It came out of nowhere and slapped me across the face.
There had been no warning and no trigger.
Saturday morning was much like every other; my alarm went off at 5:30am, and by 8am, I had run a half marathon. And, as usual, my run had left me floating through endorphin-fuelled elation.
My tendon injury has been miles better this week, and my whole body feels strong. Even I can’t discount the muscle that has started to lovingly embellish my legs in place of the jutting bones of last year’s relapse.
I was looking forward to mine and Josh’s monthly homemade pizza night.
So why, at 2pm, did I find myself lying on the floor of the spare room, wishing I could dissipate into the floorboards? Why had I angled my body within the strip of sunlight that filtered through the window, finding calm in the fact that I fit perfectly within its rectangle?
The sun stroked the hair back from my tear stained face.
This is anorexia. It doesn’t need a reason to come to call. It doesn’t wait for an invite; it is bold enough to sneak in through an open window, or kick down the door when no-one’s home and then skulk around in the corners until its victim falls unknowingly into its lure, again and again.
I had found a recent photo on my phone, and convinced myself that I looked fat.
Even I – having now taken a step back from that moment of madness - can see that it’s ridiculous, but sadly, anorexia doesn’t trade on logic, or indeed truth.
I zoomed in on the photo, meticulously tearing myself apart.
My heart thundered as I thought guiltily of the pick and mix Josh had bought me last week. The biscuit from the packet a friend at work had brought back from her holiday. The ice-cream I had enjoyed after a long, hot run.
Anorexia roared that I had eased the grip on the controls of my life, and this was the result. I was fat, disgusting, and ultimately, a failure. That was it – my life, over. Everything I’ve ever worked for, achieved – meaningless.
Over the years, anorexia has programmed me to believe that if I don’t have control over my own life, then my life isn’t worth living.
I squeezed my stomach between my hands with force, momentarily relishing the physical distraction and the pain.
I should have gone and found Josh and shared my worry, but the truth is, I felt ashamed. I’ve been doing so well recently in terms of handling my anorexia; I couldn’t bear the thought of admitting that I had been speared by one of the enemy’s arrows again.
So I just lay there, in that strip of sunlight, crying silently into the carpet.
My brain bled poisonous lists of ways that I could rake back some control. Of course the most obvious, detrimental solution to a quick need for control was to restrict food.
I sent Josh a text: Sorry, don’t fancy pizza anymore. Feel sick.
I fought to refrain from messaging my best friend and cancelling our lunch out next week.
Guilt is anorexia’s default setting.
Raising my head, I looked across at the mirror opposite. Anorexia growled between my reflection and I; that familiar darkness that separates us.
Panic ricocheted through me. My chest contracted. Retches wrapped their hands around my neck. My thoughts donned their biggest boots and manically leapt up and down on my brain.
I knew exactly what this was: an anorexia-infused panic attack; a sensation I have years of experience with. Riding it out was the only option, so I did what I always do in moments of internal terror and sharp sorrow – I wrote. I wrote extracts of this blog post.
Sometimes, the best way to explain what’s going on is to capture the feeling while it’s occurring.
I HATE posting negative things about anorexia. It’s not what my blog is about. If you’re a regular here, you’ll know that my articles celebrate the journey of recovery and the huge part running is playing in my quest for freedom from anorexia.
But posting a consistent stream of sunny blogs about kicking anorexia ass isn’t an accurate representation of the illness, and that in itself is an injustice to my aim of educating.
I wanted to post this because I know how important it is to raise awareness of this illness.
So many people still wrongly presume there are two stages of anorexia: suffering, and recovery. But the truth is, there are countless stages in-between, and all of them - every single one - contain elements of both suffering AND recovery. Yes, it is as complex as it sounds.
It’s days of turmoil, and it’s days of joy. But mostly, it’s the limbo of the in-between; the days spent living with anorexia - often quite peacefully.
For anorexia is as much a part of me as my heart, my lungs, my blood.
It’s Sunday now, and yesterday feels almost... Alien. It was a miniscule slip in my uphill conquest.
Yesterday was a low point, but that’s where it ends.
Some days – the majority of days – are good.
Recovering from anorexia is not a one-off event consisting of a grave and a spade, set to the backing track of cheering crowds. Recovery is, for the most part, simply learning to live and deal with anorexia.
After eight years, I am truly lucky enough to have found a mutual calm with this illness. I know it will probably always be there, but I’m also aware that, most days, I can handle, manipulate and outsmart it.
Some days are just like this.
Cara Jasmine Bradley ©