Warning: Really quite sweary
I write a lot about how L and I have such a close and warm relationship and I am genuinely incredibly grateful. We have our own silly way of speaking, we hug, at weekends she comes into bed for a snuggle in the morning and in the midst of anorexia’s maelstrom, those moments sustain us. I need them as much as her. But sometimes being kind and understanding isn’t the right approach. Sometimes, being tough is the best thing.
Last weekend I was away in Sheffield. While L usually comes with me, revision kept her at home. I text her and keep an eye of her Twitter account, which is easier now we officially follow each other. I see from her tweets that all is not well. I wonder that if she finds it easier to say how she feels by tapping words out on a keyboard, whether we should talk via Facebook chat… So we do. She tells me she feels sad, and triggered by her friend’s tweets. This is a close friend, who has been incredibly supportive to L, but behaves as if, well, as if she is thinks that anorexia is a bit glamorous and so she tweets things like this:
Why are my thighs so disgustingly fat? (Accompanied by photo of impossibly slim thighs.)
Imagine what it must be like to be pretty? (She is stunning as the hundreds of photos she posts, including the ones professionally produced for her portfolio, attest)
Forever counting calories and worrying about fat. (Actually, she doesn’t, or at least most of the time she doesn’t)
Why do I always feel so guilty after eating? Why can’t I reach my goal weight?
Oh, you get the picture. I had seen some of these earlier in the day, so I tell L what I think. I tell her I think the whole “I have anorexia” schtick from her friend is BS and that it feels as if she needs to be the one who wants the limelight. I don’t get how if she is so repulsed by her body, that she always wants to wear tiny shorts and skimpy tops, take endless photos of her scantily clad body and post them with the inevitable, “Oh, how ugly I am”. L agrees with me and we hatch a plan. We also chat about a recovery plan, how we need to get serious, how she needs to see this as a really long hike where it is exhausting and hurts but she knows giving up isn’t an option. I feel positive.
And then I come home, to find L cutting back even more. She has halved a snack, so I hand her a glass of milk, only to turn around and see some more of the food being removed. I insist on completion, and then sit her down to talk about what is going on. She still clearly feels triggered by her friends behaviour. I hug her and listen – but then I lose it, completely. While I retain some control, I am so bloody angry. Not with her, but with the whole world.
What the fuck is going on here, I rant, when young women are competing against each other on Twitter and Tumblr to out do each other in self hatred, while posting pictures of fluffy fucking rainbows with Stay Strong captions? How the hell is it, that clever young women, who could become doctors, lawyers, engineers or bloody astronauts, are instead obsessing about wether they had a slice of bread? We live in a developed world, the women in question, your friends, who are all really bloody pretty and live in comfortable safe warm homes, are cutting off bits of their skin. And some of them have mental illnesses, but many of them don’t, they just think that to fit in, it is therefore impossible to feel good about themselves? There are children out there starving to death, not out of choice, being appallingly abused or murdered, young people with their lives suddenly snatched away from them in a moment of horror, and yet those with lives are pissing them away, affecting angst where none need exist. When did it become so bloody wrong to be ok? How is it the only way of getting social status is to have a mental illness and how fucking twisted is it to write endless sodding blog posts with Stay Strong, You are Loved, BE BRAVE, You are More, you are worth it, YOU are BeYOUtiful while simultaneously whining about how bloody ugly you are? Is it some game, where the first person to say, thanks for that, yep, actually I feel great about life and myself, provokes screams of horror and is called a fat loser?
I pause for breath. I make clear that not for a moment do I think L is making her illness up, or doubt how serious others illnesses are, but that I don’t believe some people and I do believe there are some of her friends who are enthralled by this world rather than trapped in it. And that makes me cross, it really does. Because generations of women before them have kicked down doors, chained themselves to rails, gone on hunger strike, taken industrial action, marched on Parliament, gone to prison and 100 years ago, thrown themselves under the King’s horse and yet some intelligent young women are OBSESSED ABOUT THE GAP BETWEEN THEIR BLOODY THIGHS!!!!!! Every time we widen horizons, along comes a size and appearance fixated society to narrow them again.
And while I do blame patriarchy and capitalism, for shaping this twisted distortion of reality, I know that this is not the cause of L’s illness. But how, just how is she to get better in this fucked up world? When disordered behaviour has become the New Order, when anyone who is anyone has OCD, at the very least, and where only the nobodies are normal. We need to rage and rail against these insane affectations of insanity. We need to reclaim the right to feel happy and not in so doing be labelled as ‘sad’. Because if this is where we are a century after the suffragettes, we’ve really gone horribly wrong somewhere.
I think L heard this. I say this because her later tweets seemed different. Anorexia, and much of the environment around her wants her to focus on whether she can avoid eating a small slice of fruit bread. I want her to kick the shit out of anorexia and go conquer the world.