When I first saw the consultant whose care I was under for about a decade we talked about what I wanted or hoped to gain from our time together.
He was not a psychiatrist who believed that he was just there to write prescriptions and make hospital admissions, he believed that he was there to help people and so by asking me what I hoped to gain from our professional relationship gave me hope.
My immediate response was that I wanted to know myself better. I wanted to be less afraid of the insight that I had into my illness and to learn how to manage that fear. I wanted to shine some light on my eating habits and why they had always been so flaky.
We talked at length about the way I approached food.
I was anorectic from an early age. I had no interest in food and didn’t want to eat much. I remember having school dinners for a week and not being able to finish the meals that they gave me. On the last day of what felt like a very long week one of the teachers told me I was ungrateful and that I would finish the meal I’d been given even if it took all day. It did.
I was a skinny child, a skinny teenager, a skinny adult.
I felt and looked uncomfortable in my own skin. I was told that if I “made the most of myself” then I could be quite pretty. I was never one for fitting in to moulds and have broken just about every one that anybody has tried to shove me into.
Jonathan (the psychiatrist) and I talked about my approach to food and most of it was that I didn’t like it much and that I was convinced that I was going to choke on it. Even now I’m what you would call a fussy eater and, especially since my dangly bit at the back of my throat was lasered out, I’m even more scared that I will choke.
I don’t eat regularly. I can’t eat regularly. Sometimes I will eat breakfast at the right time then graze through the day never thinking that if I just made a meal then I could sit down and eat healthily. I have a timer on my phone that tells me when to eat and today, like a lot of other days, I haven’t ignored it but the time has gone by and I’ve had ginger cake and crisps instead.
Some days I eat all day and others I barely eat at all. I don’t mind not eating because sooner or later the pain of an empty stomach goes and then I forget how long it is since I’ve eaten.
I have sort of freaky eating that I don’t often mention but it usually involves dry frying pickled fruit until it caramelises and having it with cold cuts. I don’t know whether it’s really food concocting of a bizarre kind or whether I’m just ahead of my time when it comes to food. If hipsters start dry frying pickled fruit just remember that I started the trend.
It is all linked with my mental health of course. It is, like just about everything else in my life, fueled and fuels bipolar disorder. It is, like the bipolar disorder, something that I’m better off accepting but it’s one of those things that I have trouble with.
The trouble with food is that you have to eat it. Giving up drink and drugs was different because you’re not obliged to do them but you really have to eat.
It’s a long and shitty roundabout ride.