When I was younger, I read the Amytiville Horror, dramatised in our local paper. I know it is a work of fiction, but I was transfixed by the overwhelming inescapability of it. This is a home. It is a safe and warm place. What happens when everything you hold safe and warm turns ugly?
So it is with anorexia. Tonight I make carrot cake. We will have this as dessert. L runs away. I follow her, with cake. She weeps and begs and pleads. At one point she screams: Why Is The Voice So Strong? She weeps that it will never leave her. I keep feeding her cake.
Then, in a sudden frenzy of agitation, she grabs a notebook and a pen and tells me she must write what the voice says. But she won’t let me see it. I leave her and return a few minutes later to see her curled up with a pen and paper. I tell her that if she can’t share it with me, she must share it with someone, that the Voice has power through secrecy and that sharing it reduces the power. Her breathing is steadier and she lets me remove the crumpled sheet from her hand. This is what it says:
You stupid fat bitch I can’t believe you did that this whole house is about to collapse under the weight of your lard do you have any idea how many calories were in that stupid piece of fucking cake you’re meant to be wasting away not eating huge slices of fatty unhealthy cake I’m here to get rid of wastes of space like you I’m doing the world a favour and you just defy everything I say I hate you so much.
I want to cry and a scream and smash things, but instead I pull her close and thank her. For sharing the poison in her head and being brave enough to write it down. It is like the first call to the police, the question to a friend as to whether all love affairs are like this. I tell her this is the voice of her illness but most of all, it is the voice of hate. And that in the depths of despair, she must try and hear the voice of love. My voice, K’s voice or C’s voice, telling her to keep on fighting, however much it hurts, however hard it is. She sobs and sobs, but she starts to calm. Eventually she goes through to the kitchen, sits on her Granny’s knee and it is ok. She eats her snack and it is fine. But I go upstairs and I cry with heavy wreaking sobs. At the thought of losing her, at the way we will all be broken to bits by this illness. I weep for my daughter and I howl between cusped hands at the ache of wanting her back. Every day I awake, feeling the gulf within at the place my daughter once was. Somewhere else in the house she will awake to the Voice of Ed, telling her what to wear, what to do and spewing hate and poison in her ear. Somehow, the Voice of Love needs to be louder.