An Anorexic At Christmas

An Anorexic Christmas - Header

While Christmas means a lot of things to a lot of people whether based around celebration, religion or tradition, as we grow older, as the day goes from wonder and excitement to cynicism and stress, no matter how our way of remembering the birth of Christ changes, the memories we hold and the happiness they bring, remain the same. No matter how the current affects us, looking back will always highlight the magic this time of year creates.

I remember for instance, the nerves of playing a Myrrh offering King in my primary school Nativity, or the anticipation that would start to build when my brother and I dropped letters of claimed meriting behaviour into the open fire, starting their journey to the North Pole.

An Anorexic At Christmas - Chris Dobson - School Nativity

But my overriding memories of Christmas, like a lot of people, surround food. From the daily advent calendar treat, or attempting to sneak chocolates off the tree without anyone noticing. To the day itself, waking up to hopefully find an extra special treat from Santa, a Cadbury’s selection box, tucked at the end of my bed, surreptitiously eaten before emerging to a quiet and sleeping house, and the spectacle of gathering for lunch. The annual pleasure of sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing, and if I was really lucky, a quick sip from a glass of wine – followed by the recoil of dry sharpness from the acidic flavour. Christmas, food and that sense of singular unobjectional indulgence went hand in hand in my household.

Memories are powerful things, and even though I’m older, even though Christmas now has new traditions, new meanings, those memories surrounding food still loom large. But, instead of being a source of reflective joy, they are a pain and torment that causes repetitive days of festive mental battlement.

For you see, I have anorexia. I question, judge and analyse every decision I make. Every moment of control. Anorexia is an illness around control. Around perceived strength. It’s destructive and it’s all encompassing and whilst I fight my battles against it, taking daily strides forward before it beats me step by step back again; life is a constant balancing act between the life I want and the life my brain will currently accept.

Sadly though, as Christmas approaches anorexia gets an ally. As strange as this sounds Anorexia gets an extra helping of food. As the festive season starts, memories come flooding back into my mind of my childhood. The taste of chocolate for breakfast, the small woolen stockings hanging on the tree, the excitement of wrapped boxes appearing in the house. Christmas in my head is happy. Christmas in my head does not fit with the Christmas currently in my life.

An Anorexic At- Christmas - Supermarket Chocolate

Right now, Christmas is painful. Because anorexia is in overdrive. It is demanding control and using food to get it. Every trip to the supermarket, every advert on TV is presenting anorexia with visions of shelf after shelf of sweet treats: chocolate, biscuits and cake, designed for sharing but marketed with the power of permissive intolerance. Tables stuffed with rich gravies, overly buttered sprouts and fat roasted potatoes. Let alone the talk of breakfast salmon or boxing day sandwiches.

When your brain longs for control and wrongly believes food is the enemy, Christmas time provides ample ammunition.

And yet, I cannot get the memories of my childhood out of my head. I want to be happy, and the inner child, the core we all cling to, remembers eating an advent calendar, or carefully unwrapping chocolate gold coins and wants to go back. Wants to relive. Wants to experience that simplistic happiness of being young and without fear. And so, I pace: backwards and forwards, to and from, picking up, putting down. At war with myself and the thought of a getting fat from a moment of reflective weakness. A moment of stupidity. A moment of festive indulgence.

The problem is though, I want to be normal. I don’t want this war. I don’t want to feel anxiously panicked when I walk into a room to see an open box of Quality Street, knowing I’ll be offered one. Knowing that one wont hurt physically, but will destroy mentally. Or the fear of three course roast dinners as people come together in the lead up to Christmas and how you invent reasoned explanation as to why you’d only want a single course. Or more likely, invent non existent excuses for non attendance.

I love Christmas but I hate Christmas. But I hate anorexia more. Together they have already robbed my festive happiness of a Christmas dinner, an advent calendar and a Christmas tree. I haven’t decorated my house this year because my head can’t accept the percieved pleasure this time of year grants with the situation of reality. I long for things to be different and that results in a present that’s too painful to fully face.

An Anorexic Christmas - Fox's Chocolate Biscuits

I am dreading the days left in the run up to Christmas. Whilst I eat, it’s not enough, it’s purely sustaining, physically my body needs more. And so, in a moment of sheer inner child relaxation, I ate 5 chocolate biscuits. Stolen, if you like, from my parents house. A treat. And instantly regretted it. Instantly my brain bullied all reason out of me. Instantly, I was weak and pathetic. And instantly I listened to it. Forgoing my evening post dinner fruit/festive hot chocolate.

Anorexia is horrible to live with, and takes a lot to fight and beat, but even worse is how it projects its strength forward ready for proven justification on the day. It second guesses the future and then leads you to it’s conclusion. Even though that conclusion is always wrong. And this prospective planning is already starting, my brain now beginning to panic about Christmas lunch, about breaking my safe food routine. About having sausages and bacon, having a day without rules or rationale. I would love to say that I don’t care. That it’s just one day, it won’t hurt, in fact it’ll do me good. But that’s rubbish. That’s not the truth. Because I’m petrified.

But that is the whole point. I’m scared; not about getting fat, body image is another issue entirely, or about eating turkey, carrots and parsnips, but rather, I’m scared about the voice in my head torturing me because at the end of the day, whether I eat a three course dinner or a few mouthfuls of meat, the voice in my head will win. No matter what path I take, I give it the words to destroy me, because to rebel against it arms it with visions of false enlargement but to follow its guidance robes me of the greatest longing in my life: to be normal, to be recovered. To be happy.

Posted on by 5WC in Anorexia, Opinion First Edition

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