A life without mistakes is a life without progress
A girl with anorexia was part of my life some time ago. Her body was weak, but her charm always shined. From time to time, I keep looking back on my time spent with her, the moments were bliss, the mistakes I made still plague me to this day.
I like to think that, I have at least learned something from it, although it is unfortunate that it had to be at someone else’s expense. If nothing else, I hope that whoever reads this will come-out with more understanding towards the people that are plagued by this disorder.
Here is what happened:
The extent to her motivation usually was picking up the phone, reading the messages and not answering back. Sometimes, on better days, she would write back to me a few days after I sent her a message. It had been a good six months since we last saw each other. Every month or so I would write a mail, hoping to get one line of text back, just to se how she is doing – nothing special.
One day, she wrote back, and told me where she was. So, me being me, I asked if she wanted me to visit. She said yes but with the usual excuses that she cant and that I shouldn’t. The first day I tried to negotiate, but the second day I just hopped on the bus and told her that I would come. She told me not to, told me that she was being moved and that I would be wasting my time, but as you can imagine I still went.
I entered the room where she was staying, and when I saw her… It broke me – to put it lightly, but I didn’t show it. Instead I was calm and thought about being happy to see her after all this time. I wont describe her to you, lets just say that you never want to see someone you care about looking like that.
We spent some time together, forgot about all the bad things going on around us, and focused on the positive, a day for ourselves.
During our conversation I inquired about how she was feeling in relation to food, more specifically how she felt about eating. She was comfortable enough to talk about it, so she described it to me: “Everytime I eat, I start fearing that it will get stuck in my stomach like a stone inside, and that it wont digest”. And here is where I made my mistake. I usually think trough what I say, there is usually a reason for the way I speak and the words that come out. In this case I followed Albert Ellises rational-emotive approach, and decided to find out on which step she is at the moment.
A small digression: A. Ellis lists 3 steps towards dealing with self limiting beliefs. The first one is when the person thinks that they are doing/being/feeling something bad and their emotions are in congruence with that. In the second step, the person is rationally aware that they are not the bad/worthless/wrong thinking person that they used to think that they are, but the emotions are still negative. The third step is when both the rational thoughts and the emotions are congruent and the person thinks and feels positively about themselves.
I had thought and hoped that after all of that therapy and going around institutions, that she would at least be on the second step, and that she would rationally know that there in fact isnt going be a “stone” in her stomach, but apparently I was wrong…
I asked: “I dont know, will it?” (meaning, will it stay in your stomach). She was perplexed, I could see fear set in, in a moments notice. She started shaking and asking: “I dont know, I dont know, will it, will it?”. Realizing the stupidity of my actions I hugged her and calmed her down. It took a moment, and she was OK again, we talked and she came to realize that there is nothing wrong with the food – unfortunately that is a story she tells everyone, her real opinion was expressed in the beginning, and I messed it up.
For a while I blamed the bad therapy that she was having, the low quality of staff and inexperience of her professional caretakers. But, not too long ago, I also went on a very low diet. My organism switched into starvation mode, and I would consume very little food. I soon realized that my stomach had shrunken during this process, and had gotten a bit stiff. So when I did decide to eat solid food, I felt it… The food I tookin pressed hard against my dry stomach, It really felt like there was a “stone” inside.
So, now I know, how, and why she felt that way, it must have taken her yeas before she actually started fearing food itself, but I could see how she came to feel the way that she did. For my mistake, my conscience will suffer, for the rest, at least now I understand, and I hope that people who come to contact with others suffering from the same problem will show a bit more understanding towards them, at least more than I showed.