Some people comfort-eat. I prefer to comfort-starve.
I don't, but that's my inclination.
Halfway through a meal, I start to gag and choke. Acid sears through the tubes in my face and bile blisters the back of my throat. I feel suddenly as if the only thing I must do is to eat my food.
And that’s exactly what I can’t do, because that food poisons me. It gives me comfort where only alertness can save me, energy when I’m already up half the night fighting what’s left.
I know in that moment that I can never eat this food again.
New foods terrify me. I’m not shy of them—really, I’m not. But I don’t want to spoil them. I try a food and I hate it, and then no one can ever look at it in the same way again. It has been branded forever with a nasty taste.
And only because of my paranoia.
(Like people. Recently, I've come to realise I'm not shy at all. I just don't want to annoy people. I want them to like me. So speaking my stupid thoughts to them isn't going to get me what I want. When I pay attention to them, I never credit them for the huge capacities they're capable of. I'm not humble enough. Like food, if I try people, I spoil them for myself and everyone around.
Or else I just spoil myself. And I hate doing that, fool and hypocrite as I am.)
That’s why I read at the table. I can’t bear to be without a good book when I’m eating. Because then I start thinking about what I’m eating—not where it came from, but where it’s going, what I feel about it. Even after I’ve surrendered, I read on and on through the hours, willing myself to forget the cold mess tumbled at the bottom of the bowl.
I keep school lunches to a minimum. (At primary school, I ate next to nothing. The dinner ladies had to stand by me and watch me while I ate. Every time they took their eyes off me I had to tell them exactly what I'd eaten. But like as not I'd lie, and it'd all come back home in the lunchbox. I didn't want to lie to my parents. Just the interfering dinner ladies who checked to see I obeyed orders.)
Now, I fill my breaktimes and lunchtimes with sport and detentions and commitments I can’t back out of. My friends and I don’t talk while we eat; we don’t have anything to talk about. So when I have no excuses left to back out of mealtimes, and my bottle’s run dry of the water I use instead of food, I distract myself by watching the boys. Lobbing mini-quiches, nuggetting bags, dunking one another in the bin, screeching dubstep out the speakers. They have fun. They don’t worry about eating.
I’ve been called anorexic often in the past, but believe me when I say I’m not anorexic. I’ve battled it in past months, fought for control of my body. And I am the one with the control.
I do eat.
Halfway through that meal, when it seems the next mouthful will bring up the puke broiling at the back of my throat, I rally myself. I know I must continue eating, no matter what it costs. So I do it. I eat the tepid mush. I shove it straight down the back of my throat so the more sensitive parts of my mouth don't even have to touch it.
Peristalsis gets it down somehow. (Though I hate egg because I choked on one once using this method. That was when I was nine. I still use that technique. I still hate egg. But my mum makes me eat it because I don't eat any other protein. I hate it.)
Sometimes, occasionally, I do end up puking in the toilets. But I know I’ve done what I set out to do. I’ve eaten, and no one can say I haven’t tried. I’m determined. I will not succumb to anorexia. But nor have I been able to make myself a glutton. As a child, I didn’t like chocolate. Now, if anyone offers me even a single skittle, I will never take it.
I eat it…and it eats me.
And always there’s the taste of acid just behind my tongue.
(By the way, I don’t want advice because I am winning; there’s nothing anyone can say to help me, because I’m hideously independent, and get jealous for my own input if someone else interferes.
I've used 'hate' far too many times in this piece. Honestly, I don't mean 'hate'. It's just the word that comes to mind when I'm angry. I'm trying to cut it out of my vocabulary. 'Greatly dislike' is my chosen alternative. But I find it hard to remember. I hate how I say 'hate' all the time. I don't admire the tendency in others, and yet I do it myself. Call me what you will. I have no right to judge myself.
I'll probably delete this within the week. Hey, mind if I make a few small confessions about lust? Hell knows that's an even less pretty tale.
And I think I’ll decline the biscuit, if you don’t mind.)