It’s weird how I am peeling back an onion that is the illness. When I was able begin to eat regularly, I spotted the illness. Here it is now. It’s a raging monster, but because I see it, I notice everything it does. My illness, if you wanted to find a diagnosis for it, turned out to be anorexia. I’ve been an anorexic human who has been told ‘you must eat’ and who has obeyed. You know how it feels when you are thing x but the world is saying to you, ‘you must not be thing x because being x is undesirable/crazy/stupid’. You try your hardest to deny what is a very profound urge to never ever ever eat again. You push it down, the humongous anxiety that eating causes. Of course, if you allowed yourself to live out your anorexic desires, after a while your body can’t take it anymore. I discovered this at 14 when I went to the doctor with a trapped nerve that caused me to develop a limping problem and the doctor promptly diagnosed me with an eating disorder. My limp was caused by malnutrition. I got scared, and decided to eat more. This worked a while, then I went to the hospital when it wasn’t working so well any longer. I remember eating in the hospital – I had to. I knew food is a thing that I should eat. So I did. I left the hospital, went back to school. Wrote in notebooks line after line ‘a person who is xx tall and weighs xx is not fat’ to convince myself that I wasn’t. I forced myself to eat. I wasn’t good at it and didn’t know how to. It caused anxiety and it wasn’t un-disordered, but I started looking ‘normal’ again. I was very depressed, but I finished high school.
Cue the next 16 years of trying to get to places in life. This was a battle between what I ought to be like and what I ought to do, and what I actually wanted to do and what I was like. Suppose it was a big old battle then with the illness and myself.
I wanted to go to art school. I didn’t allow myself to apply. Art school is a selfish project of masturbatory introspection I thought, and I cannot be so selfish. I must find a regular job and because I loved writing, I thought of becoming a journalist. I also loved philosophy, but it didn’t lead to a real-person job so it wasn’t allowed either. What follows is three years of journalism and media studies, and whilst I very much enjoyed some of my studies, I suppose I longed for something more. Something more ‘me’.
2005, I was very consumed by a depression so crippling that I no longer attended uni or left the house, unless at night and preferably with the aid of alcohol. My eating was disordered and unhealthy. I quit uni and finally admitted to myself that however much I try to pretend to be something that I should be, I cannot change who I am and what my interests are. I applied to a neighbouring university to study Philosophy and started my degree.
Philosophy students are notoriously awkward and do on average not do so well in social situations (can I say this? I am saying this in a loving way!). I felt like everyone hated me and thought I was stupid and with that mindset of course made no friends. Still, whenever I could focus (irregular meals and binge-drinking make this hard!), I enjoyed my studies and managed to finish my degree. Wanna hear something interesting? My dissertation was on post-Holocaust discourse and the problem of adequately representing unspeakable, irrational horror in testimonials….I see an arrow floating in the air here a bit (please note reader, that I am making absolutely no comment on the degree of this horror as I cannot imagine it and have no idea of it and it would be ridiculously offensive thus to do so).
I got an A for my dissertation, yet I remember nothing about it now. My mind is too full of gaps. I hardly remember anything about the content of my degree studies even though my certificate proves I was there and did undertake those studies (I did not and continue to have not the money to pay for stunt doubles to undertake exams and write essays for me).
Man, this is gonna be a long post….I’ma continue on the theme of ‘Pihla tries to be something she is not’ at a later point. Don’t worry though reader, it all ends in great success (sorry not sorry for spoilers).