I'm going down the garden to eat worms
There are few things I squirm about - yes, of course I'm very very anxious about many things, but squirming is just, well, different). One of these few things is arriving to visit family who I haven't seen for a few months. But normally such a joyous occasion, no? The perfect time to sit back and relax whilst your two year old toddler is engaged in grandparent-related activities, surely? Well, yes, probably - unless you're currently 0.2 of a BMI number above 'severe' anorexia, having been safely inside the (relatively) normal zone last time you saw them, that is.
Oh, first world problems! Yes. Yes, I am aware that my perceived level of entitlement just hit the top of the scale. I would judge me too (whilst pretending not to, because y'know 'mental illness' and all that), but let me at least give you a little bit of an insight here. I've had issues with eating for over 20 years now, starting in school when bullying began and I wanted to disappear - quite literally. I began by throwing my lunch away at school when I was 13 - I would limit myself to just an apple during the school day. I didn't know anorexia was even a thing then, I just knew I wanted to make myself as small as possible and as a girl being brought up in a Western society I subconsciously always knew that being thin was better. The women in my life were always on diets, or talking about being on diets but I never heard any of the men even mention it. Of course I felt unsettled during my teens anyway, due to some major adjustments that included my mother marrying again and puberty of course, so of course the 'problem teenager' stars aligned and things began to go downhill fairly soon afterwards. I now wish I were closer to my step-siblings and I very much value my now good relationship with my step-father (minus the 'step' I suppose since my mother's death in 2004), who my son also loves and was always a stabilizing influence on both my mother and me. There were times when both she and I were in emotional overload, we even fought each other physically when the drama took hold and neither of us would budge.
I find it hard to even type this, but my latest round of anorexia began after my son was born and I was slightly overweight for the very first time in my life. During my IVF and pregnancy I had a reason - and one that involved the interests of someone outside (and for a while, inside) myself - to eat healthily and eat well. Let me also underline here that I know my child deserves a mother who is well, one who values her own health because of his, and one who would never endanger herself because she always kept this in mind. The reality for me though is that to get myself through the pitfalls of those early years, knowing that a small developing mind hungry for knowledge and dependent on his parents is looking to me to be the all-knowing guiding hand we all expect from our mothers. As I know I've probably discussed before (but obviously I'm not going to check because I can't be bothered), I have self-awareness, which I very much hope means he won't grow up with the same gremlins as I did.
Here comes the line I hear time and time again - right now I'm terrified of weight gain and I get a sense of ultimate control and achievement from seeing that number on the scale drop. If that means I can be 'normal' at my job and have the mental energy to give my boy everything he needs from me - and I don't mean money, I mean nurture, love, a perfect role model, (someone who was born understanding all of these things...) oh, I forgot positive and validating emotional lessons! - then so be it. Because you can tell I'm the best and most emotional dependable role model any child could possibly have, right? I've always had to carefully tread a line with this and achieve a somewhat delicate balance somewhere equidistant between totally nuts and completely sane.
When BPD is treated, the little nagging voice of anorexia can suddenly pipe up, and apparently those of us with this dual-diagnosis are few and far between, so often our doctors assume our history of EDs is just another part of the self-harming behaviours like cutting or sabotaging relationships. I actually feel incredibly mentally balanced at the moment, erring on the side of depressed/anxious, but emotionally not swinging between the extremes the way I do when BPD is kicking off. Mothers can't be that way and cope, it's just not a tenable situation at all. Unfortunately it's also really easy to get away with eating a lot less when you're working and child-rearing - you're just too busy frankly - and nobody really questions the weight loss after pregnancy because we're taught to expect women to fulfil the media's image of the new mum, springing back into shape.
Now, I'm sure some of you reading this will be thinking: "It's not fair to bring a child into a situation! The poor bastard will have both the genes and the batshit crazy influence to boot - just offering love isn't enough, he'll be bound to suffer!" and to you I'll say this: any one of us in this world could become mentally ill tomorrow. Really, it's true. But at least I know my batshit genes in advance, so I can build an environment where his emotions will be acknowledged and validated. I can guarantee you that I've spent way more time thinking about his emotions than most parents. I've worked my way up in a job that doesn't always reward me with satisfaction but does allow me to pay for a nice place to live, a nursery that works with parents and children to implement 'gentle parenting', which has taught me that time outs and punishments for children under three is pointless, because they, like me, are still immature in their emotional regulation - that bit of the brain isn't finished developing yet. I've had to learn how to regulate my emotions (it's still ongoing, as you might be able to tell), as if I were still a toddler. It's a bit like squeezing a balloon - when you poke your finger in one side, another bit pops out somewhere else.
I have to choose anorexia over BPD, because I can't choose to be cured. I may have to live alongside both to one extent or another for the rest of my life. For now I'll just do what mothers the world over do, and just do whatever it is I need to do in order to be the best parent I can be. What I'm asking of everyone else is to accept that I accept that I may not ever reach that aspirational goal, and be ok with that. Because I am.