During my one-year experience with anorexia nervosa, I had nightmares every time I went to sleep. None of these dreams were about weight loss or body image. Instead, they all portrayed a complete loss of control. Suffocation and incarceration were nightly themes. But, in particular, one storyline recurred when I was asleep and even during daydreams:
Underneath a grey sky, a mound of dirt sat to the right of an open pit. With an expression of apathy on their faces, gravediggers lowered my coffin into the ground. They wore heavy boots to protect their feet from the mud, and gloves to avoid blisters on their hands. The workers looked as if they had thrown countless boxed corpses into holes. Surrounding cars honked. Planes flew overhead. Cell phones rang. My death was a non-event.
The spectators formed a line behind the grave and transferred dirt from their shovels onto the casket, making that horrendous sound of the earth crashing against wood. After my burial, everybody filed out of the cemetery, leaving me alone to decay. They returned to the land of the living. I faded into a footnote.
This dream reflected the basis of my anorexia. Indeed, my eating disorder was based on a skewed perception of reality. I thought that, aside from my family who were obligated to care about me, my life was pointless. While I now recognize that this view was untrue, it defined my anorectic thoughts. The less I ate, the more intense these dreams became and the more stressful interactions with my contemporaries became.
I felt that I had as much power and value as did the corpse in the dream. Even if people did not see me negatively, I was convinced that I was a walking mass of irrelevance. Any time such damaging thoughts entered my mind, more mud was enveloping the coffin, yet those with the shovels were slowly walking away. Eventually, I surmised, I would vanish.
My peers begged me to stop killing myself. And my family members sobbed when I was not around. When I finally saw the pain that I threw at them, I started to reconsider my anorexia. One of my closest friends, WuDi, explained, “If you don’t get better for yourself, do it for everyone else around you.” His words reminded me that my loneliness was the product of a broken brain. Slowly, I began eating again.
Folks, recovery is like letting go of a fanatical conviction. You cling to a lifestyle that you once thought promised a better existence only to realize that its underlying belief was fatuous. After you conclude that your eating disorder was an empty undertaking, you too can remove the hideous voice that hijacked your mind.
I hope that you never feel such loneliness because the world is a place full of potential relationships. We never need to be alone. In reality, the reasons behind my anorexia were just like the story of my funeral: just a dream - a delusion.Jake Roth is a volunteer at NEDIC