Anorexia needs isolation to grow — a bumper of space distance that keeps people and responsibilities away so that it can plant seeds and cover my brain. In the early stages, it kind of hibernates in my brain, as it works at changing the physical body. Once weight is being lost and its process is underway, the isolation becomes more automatic. People stay away because we don't think we need them. Also, they have been pushed, or are possibly intimidated. Disgusted. Saddened. Perhaps we don't even seem to exist anymore, or matter. Anorexia is the veil.
For a while, we desperately need isolation. We do everything we can, through secrets, manipulation, and resignation, to have the private time we need in order to serve the mental illness. Meanwhile, it constructs its bizarre kingdom and builds fence after fence--not so much as to keep others OUT, but to make sure that we stay IN. Some people run to make space, others hide food and perform massive ritualization. Others, like me, just seem to die. Everything stops. It's all a coma.
Years go by, and those fences harden. They grow moss and rust, and things like bulimia and OCD add barbed wire. We even let Anorexia place guards with guns at different check points. No one gets in.
Then one day, when the sun is out, the sufferer gets a sideways glimpse of life beyond the fences. What's that? Family? Friends? People having vacations, children, holidays? Meals? And we aren't invited, we aren't there. They stopped asking us a very long time ago. We only wanted to be home with Anorexia, cleaning the floors and reorganizing the spice drawer. But that one vision of freedom, the something beyond the mental fuzz--it makes a tug on the heart, on the soul. Anorexia does not work with the soul, so this is a very big problem for the illness. The soul is out of it's control. And the soul is what gives us the gift of loneliness. When we finally see that we are sick, and know there is a better way, we embrace loneliness. Little by little, the loneliness encourages other emotions, such as desire and boredom. These are other signals that want for us to reconnect with the outside world.
And then there comes the point when wanting to participate hits in direct conflict with Anorexia's dear isolation. They cannot live in the same body. So the sufferer has to choose--listen to the world, or put back Anorexia's headphones? Perhaps this is when we decide to seek help. We move a few steps beyond Anorexia, even for just an afternoon, and share our problems. Help is the first break from isolation, but it makes us leave the eating disorder cocoon. We go from black and white to Technicolor, and it can be terribly frightening. But the energy is something new, and we keep going, despite the tremulous fear. We know what to expect in isolation. But loneliness, this beautiful thing provides possibility.
This blog post was written for AEDRA by Firecracker. It was written as a contribution for a podcast about Adults with eating disorders and loneliness. You can listen to that podcast here.
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