Tuesday, June 26, 2012
June challenge 26: purpose
Purpose (or lack of it) is crucial for the function of the ED. After I handed in my PhD thesis (exactly 2 years ago, give or take 4 days - 30th June 2010), instead of the joy and celebration that I'd been expecting, I was hit by a strong feeling of pointlessness and worthlessness. The thing for which I'd been working over the past 3 and a half year was over; I'd not been successful in any job applications so I had nothing pencilled in for the future. My life seemed totally empty and had no purpose. The corollary to this was believing that I had no purpose. There was no point in being me, no reason for me to live.
It's easy to see how this absence of purpose allows anorexia to strengthen. If you wake up in the morning unable to face all of the hours in the day, subconsciously, ED thinking enables you to get through those hours. It sets its own challenges and its own rules. Living up to those lessens the feelings of desolation.
In 2010, I wasn't well enough to sustain myself through the desolation. Six months after handing in my PhD, I was in hospital again. Funnily enough, my discharge date was 29th June 2011 almost exactly a year after handing in my PhD. Since then, I've been having to work on believing that there is a reason for me, that I'm not pointless, even without those external things by which other people measure success or value.
It's incredibly hard. Especially because the current government's desire to carry out welfare reforms involves a lot of spin about how people on disability benefits are often scroungers. The more you hear it in the media, the more you believe it about yourself. I've set myself up as a freelance proofreader for my "permitted work" that is part of ESA (up to 16 hours per week or up to £97). My aim is to make the transition to supporting myself without ESA. However, I'm following the medics' advice and taking things one step at a time.
Of course, the most important thing is to believe that there is value just in being me. I would tell a friend that they have a purpose simply in being alive, whether they are currently unable to work, or a stay-at-home mum, or a top academic, or a teacher, or a dinner lady: whatever. We all need to believe that about ourselves: because that belief would make it much harder for the anorexia or ED to set itself up as our purpose.