Notes from Vincent Square
The sudden comprehension that you are not in control. You are its ship, once strong and fearless and headed for new and beautiful lands, now delicate and beaten. No more voyages for you my friend. The captain has driven you through too many dangerous seas for such a fragile vessel. Keep going and together you will be sunk. Dilapidated.
There is no glamour once you are here. You are a we. One of a pair. Controlled by another. She befriends you slyly, like any good friend makes you feel you can trust her, makes you feel safe. Then convinces you she can make things better. You believe your beautiful heroine. Feeding off the pain of starvation she thrives, while you empty. Hollow. ‘Organs, muscles and bones’ the nice doctor says, ‘that’s all that’s left’. By this stage it’s too late for me. I have been snared. She is feasting on the heart that was once strong enough to love so many fiercely, the muscles I need to run away and the bones that are my ironic trophy, on display for all to see. I let her gorge as I wither. No choice anymore. That was the first thing she stole when she caught me. Freedom.
I am in a small white room. A shelf, desk, wardrobe, sink, bed. Alone. My friends are all out at the party I was planning to go to until two hours ago when I was bundelled up and rushed here. How? This is what happens when you cut out everything and starve yourself. They will be stumbling home at 4am. Back to warm, familiar beds, drunken snacks. I will be woken at the same hour to be pricked, blood sugar levels taken. Juice forced down me if they are too low. Back to bed until 6am. This time the process is more offensive. I must get up. Go downstairs. Pricked again, blood pressure band that squeezes so tight I am scared it will break my fragile bones. Then weighed. Night times are very dangerous for the malnourished they tell me. It is when you are at most risk. They do not tell me what these risks are, but I have read enough to know. Heart attack, organ failure, many many more. This is why they check on us every hour through the night. To make sure we’re still breathing. Who has done this? Created this? Me. I am the enemy to be fought. I am scared of caring for myself. Am I worthless? Do I believe I do not deserve nourishment? Basic fuel? I do not know. 34.6kg the scales read today. Worried psychiatrist rang stress dietician. My next appointment with him isn’t for 3 days. He is in the room too now. My mum holds my hand. Phone calls. Then I was here. “I promise i’ll be good, I promise i’ll eat now”. Too late, and truly they did the right thing. As much as I promise, I can’t. Yet.
Scales read 34.2kg this morning. How? I ate that huge dinner. Chicken and leek pie for Gods sake. I have not eaten pie since the age of about 15. Creamy pie. Disgusting mush. At least feed me food I love if you are going to insist on such crazy amounts of calories. This morning even worse. So tired from all the checks, then breakfast. ‘Most important meal of the day’. Horribly creamy porridge. Not made with water. Not even skimmed milk. I hope semi skimmed. I believe full fat. Horrible blue bottle. But I ate it. I looked around and those horribly skinny women and thought not one of you is beautiful. Not one of us is beautiful. They have been fed these copious amounts for weeks and they still look deathly. Hideous. Malnourished. I look at the bones on the woman opposite mes shoulders. She’s been kind to be. She’s 45 and has 3 children she told me last night. She’s taken me on in a very motherly fashion, I am the youngest. The baby. This mood was heightened when I appeared at 6am this morning for my tests with my teddy. Just for something to cuddle. It’s scary being alone. Her bones. They are so...prominent, sticking out as 3 hideous hills on her shoulders. She tried to comfort me earlier with a cuddle. It was nothing like my muma. No soft comfort. No warmth. I pity her children. They have grown up knowing only this hard surface, all the love in the World i’m sure from her caring nature, but hard hard hugs. Like a rock. Not my mummy.
I stand in front of the mirror. My own shoulders exposed. The same bones she wears are obvious on me. It shocks me. I look like her. I am frail and not warm and kind. I am scary. This is what starvation does to us all. None of us are different. All ugly. Hard. Cold. Sad. All fighting. Some with anorexia, some with the nurses who try to aid us in our battle. It depends I suppose on what we have. I have everything. I am on the way to incredible things if I do not let this win. Otherwise...end game.
Cuddles with mummy after lunch. We watch Harry Potter. Hugs, strokes, scare me now. My body is too weak for it all. It must scare them. A single touch and shatter. A million pieces of Maya. All on the floor. Too small to sweep up. Too small. Without hugs, love, where will we be? What has this achieved? Deprivation? I am not Maya. I am a sad and empty shadow of the smiling girl I see in the photos. If someone blows out the candle, I will disappear. Shadows need the light. In here it is becoming harder to find. The house of shadows, all of whom seem to have accepted this to be their life. We are given one. A precious thing. Why waste the gift? I am wasting it now as I waste away.
Dinner is another battle. I sit at the communal square table at the chair which has now become mine. It has my pillow on it. The others do not have these thick, foam squares. Designed for the very ill so it is not too painful for us to sit. I wonder what my friends would think if I started pulling out such a pillow wherever we went. Then I think...I am going nowhere. I’m in here. They’re going everywhere. Soaring, flying, reaching. I am trapped in the dining room. The room of misery and despair. Trapped with 4 women and one man who hate food, drink, themselves. I am expected to learn to be ‘normal’ with these people. Really I am simply dreading meals more and more. The confrontations over portion sizes. The fights, shouting, raised voices. Does anyone remember what brought me here? I stare down at my fish with parsley sauce, 2 potatoes and green beans. Green beans, they were the last thing to go. The only thing left I could manage at home. Just. Then they were gone and there was nothing.
My silver lining arrives, sopping wet, carrying a beautiful bouquet. He is too big to be in here. Too strong. I am proud that he is mine, he is life and future and success. He has been lifting me on his broad, strong shoulders all this time. The more I disappeared, the heavier I got, until my weight was too much. He never dropped me though. He is damaged from my weight, I can see that, but still he struggles to help me reach. He knew, as I did, that he had to carefully set me down.
4am- Scary nurse wakes me. Not kind like the others. She must find us too much. Having seen starving children, cancer patients, those who cannot help such fragility. Then us. We created it. No sympathy. No pity. Prick. Blood. Back to sleep. She will be the same for 6am tests. It is fair.
Breakfast- Today is a hard day. I can feel it. No one woke me this morning so I am late for breakfast. This in itself has thrown me. Jump out of bed and run down the stairs. Forgotten and apologetic. On my approach to the dining room I can already feel the waft of cold depression wash over me. The dreams no one remembered to wake me from are rudely stolen. I wish I could keep sleeping. Outside the drama has begun, argument between nurse and patient. The mother. This has been a constant the past few days. Cold porridge is at my place. My fault. A lump. Please just let me have my golden syrup porridge at home. I will I promise. Cuddled up on the sofa in my dressing gown watching the television. Happy. I stole that from myself. No Maya, this is where you will be. Eating your cold lump, being drowned in the misery. I am trying to keep afloat, but feeling closer to sinking by the second. Help me. Please. Mummy take me home.
Mum comes to see me after breakfast. She brings some things. I feel warmer and safer with her here. She is love, but I also sense regret and guilt. This is not her fault, but she will blame herself. It is her nature. Like mother like daughter. I am blessed to have this angel. If only she would believe that.
Once mum has gone I spend the day counting the seconds until 2pm. Lunch is shepherd’s pie. Never again. Disgusting, chewy mince. Cheap. I ponder, maybe it is not mince meat, just fat and calories disguised. Probably. I take another bite. The only way out is this muck. They arrive like angels, bringing with them light and life. This is lucky, the shadow was close to disappearing. Thea is here first, left to wait downstairs while they check I want to see her. “No, I do not, I have many other important things to be doing”. Ridiculous. I go the fastest I ever have down the stairs. The stairs scare me. If I fall, I will crack. Still I run to her. My sister, a huge smile that she wears just for me. Inside she is not smiling, she is sad. I am sad. I cannot be brave. I cry and shake. It is too much. She holds me and loves me. Comfort. There is no love in here. No life. Grace and Hollie bring more with them. The building suddenly seems full. We laugh, it is a foreign sound in these walls. They leave and I am cold again. Nothing left. No light. No life. I want to sleep so I can dream.
Banging doors. “It’s Kate, I can feel her”. She is here, they all believe it and I am frightened. Kate. She died in here two weeks ago. Kate. What if my room was once hers? The frail skeleton who haunted the corridors living is back to carry on the torture. Why? She is free now, run as far as you can. Kate. I hope she has found peace.
No scissors for me now. Too much has washed over me. They sense i’m close to drowning.
Freedom tastes sweet and begins well. After the horror that was family counselling, I begged and pleaded to be unchained. Willingly they let me. They trusted me. I can do this, I was confident. I ate. I ate with my mum, I ate on my own, I ate with my J. Then I didn’t eat. Then I lost the momentum. And suddenly everything was out of control again. 39kg I hit and quickly fell, terrified of this elephantine number. The first time in months i’ve been out of the ‘critical’ bmi range and just ‘seriously anorexic’. Mum takes my hand with some force. She will guide me kicking and screaming if she has to and lose the bitch once and for all. I know this. I will fight for all I am worth, but when the fight is hard, I have those far stronger to help me sore again. One day I will fly once more.