- When I was in therapy for the first time, pretty solidly from April 1999 to Sept 2001, one of the really important issues that we dealt with was the fixed idea I had that people only recognised me because I had very long hair, I was skinny and I always came top in exams at school and won the form prize. I didn't really have any concept of a sense of self beyond that. The amount of identity that I gained from exams is very clear from the fact that the descent into crisis (described in the previous blog entry) happened in the year after I left school. Without school and exams to define me, who am I? The answer seemed to lie in the skinny bit: I'd been restricting my eating for the past 8 years or so in order to maintain that shape (which stood for lots of things: childhood, vulnerability, control, disgust at my own body). Once the school bit of identity had ended, there was more room for the anorexic bit to take over. My therapist was really proud of me when I had my hair cut at the beginning of 2000, because it was a sign that I realised I was an entity separate from the parts that had been so important.
- It's not a coincidence that lots of people with EDs have low self esteem. Problems with self esteem are indicative of a lack of self identity and the ED can provide that. I've heard a psychologist refer to an evidence base suggesting that this is more acute with anorexia because, bizarrely, it is "desirable", whereas it's more common for people with BN or BED to hate the diagnosis and not want it to be part of them.
- In hospital last year, some friends made me a poster with a drawing of me and lots of words to describe me. The caption was Linda ≠ anorexia. I stuck it up on my bedroom wall.
- Finally, last year when I refused to participate in body image group, I set myself a project. I made a sketch book in which I used old photographs to draw images of myself from babyhood to the present. The process of drawing helped me to see aspects of my quiddity - my me-ness - that are noticeable at all ages and, crucially, at all body sizes. Indeed, it also pointed to something that a wise dietitian once told me: she said that when she first saw me in the summer of 2003 when I'd been admitted to hospital and was very poorly, I was a shadow, who sat curled up hiding in the hood of my sweater. She couldn't detect a personality at all. But then, as refeeding happened, she said it was like a butterfly coming from the cocoon, and she grew to understand why lots of the nurses and medical staff remembered me from previous admissions and had said nice things about me.
The inextricability of where ED stops and where I begin is still a big problem for me. But writing this blog entry has reminded me that, for others at least, being Linda is not synonymous with being anorexic.