I really need to stop letting my unchecked perfectionism prevent me from posting here. I have so much I could be blogging about but teasing the tangle of ideas out of my brain into neat single-issue coherent posts does not come easy. But, aside from drafting and discarding a bunch of posts, I’ve also been reading. I finally got my hands on a couple of ED books I’ve been meaning to read.
Fasting Girls: The History of Anorexia Nervosa (Vintage) by Joan Jacobs Brumburg – I’ve only just started this but it seems good. It’s a historian’s investigation into the history of anorexia, from fasting saints to the present day. Originally written in 1988, but it seems pretty comprehensive. While the author acknowledges the biological, psychological and cultural origins of EDs she says in the introduction that this book focuses more on the cultural. Which is fair enough.
I’ve also been enjoying Beyond Anorexia: Narrative, Spirituality and Recovery by Catherine Garrett. This is one of those books that had me pencilling excited annotations in the margins, agreeing with the authors insights. I may have found it heavy-going at times but I really think Catherine Garrett ‘gets it’. OK, it is perhaps a strange book, written by an academic and ex-anorexic, examining recovery and the need for narrative and spirituality (however loosely defined). Extrapolated from her own experience, interviews with 34 recovering ED sufferers, sociological and anthropoloical approaches. But it’s refreshing to read a book focusing on recovery and the meanings that come from getting well, not the meanings we can draw from sickness.
I think too often we get hung up on analysing the illness, it’s origins and perpetuation, the symbolism of the sick body. At the same time we percieve recovery – stepping up to meet the challenges of life and leaving behind the disorder as something which needs no explanation, something that ought to come naturally. Well…obviously for so many of us it doesn’t come naturally. We get stuck in that sick state because we lacked a roadmap to maturity, to independant adult life and personhood. We lacked the skills and knowledge to get there. It’s the path to recovery and living a ‘normal’ life that we need de-mystifying, not endless re-examination of our stalled, sick state. Oh, of course it’s important to gain insight into our sickness, but therapy shouldn’t stop there, like it so often does. As if knowing why/how we are sick will break the spell. For me, that was just the beginning, giving up restricting and gaining insight into my personality, my family’s dynamics and my past traumas did not magically teach me how to be a real adult person. I’m still unable to move forward into my own future, I feel totally lost and in the dark.
And so…I have a suspended life between recovery and relapse. I cleaned out the attic recently and found a load of bags of clothes from my most emaciated days. Why do I do this to myself? I could have just thrown them out, but I had to keep them to trigger my future self. I was genuinely amazed looking at some of my old jeans that they even make adult clothes in those sizes. I never percieved myself as being that thin, but clearly I must have been. I always remember that quote from Hilda Bruch’s book, The Golden Cage: The Enigma of Anorexia Nervosa “An anorexic patient cannot be considered outside the danger of relapse unless she has honestly reported on the terror of starvation and her inability to repeat it.” By keeping those clothes I was in some part of my mind planning for relapse. I have no idea why, but if I’m really honest part of me does still feel the need to repeat that experience, the anorexia is like a weed that’s been cut back but the roots are still there in me. I threw out some of the clothes this time, but I still hung on to some, like I still hang on to the posibility of starvation.
OK, OK. Enough.
I’ll come up with a ‘proper’ post next time, rather than all this negative autobiograpical rambling.