The ‘anorexic voice’ has an answer to everything.

I don’t hear it as an actual voice in my head and I don’t see it as a little devil on my shoulder. I don’t give it a name and I don’t give it all the attention it cries out for. I know it isn’t always right, but it’s always there.

As with any illness, every person’s experience of it is different, as are the coping mechanisms we adopt to deal with the feelings that surround it, but one thing remains the same – that however it manifests itself, the ‘anorexic voice’ has an answer to everything.

It’s a voice that defies logic. How many illnesses can you think of that somehow make you want to get worse? That make you go to extreme lengths to go against nature? That make you put your illness before everything else? That makes you carry on ravaging your own body despite knowing that it could eventually kill you.

When you’re in hospital and people are trying to get you better, they tell you that food is fuel and your body is a car and the car needs fuel to work, but by that point you don’t care about the car and you’re past caring about how well it works, if at all. They tell you that food is medicine – just as chemotherapy is for cancer or an inhaler is for asthma. But anorexia is a mental illness – one that doesn’t want you to ‘get better’. The ‘anorexic voice’ translates better to fatter, and that is the last thing it wants.

I’m ok. I’m not that bad at the moment. I’ve been much, much worse. But I’ve also been better. I’m not ‘fine’. I am aware of that voice creeping slowly back in. When people around me talk about food and weight and calories, when I’m eating something that at my worst I wouldn’t have dreamt of eating, when I’m clothes shopping, when I’m in a supermarket… the list goes on. I’m not even sure if it ever went away. Some people think that full recovery from an eating disorder is possible, but how can something so deeply ingrained for so many years just disappear completely? Maybe we just get better at fighting it, until our own voice and logic become consistently louder than the anorexic voice. Whatever the case, in my case, it’s still there, getting louder and I’m not happy about it.

I don’t want to become gravely ill. I don’t want to be hospitalised. I don’t want my life to be punctuated with blood tests and weigh-ins and therapy appointments. I don’t want to become unsociable. I don’t want to lose my hair and colour and identity. I don’t want to become that skinny zombie I was years ago. I don’t want to be stared at. I don’t want attention. But I do want to be thinner than I know is healthy. That matters. And it’s a slippery slope.

I’m trying to not lose weight, but I’m also gripped by the familiar fear of gaining it too. I’m sitting somewhere in between, where I have a grasp on rationality but am also questioning everything. That myth that I’ll feel better when I’m thinner is one that I reluctantly fall for and fight against at the same time. It’s tiring, but I’m trying.

You could say I’m not trying hard enough, but that voice is part of my history, part of me. I wish I could ignore it. I wish I could ignore every weight or food related comment I overhear. I wish I could eat what I want without guilt and deal with the consequences. It doesn’t rule me, but I don’t rule it. I’m struggling. That’s where I’m at. The in between.



9 thoughts on “The ‘anorexic voice’ has an answer to everything.

  1. Comments like one of those above really grate on me. I know this isn’t a recent post but I still want to say, Ilona, you are doing your best in the situation you are in and with the resources you have. Recovery is not as easy as a simple choice and people who present it like that and hint at feeling pity or sadness for those of us who struggle for longer or into their late twenties, thirties need to realise that. People who ‘fully recover’ (whatever that even means) are fortunate that they have accessed treatment, benefitted from it and who have relationships, circumstances and a brain that allowed them to recover to a different stage. It is not as simple as choice, it’s about opportunity, different psychological vulnerabilities, early experiences, loads of other things we don’t fully understand yet. Sorry this is ranty but I read a comment above and thought, if that were directed at me, I would be quite affronted and I wanted to put across this other perspective. That ‘I recovered and you can too’ message is so, so unhelpful, it is also flawed.

  2. I’m sad to hear you still struggle. I always hope so much for others that they can move forward. I had a few years recovery and then a bad relapse in 2007. And after that I promised myself no more. It’s been a long time since we were close friends and in that time the full recovery I’ve achieved is always one I hope a million times over others can find. I fell upon this randomly and as I say, sad you still struggle and always know there is more. It’s about always pushing that comfort zone. Being recovered leaves remembering those days behind so much you forget! I can’t imagine how it is to struggle and I want only for you to know the true freedom of full recovered life. Because as liberating as now as, as far as you’ve come, as amazing as you’re doing, and all you’ve achieved, bite the bullet. You’ve gotten this far, you can do the rest and I’ve always believed that and in you ❤

  3. Brilliantly articulated. Good luck with the in between place. I know that it’s a place where you hope/fear getting ‘better’/’worse’, where we hardly know what better or worse is, but in my experience it’s a place to try and be patient and stay exactly where you are. I’ve been in that place for months & months on end and still eventually come out ‘fine’. I don’t subscribe to the full recovery idea – my personal idea of recovery is stability at a weight that is less than my medics would like, a lot more than I once would have coped with, but stable without endless food choices & rituals. In between? Maybe. Sick? Definitely not. Manageably stable? 80% of the time. Having lived with it for 40y I’ll settle for that. Look after yourself 🙂 xx

  4. I’m sat here in tears at 2am, oh my gosh this resonated so much. I keep telling people that i want recovery/want to get better, but deep down something is holding me back; this paralysing fear. No one can truly understand that – the way you said the car metaphor was so powerful, it’s true. Some of the time i simply don’t factor in the logics – i can tell ANYONE ELSE the right thing, the advice, but the words don’t hit home for me.

    I am always here if you want to talk (beeing_sophie on Twitter). Even just someone to rant to when things are especially hard. Anorexia thrives off secrecy and isolation – honesty is the best way forward xxxx

  5. Beautifully written, I’m not anorexic but do recognise so much of what you say myself, I’ve struggled with eating problems all my life & consequently am full of self loathing and hatred, each moment is a battle & I feel for you so very much. You have many people that care for you even if you can’t convince the anorexic voice of that, you may not know them all in real life but people with shared problems understand and do care, because if we care for you then hopefully you can care for us and we can all try to hello each other. x

  6. I get this so much. It is a horrible place to be and like I said on Twitter it’s more difficult that ‘really ill’ because you can dismiss things that really do matter because they’re ‘not that bad’ (or not as bad as you were when you were very ill – which isn’t really a good benchmark!). I don’t know where your weight is at the moment but might gaining a bit actually give you a bit of leverage to rationalise some of those fears a bit? Not saying it’s easy, obviously. I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this x x

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