I find it very easy to think of my ED experiences as an extended love affair with hunger; hunger and the rush that comes from mastering it. I’ve said this before: always there, even at my loneliest, ana was the best friend i ever had; she even loved me enough to try & kill me. In a way, I feel like I cheated on her with the boy and she left me, because I loved him more, for all the two co-existed. I carried them both with me for so long, and then i was too busy losing him to notice she’d slipped away too.
Thing is, i’ve been reading a fuckload of cultural analysis recently, and it pisses me off because it’s accurate, and it makes a lot of things harder. Eating, for instance. There is a thrill to hunger, always: if you stop to let it take over you, the sense of possibility, the heady desire and the headier ability to control it. The sheer exhilaration, after a while,of pushing it away. The feeling of watching the layers melt away, the lines streamline & then grow jagged, the bones come out. There’s a reward there. The visible manifestation of prized self-control. Cultural approbation, all the rest of it, for all I probably get more attention now I have boobs and don’t give a shit. It’s so beautifully dramatic, hunger. It gives everything an edge. Life becomes eversuch a tiny bit sturm und drang around the edges, every day. There’s always the ghost of symbolic significance, of deeper meaning. Every hour becomes a background battle with yourself, between desire and deprivation, craving and control. A test. Everything feels like it *matters*.
But there’s no equivalent rush, reward, thrill, in eating normally, getting on with it, looking at the displaced feelings rather than the displacing behaviours, dealing with it. For just getting on with it, even when ‘it’ isn’t necessarily what you would’ve chosen, and isn’t necessarily enough. For not using your body’s physical deprivation to signal your emotional deprivation, for not carving emotional hunger into your flesh. There’s no cultural mileage in being a grown-up instead of an angsty teenager. We’re bombarded all the time with visual messages: be thin, eat this,be thin, be this,be young, be successful, don’t need, don’t get old, don’t let go, don’t hold on, crave this, you’e not good enough how you are, ‘be yourself, only better.’ Nobody advertises, admires, appreciates (well, sometimes, but usually that’s personal! I ❤ my friends) the visible manifestation of the acceptance of need, letting yourself be a bit bigger than media imagery and output would dictate, allowing flesh to soften your edges and creep over your curves. There’s no aspirational poster child for trying to let go of aspirational poster children, for accepting imperfection, for accepting unfulfilled desires, for accepting unmet needs.
And it hurts. I wish there was. I want there to be a reason for doing this, for continuing to struggle. As it is, all the rewards come not from grounding myself in my body and my heart and their ordinary, everyday, incessant hungers and pains, but from pushing those things away, from overworking, overexercising, from pushing myself to fly. And so it feels like all the things I’ve learnt, all the things I am now, come down in the end to nothing at all except knowledge, this painful, grinding emotional realism and self-awareness that means nothing other than I can see the road accidents approaching in time to accustom myself to either destruction or walking away.
And to leap to the even more painfully, directly personal, in a way the outside appreciation I do get hurts, because it feels like that’s not me, really. the bits of me I need to be emotionally understood in order to feel truly wanted, let alone be in a relationship, are the vulnerable bits, the edgy bits, the bits underneath, the bones and the muscles and the breathing, the bits that are buried under this outer layer of flesh and the defences I’ve grown because the pain’s not worth the payoff any more. It used to be that any scrap of validation would be worth any amount of pain, but that hasn’t been true since – well, for a long time. Even the attention I get now – and it’s probably more directly sexualised that it was when i was properly thin and ethereal – feels mistaken, because somehow that surface sexuality, powerful as it is, is not all you’d get if you got me. I am the person that would theoretically choose to share that body, not just a collection of fleshy bits whose thinking is irrelevant. The rest is there too, all the vulnerabilities and insights and articulacies and contradictions, and – as with the cuttings post – I want *those* to matter, *not* the outside. If I starved again, if I welcomed hunger back like the long-lost lover she is, if I grew accustomed to the twisting emptiness and the lightheaded thrill of suppressing it, if I ran every day and worked every night and let go of this grinding achy solid reality of being in a body that’ll never be lithe enough, small enough, smooth enough again, I’d get both the fun of it and the relief of having somewhere to put the loneliness and the aching and all the little disappointments of living in the world and accepting adulthood. *And* a body that’s much closer to those in any visual narrative media and every still image, the spare, smooth outlines on posters and in magazines and staring across the tube carriage at me from coffee ads and Vogue and Chat and Hello. From Jeanette fucking Winterson. (I just reread Written on the Body, heh, with its redheaded, 29″ 22″ 32″ heroine). And I want that. I want that so much.
And yet…i know it’s not that simple, even now. I’m too tired to write this, but I *do* know that this post,last post, all the significant last few posts, are essentially the same thing, a plea for understanding. For all that my own gut response is ffs, get over yourself and grow the fuck up.
I miss…ah, there are no words any more. I hunger, and what i hunger for cannot be found or sought or predicted, and i’m not expecting it ever again, and yet that aching won’t go away unless I use the other to block it out.