OCD, eating disorders and a harsh word from someone who gets it.

I don’t care if it hurts
I wanna have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
Radiohead

My OCD

When I was six or seven, I had severe OCD.  Every movement I made had to be mirrored on the other side of my body. Everything had to be in multiples of four too.

Pattern 1

left

right

left

right

Pattern 2

left

left

right

right

Pattern 3

left

right

right

left

I would lie awake, insomnious through awful asymmetry. I would whimper, wiping my tears with my left hand

right hand

right hand

left hand.

The whole of pattern two became ‘left’ in a larger pattern one, while its inverse would become ‘right’.

pattern 1

pattern 1

pattern 1

pattern 1

This thing was bigger than me. It tortured me until dawn forced me up. But it remembered. It begrudged me not entering its endless, beautiful mathematics. It would whisper hateful ideas to me during the day, and it would visit me at night – even back then I was an insomniac, and I didn’t understand how to explain this monster to anyone. I fought it alone while the adults fought their own demons.

It faded slightly through the years. I was intensely anxious for a long time. It’s better now.

Eating disorders

I’ve always been drawn to the darkness in others. I grew up too solitary to really conceptualise something as ‘weird’ when I saw it. I liked listening because it felt like I was learning what I was. I was desperate for human connection and when I could mean something to someone – even when it meant nothing more than letting them mumble their insecurities.

I’ve been involved with three girls who either had, or were recovering from eating disorders. I recognised their monster. I knew their obsession with control and that it came from a helplessness they felt elsewhere. I saw this demon possessing them and almost heard the stories it told them in place of reality. They were perfectionists. Fantastic at academics, ballet and music. Teachers loved them; parents boasted with them; but the adults didn’t seem to see the horror I did. None of these things were good. They were just blood to the demon.

The sad thing about angsty misunderstood teenagers is that they might in fact really be misunderstood. The people who should take care of them barely know them and don’t recognise their fights. 

More recently, I’ve made a close friend who is recovering from a mixture of anorexia and bulemia. She’s explained to me that it never goes away. Like alcoholism, you are never cured, only in recovery. She plans to write about it one day, even though she believes it might not make any sort of dent in the people who need to hear it. She says that had she read something like that in her worst state, she would see the writer as weak – a quitter.

With that in mind, I thought I should write a short letter where I put aside my normal gentle approach to someone else’s choices.

To you, with love.

You don’t see a problem with your behaviour. You’ve naturalised it to the point where you visit internet forums to find out how to better purge or starve. Your body dysmorphia extends beyond yourself to the people you compare yourself to. You don’t believe you need to ‘recover’ because there’s nothing to recover from.

This is not the case. The person in recovery is not the weakling. You are. You do not have control. You are controlled.

You are so terrified of that monster that you can’t ever slip up. You see your slavery and call it discipline. The people you look down on have the freedom to indulge. They know the beauty and joy of moderation. They enjoy taste and touch in a way you can’t even begin to understand.

There is no compromise; there is only an unchanging, undynamic, dead idol. You recognise this by your fear. You know it in your held breath when you weigh your food, inspect your vomit and look through runway catalogues to see the features of those perfect models.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

None of that might have meant anything to anyone, but here’s to the off chance it might have.

 

 

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