Sometimes, I wish I had died. I look back at photos from my thinnest, from my sickest, most obsessive, frame of mind and wish I had died. I was close. I can recall moments where I was terrified that I was in fact, about to die, and also the words of friends, who indeed did think that I was dying.
Retrospectively, from the time when I was underweight and struggling with anorexia most, death wasn’t an end goal, although I did want to just fade away, which I suppose was a strange, sad sort of suicidality manifesting. There are times I wished it would all just stop – the bullying, the battle, the internal and external fight for existence. More recently, there are times I wish I hadn’t attempted weight restoration on my own, and I wish that I hadn’t let Ana go. I wish I could go back to that desolate, soulless place, and I wish I could be thin again. Like most distorted thoughts, my wise mind can see the irrational side to this, it can see the bones in old photos as a sign of how I neglected to nourish myself, and the starving body hidden beneath baggy clothes, and bitter sarcasm. But Ana? Well. She whispers to me how stupid I am, how dumb it was to let her fade. How she would give me everything I wanted – safety, purpose, fulfilment, success, love, self-worth – if only I would just listen. And it makes me want to be sick again. It was awful. But I still want it.
Apparently, this is common enough. It’s been termed eating disorder nostalgia.
I don’t think nostalgia is the right word for it. A better word is solastagia – the type of nostalgia experienced when you haven’t gone anywhere, and the existential distress this feeling generates. Because I haven’t left my body, although sometimes I hope to. I have left a different body behind, a thinner one, a sicker one. I’ve found a healthier one, a happier one. Yet I remain hopelessly solastagic for that which I’ve left behind. I exist on a spectrum of disordered thoughts and behaviours produced by my depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorder. Disordered thoughts and behaviours – maladaptive coping mechanisms – are what keep me company at my darkest moments. I clutch them tightly to my chest, like half-unwanted and vicious keepsakes which I cherish nonetheless. But it’s not only behaviours and thoughts that are distorted, memories can be distorted too.
My memories of anorexia are tainted. It wasn’t good. I didn’t feel better. But that is what she makes me believe, what she wants me to believe. If Ana can convince me to go back, then she will be in control again, and that’s her ultimate goal. That’s how I know I’m still sick.
A sick, solastagic human being, seeking comfort in syllables.