I’m reading a book at the moment called ‘Hunger Strike’ by Susie Orbach. Some of its ideas are outdated and it’s rather intellectual but it’s fantastic. Last night I read a chapter entitled ‘Food: From Poison to Palatable’. She discusses anorexia as being a suppression of ones own desires and needs – more than just the bodily desire of nourishment, but also satisfaction, sexual desire and sleep. She also discusses their desire to (ironically) have no desires – feeling inwardly out of control, essentially feeling guilty for being a human being.
“The woman with anorexia has uncannily strong opinions. Her socialization process has been less rather than more congruent with the culture at large. Even if she has appeared on the surface to have been reasonably contended, she has not in actuality been able to accept the strictures and constraints of her role. She has balked at them inside. She has not been able to suppress her feelings successfully and yet she has no validation for them. She ends up with a character that contains determination and anger as a result. She feels enormously guilty at the fact of her desires. She may not be able to articulate them fully but she experiences their force. They feel uncontrollable. She may feel chaotic inside, at the mercy of tumultuous emotions. She wants to burst out, to smash things, to have all the goods in the shops, all the experiences life has to offer, but at the same time she will have none of them. Desire is curtailed and she proves to herself repeatedly that these inconvenient and encumbering needs that so plague and disturb her can be managed and denied. The agonizing process of suppressing such powerful and conflicting feelings requires a tremendous and ever-increasing vigilance. As they threaten to erupt, so she must crush them more vehemently. The more a want is felt, the more stringent will be the food refusal. One and one makes two. The logic of parallel denial shapes her thinking and actions.” 1
I have been giving this much thought, particularly this morning, as so much of my anorexia was about this. My anorexic brain told me desires I may have felt weren’t normal – that I was essentially bad because of them. I still struggle with it now – I have difficulty articulating when I need a hug or a hand squeeze or a cry – because I fear these needs aren’t normal, that people will judge me because of such feelings. And these emotions that arise are so vastly overwhelming – it is plain to see why the anorexic recoils.
I was so out of touch with my body at my lowest weight. I walked around in a daze at school, sleeping through classes. I stayed awake all night, eating one almond every hour. I feel such a constant hunger – but I refused to admit I was hungry. The anoretic creates a shell around themselves, their only little world. They become what they think is invincible, they cringe to see someone submit to their own body’s needs and desires.
I now think there is nothing more beautiful than giving the body what it needs to think, move, speak and act. Feeding the body so that it can function – that’s real control. Eating disorders are crippling, tragic and heart-breaking. The sense of worthlessness and the self-hatred that is inflicted upon the body is ugly and destructive, and the eating disordered patient deserves far better.
1 ‘Hunger Strike’ – Susie Orbach. ‘Food: From Poison to Palatable’ pg 123.