I know I am not strictly an anorexic, but I read An Apple a Day: a memoir of love and recovery from anorexia by Emma Woolf to see if insights could be had. To a degree, there were, especially in terms of the fear and anxiety and control elements. I know how it feels, how “it’s exhausting to fight yourself every minute of every day, and [being] tired of waging this one-[person] battle against [yourself]” (14). I also feel like “it’s time to stop the madness. … Anorexia keeps you frozen in its icy grip. The notion that life could be any different – that it could be better – becomes inconceivable. You forget how good it was to be normal” (21). I also am quite familiar with the seemingly endless recovery and that true recovery – the one that will send this into remission and transition me from “recovering recoverer” to a “recoverer, a liver of life” – that this type of recovery requires “you [having] to get sick of it before you’re ready to give it up. For all the support and advice in the world, … the single most important component to recovery is wanting it, really, really wanting to be free” (131).
[I bookmarked this and wanted to write about it, but it didn’t fit in the flow, so AN ASIDE: The facts that “up to 20 percent of [anorexia] sufferers will die, either from medical complications or suicide,” or that only “46 percent of anorexic patients go on to recover fully” (61), don’t scare me, but more because they didn’t resound to me as much as individual stories. I can’t see the similarities in statistics, but I can in stories. I find lessons in the stories.]
For Woolf, gaining weight was necessary – it helped her brain function better, her appetite and other natural bodily functions return and regain normalized eating. For me, I’m not sure this is the case. I’ve been healthier head-wise currently (about 170 lbs) than even twenty pounds heavier (and definitely twenty pounds lighter). I won’t weigh myself anymore for this reason, because the number of my weight is not the best indicator of success for me. As stated by Woolf, “no one has the instruction manual for life – how to feel, who to love, or what to do next. I’m trying to take it one day at a time” (240). The ability for my wife and I to say, “nothing,” when asked what I stop us from doing, becoming and being, that’s my gauge for success – there is no right or wrong, just us.