“I Wish I Had The Self Control To Be Anorexic”

Several times in my life I have heard the phrase “I wish I had the self control to be anorexic” and, considering I am now writing this blog post about this phrase, you can safely assume that I have a lot to say about it.
You may be thinking “Katie, you already wrote a post about people wanting anorexia and how silly that is, why are you repeating yourself?” (a post you can find at the link here: A Message To All The People Out There Who Are “Pro-Ana”), but please hold that thought as I actually think that the problem with this phrase is not about people wanting eating disorders.
Indeed, unlike people who are “pro-Ana”, in my experience, people who say this are not actually craving the bulging rib cage and hip bone images promoted on “pro-Ana” websites. The mistake these people make is not that of idolising a mental illness, rather it is of completely misunderstanding what an eating disorder actually is and what it is like to suffer from one.

I think when it comes to illnesses such as anorexia, there is a misconception that when people with the illness don’t eat, it is because of their will power or an extreme superhuman ability for self-control. They assume that sufferers feel hungry and want to eat but powerfully override the primal urge to seek food because they are strong, yet in my experience, it is the total opposite, and it is in the times that I am unable to follow this primal urge that I feel the weakest that I have ever felt in my entire life (even weaker than the time I was beaten in an arm wrestle by an rather arrogant and ambitious sloth I met drinking tequila in a bar a few years ago…that was a BAD evening.)

Whenever I miss a meal or don’t eat a free sample handed to me in a supermarket, it isn’t because I implement my ability to make decisions/affect my actions as the word “control” implies. Instead, it is because I am not in control at all, a point I think is easier to explain if we take a trip down memory lane and travel back in time to any birthday I have had over the course of the last decade.

Most years, when it gets near to my birthday, if I am out shopping in a supermarket with my mum, when we walk past the birthday cake section, she will look at the birthday cakes and sigh. Following this signal, we may have a wander over to look at all the intricately decorated creations topped with thick white icing and pictures of various Disney characters (I don’t look at the plain old boring cakes for “adults” that simply say “Happy Birthday”. Seriously who wants one of those when you can have an sponge shaped like a minion or a giant chocolate caterpillar with a cheeky grin?!), and then after five minutes of eye wandering my mum will turn to me and ask the question “can I get you a birthday cake this year?”.
Now, if I had any degree of “self-control” when it comes to food and my ability to nourish myself, I can honestly say I would turn to my mother in these moments and say something along the lines of:

“Can you buy me a birthday cake? Why of course! There is no question regarding such a matter! It is my birthday in two weeks and I simply cannot celebrate the occasion without a cake! Quick! Let’s go around all the supermarkets and bakeries in the area to try and find the biggest penguin shaped chocolate cake available. I want nothing more than to share such a delight with all of my nearest and dearest friends! Ooh can I please reserve the chocolate beak for me because it is my birthday? I do love a chocolate beak! Hurry mother, let us away to the automobile and get started on this quest immediately!”.
I would probably then insist we head to the candle area to pick the most garish, brightly coloured candles on offer to adorn my perfect penguin centrepiece, poised and ready for the moment when I am ready to blow out the flames and make a wish that Helena Bonham Carter hurries up and marries me already.

That is the response of a Katie who is in control. Unfortunately though, we haven’t seen “In Control Katie” around much lately. That Katie popped out for bread about ten years ago leaving an out of control mess in place, and since then we haven’t heard anything (better be picking up some damn good bread is all I can say…I’m talking a good quality ciabatta or we are going to have issues).
Therefore, with “In Control Katie” otherwise engaged on a mission to find a tasty source of carbohydrates, it is the “out of control” one that turns to Mum year on year with a dejected look and says: “I wish. Maybe next time”, at which point we agree to try again next year before repeating the annual routine in roughly 365 days time.
I know it would mean the world to my mum to buy me a giant penguin birthday cake to share with her/the family, and I desperately want to accept her offer each time mainly because I want to see her reaction. I want to see her face light up with the brightness of a birthday cake candle, filled with hope that for once she can do something that normal mothers do rather than having to come up with some kind of eating disorder friendly replacement for her neurotic offspring (e.g. the act of sticking a candle in a pink lady…the kind of apple I mean…not an unsuspecting blushing female who doesn’t know what’s coming).
When I do not accept the offer of a proper birthday cake then, it is not because I don’t want to, it is because my mind throws up barriers that make me feel that I physically can’t.
It is like a “normal” person standing in front of a bonfire and wanting to put their hand in it to retrieve a particularly nice log. They can look into those flames and want to put their hand in to get the log (this person really likes logs), but no matter what, they can’t. Of course they are physically capable of moving their arm into the vicinity of the fire, but the fear of pain stops them (no matter how much they like logs).
Saying “I wish I had the self-control to be anorexic” then, is basically like saying “I wish I had the self-control not to put my hand on a bonfire”. Of course eating and setting yourself aflame aren’t the same thing, one is vital for life whilst the other is downright ridiculous and not something I advise anyone to try at home or anywhere else for that matter, but the similarity exists in the sense that both the person who doesn’t put their hand in the fire and the person with the eating disorder do not carry out their actions because of self-control, rather it is because they are both scared and fear the pain that could result from their actions.

Whenever you hear yourself or anyone wishing they had the “self-control” and “will power” to eat like someone with an eating disorder then, please know that when it comes to eating disorders, self-control has absolutely nothing to do with any of it. When someone is unable to keep themselves healthy by eating enough, it is because they are not in control, and because the reins of decision are actually being held hostage by an evil dictator in their head who is trying to kill them.
If I had self-control and willpower over my life I could write a list of about a million things I would use it for. The ability to fill my mother’s eyes with disappointment, to refuse sharing a dessert with a friend or turn down the offer of a birthday cake would not be on there.

Take care everyone x

ControllingPea

Mental Health Letter To Santa

So, as anyone with an advent calendar will be aware (or any kind of calendar to be fair…ooh…a rhyme), it is currently six days until Christmas, meaning that there are six days to submit any Christmas lists you have out there requesting specific presents for December 25th.

Ever one for being prepared, I have had my list written for some time, however unlike the ingratitude of children out there (that is genuinely the collective term for a group of children. Whoever came up with that term clearly wasn’t a big fan of the infant population…), I will not be sending my list to Santa in Lapland. It is 2016 for goodness sake, I am 24 years old and I am certainly not that stupid/deluded.
Of course Santa doesn’t receive these children’s letters! Do people really think that Santa’s magical workshop is in a location known to human beings and delivered to via the imminently striking postal service? Let’s not be silly. Obviously the real grotto is in a magical land unreachable by the Royal mail, and being the age of technology it is clear that Santa is only able to receive Christmas lists via emails/the internet (think it through kids. Bet you feel pretty daft right now. Yeah. You should do).

Annoyingly I cannot seem to find the actual email address for the real Santa this year (he changes it every few months for security purposes), so this week I wondered if any of you readers out there would mind me being a little selfish and posting my letter to Santa here on my blog ready for when he comes to check in as he does every Monday (he is a big fan). I promise it is appropriate for my blog too as it is a mental health related present that I am asking for, so feel free to read it yourselves even if you are not Santa Claus. All that being said, here goes…

Dear Santa/Mr Claus

Hello! It is Katie again (the extremely well behaved one with glasses), and I hope that whenever you are reading this you are having a good day and that all is well with you, the reindeer, the elves and of course Mrs Claus.

I realise it is a bit unconventional for me to be contacting you via blog, but I hope it will be Ok and an acceptable way for me to request the present I would like.
For Christmas this year, if it is not too much trouble, I would like to please have the gift of five minutes without any mental health problems whatsoever.

You may be wondering what exactly I intend to do with this five minutes, yet though I have been thinking about it a lot, I haven’t firmly made a decision as there are so many options to choose from.
One of my first thoughts was to spend the five minutes joining in with a meal with my family, but then I realised that such a thing would be difficult to manage in five minutes and changed it to having a hot chocolate or Christmas drink with my mum in one of those coffee shops with a sparkly festive menu and Christmas cups. I often see mothers and their offspring taking five minutes out of a Christmas shopping trip to refuel with a steaming mug of cream topped cocoa, and I think it looks like fun/is something my mum would appreciate me being able to do. She often looks at the mothers and their children we see in local coffee shops and sighs with a wistful “I wish we could do that” look in her eye, so I would like to give the experience a go for the both of us.
Speaking of beverages I also thought of using the mental illness free time to perhaps try my first cocktail as I feel that is an experience most 24 year olds have had by now (probably several times), and because of my anorexia I have always been too afraid to try one. I don’t know what kind of cocktail I would like to try exactly, but I am thinking one of those ones that comes in a tall glass and is orange with swirly red syrup at the bottom that spirals up through the surface of the drink like a liquid sunrise. With an umbrella (and a glacé cherry if that isn’t asking too much…)

Then again aside from eating disorder related things I also thought about using my potential gift to do some things that I struggle with for OCD reasons. I have always wanted to hold open a door or open a door for someone struggling with too many shopping bags. I really do hate having to be rude and stand back as I watch them stumble under the weight of their 5p carriers because I am too frightened of a door handle. More importantly though, I would really like the opportunity to hug my Mum, Dad or any of my friends and family without having a panic. I know that sometimes I am able to hug certain people in certain situations if I have prepared/have a shower or change of clothes nearby, but I would like to be able to hug my loved ones not when it is deemed as “safe” or “allowed” by my OCD. I want to be able to fling my arms around a friend or family member just because I want them to know that I love them, and for this I feel I would need the requested five minutes of sanity to ensure I could do this without the screaming in my head that I know would occur were I to do this on any other day. Maybe as an extra “stocking filler” you could help me round up all the people I want to hug in one place so that I can use the five minutes effectively and not leave anyone out of my sudden ability to cuddle.

Actually no…wait…I think I have decided what I would like to do with my present should it be possible to be delivered this year (you don’t need to dress it up or anything as I know “time” is notoriously difficult to get wrapping paper around). Okay so were I to be given my five minutes without mental health problems, I would like to spend it doing absolutely nothing. I just want to sit there and know what it is like to experience silence.
I don’t want to have my brain yelling at me about calories, germs or potential suicide plans, I would just like it to shut up for once and allow me the privilege of thinking nothing at all. I know that after the five minutes all the noise would have to return and I would go back to the constant screaming voices in my mind, but still I think it would be nice just to see what life would be like without them. Who knows, maybe not being terrified all the time isn’t all it is cracked up to be and maybe I will be disappointed, but I would still like to experience it just so I could know for myself.

So yeah…that is what I would like for Christmas this year, simply five minutes of life without mental illness. Obviously I understand this is quite a difficult present to construct and not something the elves can whack up in a few hours with a hammer and few bits of plywood, so if it really isn’t possible then I would like to please ask for a penguin instead. I don’t mind which species, just as long as it is a happy penguin who likes spending time with me (and who can waddle. The ability to waddle is imperative).

Anyway I think I have taken up enough of your time making my demands so I will leave you to get on with your December preparations. As always I promise a mince pie, glass of almond milk, carrots for the reindeer and cookies for the elves will be left on my doorstep come December 24th in anticipation of your arrival. Send my love to all the family and have a Merry Christmas.

Yours gratefully,

Katie Simon Phillips (again, the extremely well behaved one with glasses) xxxx
There we go! Christmas present all ready and requested for the year! Now I just have to keep my fingers crossed that my wish will be granted but I suppose that even if it isn’t I will potentially be getting a penguin in six days which is pretty cool too. I really hope that everyone out there is having as good/manageable a festive season as possible and that your heads are kind to you over the next week. Kind heads is the present I would give all of you reading this if I could, as lord knows you all deserve them. I promise I will be thinking of each and every one of you next Sunday. Remember you are never alone and that together we can get through this.

Take care everyone and Merry Christmas x

santaletter