I believed my mum had the answer to all of life’s frustrating problems. She rode horses, Quarter Horses, an American breed. And she exhibited in the strange but hilarious western horse riding competitions.
Western riding was my mum’s life, her existence. She had problems with arthritis and to this day I still believe that if it were not for the horses, she would have been in a wheelchair.
My mum’s life was, hectic. She had her own little advertising business full of middle aged women constantly nattering and moaning to each other, not a pleasant environment, and it was situated in our back garden, in a kitted-out shed.
She always wanted the best for my brother and I, like all good parents, and Battle Abbey wasn’t cheap. My mum had a philosophy: you are going to die eventually, so why don’t you just live life to the full now. I guess that was her excuse for all our luxuries, but I’m not complaining. I had a happy childhood, because my mum broke her back for me.
She did want me to ride with her. I’m still not sure why, but I hope that it was just because she wanted to share some sort of maternal bond, which was fair enough.
But, as I mentioned, I was lazy, and selfish, and ignorant, so I didn’t realise how much she just wanted me to have an interest. But I remember one of the many turning points.
She came back, from America, with a very expensive saddle.
I was mortified. I’m not a good actress, and I tried desperately to be excited about it, but my main emotion was guilt.
I’d never contemplated riding in competitions. I’m the kind of person that breaks down whenever any adrenaline is required, so speeding away on a horse didn’t seem fabulous. But, I did for my mum, and I had a revelation.
Riding gave me my world, my reason, my life. I made friends, I had something to be excited about, and I had aspirations of what to do with myself.
The horses became my best friends- they meant something to me; everything.
So that was it, I had my horses and I had my life, but I also had OCD.
It didn’t bother me too drastically at the beginning, I liked to clean my hands thoroughly after a session up at the yard, but that was healthy. It unfortunately began to grow when I was given the responsibility of looking after my very own horse, Millie.
I adored Millie to no end. I felt more compassion for the horses I was with then any other living creature. They could never do anything that would hurt me, they never saw evil, they were gentle and just wanted to have fun and be loved. I was devoted to taking care of her, perhaps a little too devoted.
I liked grooming the horses, and so did my obsessions. I remember my mum being adamant that I clean the horses for a VERY LONG TIME, and I took that very seriously. I feared if they weren’t groomed enough, they would get soar or wouldn’t love me enough. Millie eventually did get some rain scold; a skin irritation that is common in horses, but that was mostly likely due to the excessive amount of bathing she had to endure. I never forgave myself for that, she was hurt by me; she had become ill because of my poor care.
She survived, obviously. Rain scold is not usually fatal, but I was ashamed of myself. I was convinced I was a wretched, wretched person, and that my mum would hate me if she knew that I could not take care of Millie properly.
I was ridiculously uptight with my routines at the yard. I cleaned, groomed, cleaned, groomed, and when it came to riding, I would count every single beat that the horse took. It was destroying my perfect world, and it made me incredibly bitter.
It grew from there, became a giant leech that was sucking out my independence and control. I was ruled by rituals, and I became a husk of who I used to be.
It was at this time that ‘It’ raised its ugly head. I began at my senior school, lost faith in a happy future with the horses and became miserable. This just fed the OCD, and the tapping began.
Everything that came within a a few feet of me, I had to touch. I was entirely focused on tapping and tapping. It was like touching a goal, having a safety point. I don’t understand how it happened, but I knew how it festered.
I began this complicated ritual, and ‘It’ approved. Every time I tried to ignore the compulsion to touch or tap or hold, ‘It’ would warn me that I wasn’t getting enough exercise. If I did not tap everything in sight, I would get fat and be a failure. ‘It’ would leave me and I would be all alone.
I don’t exactly know how I could have been a failure for beating something as cruel as ‘It’, but that thing persuaded me that I would have been. You might also think that it sounds ridiculous to be afraid of not having ‘It’, to be rid of the illness. But unless you have experienced ‘It’, you have now idea of the comfort it can be.