An Interview with Anorexia
CAROLINE , PAULA, AND DAVID EPSTON
DATE: 23RD DECEMBER, 1993
DE: Do you want anorexia to speak for you and demand your death or do you want to speak for yourself?
C: I want to speak for myself….
DE: Okay, speak for you…you have been taking some steps in an anti-anorexic direction?
C: I have been trying to…I have been trying to get involved with various groups and things….
DE: Hold on (writing notes) ‘I have been trying to get involved….’
PP: I think you have been getting involved…
C: And people…
DE: ‘Groups and people’. And what does anorexia say when you think it is a pretty good idea to get involved with groups and people?
C: I don’t know!
DE: Do you want me to be anorexia and you be you?
DE: You have been thinking some thoughts of your own and I don’t like it!
C: Oh, too bad! (laughing)
DE: Oh, it’s all very well for you to get smart but you need to depend on me. After all, I have looked after you for the past 23 years. I have been looking after you.
C: That’s what you do (becoming distressed).
DE: Look, if only you were perfect.
C: (increasingly distressed) I can’t. I just want you to go away (crying).
DE: I like you a lot.
C: I don’t like you.
DE: I am a very good friend of yours.
C: Look how I look (crying).
DE: You look beautiful. You look beautiful.
C: I am wrecked.
DE: They don’t know anything. Just listen to me.
C: You nearly got me there last time I was hospitalized and killed me.
DE: No, no. All those people, just leave them alone and come with me. I will take you away to heaven.
C: No you won’t. You have put me in a nice lot of hell. That’s what you’ve done.
DE: Are you trying to suggest that you don’t like me anymore?
C: And they are all involved with the church. And I am different than I am with you… drinking and all that crazy-type stuff…
DE: Just come with me…
C: No, you are not going to get me…
DE: Caroline, just come with me and do what I say.
C: Go away…
DE: I will give you peace….eternal peace…
C: You will give me hell….you’ve put me through enough of it already…
DE: Can I get back to being David?
DE: You are pretty feisty….strong. If I was anorexia, I would have felt that you really didn’t want me around. I would have felt the weight of your dissatisfaction with me. Did you feel that way?
PP: Yah…’Go to hell’ was pretty strong. It felt good being on this side of the room.
DE: What would you have said back to me, Paula. Can I just talk to you as anorexia, do you mind? ‘I understand you have been putting some ideas into my friend’s head that she shouldn’t go out with me and live her life according to how I want her to live her life. Why do you think you know so much? Give her to me. She’s my friend, not yours.’
PP: I guess the difference between you and me, anorexia, is that I want to stand beside her and share some of the joys and sorrows of her life and I don’t like that you want to control her. It’s wrong; it’s not what a friend does.
DE: Look, you weren’t around for the last 23 years. Without me, where would she be?
PP: I think she might be a lot happier, doing a whole lot more things with her life than spending it with you.
DE: That’s all very well for you to say but if she would just try a little bit harder, she could make it. If she would just try a little bit harder. She doesn’t try hard enough. She doesn’t please enough people.
PP: I hate when you talk like that because ‘perfection’ is not something anyone should try to achieve. It’s a game….a pathway to destruction. I don’t feel comfortable talking to you like this. You are just playing a game and you are a liar. I have to say that.
DE: Well, who is Caroline going to believe, me or you? I have got a lot going for me. If she would only be perfect, I would give her everything.
PP: What would you give her?
DE: Perfect happiness…and every dream she had would come true. Every dream she has ever had in her life, I would make it come true.
PP: That’s a lot to believe.
DE: Look at all the other people I’ve helped.
PP: Like whom?
DE: Look at all the women I’ve helped.
C: Can Karen Carpenter be No.1?
DE: Yes, Karen Carpenter, without me, she wouldn’t have been such a great singer.
PP: Without you, we would still be listening to Karen Carpenter. She was a great singer….a wonderful singer..
DE: Oh well, she just didn’t get down to the right weight.
PP: I think your promises are based on nothing that I’ve seen anywhere. Nothing good and lots of bad things. It’s up to Caroline to decide who she believes.
DE: So it is between you and I?
PP: Well, it seems to be. Certainly when David was reading the letter, it really hit me that in some ways it is between what you believe in and what I believe in. It also struck me that Caroline had listened to you and that made me feel very fearful that you may win this battle for her life.
DE: I am glad that you recognize that Caroline really prefers me to you.
PP: I didn’t say that. I said that you are still speaking to her and she was still listening. I don’t think Caroline has decided whom she prefers. I think she is still deciding.
DE: Caroline doesn’t know anything. Caroline knows what we tell her.
PP: That’s not true.
DE: Well, what does Caroline know?
PP: Caroline knows lots of things about what she wants, what she likes, and what she can do.
DE: Yah, but she is guilty. She has no rights.
PP: I don’t believe that. You know I don’t believe that.
DE: Well, I know this will have to go to Court but you know she has believed this for 23 years so why shouldn’t she just go along with me for the rest of her days?
PP: I don’t think it is right to say that she has believed it. She has listened to it and tried it out. And she keeps trying it out. But I don’t know because if she totally believed it, you would have had her by now.
DE: Well, I almost got her late last year. I thought I had her. She really believed in me then. I think it was you that really wrecked it for me. If you didn’t show up at that hospital, she would be with me. You stole her from me because you wouldn’t go along with what the hospital said. Why did you not go along with your colleagues?
C: I nearly died on those drips…I blew up like a balloon….
PP: I hadn’t met you…or been seduced by you. And I don’t like what you stand for. So I didn’t choose to go along and I won’t.
DE: Are you bloody-minded? What if I offered you a small commission on every person that I take over to my side?
PP: (laughing) No…
DE: 20%, 30%, 50% ?
DE: I can see that I am not going to get very far with you. So I guess this is it between you and me. I don’t think I’ll spend much time talking with you any longer. But I’ll prove you wrong. I’ll take her.
PP: I don’t think so.
C: Don’t talk to me anymore either, you anorexic wretch. You can go away. I have had enough of it.
DE: You are just listening to Paula. And she is just johnny-come-lately and I have been with you for so long that you might as well just stick with me.
C: I have been dead for the past 23 years with you hovering around me. The last couple of years have been hell.
DE: You are hurting my feelings.
C: Just go away. I don’t care what you think. Paula is on my side.
DE: Do you have any friends you could put me onto so I could destroy their lives?
C: I could think of one who has hurt me lately but you are not going to take her. I am not going to tell you so just go away.
DE: I might just try to come back but I’ve got the message.
C: Don’t try and come back. Just go away.
DE: What about if I could just come on weekends? What about if we could become apartment mates?
C: That’s the trouble. Go away. It’s nice to have a little bit of company in the place. And you’re still hovering around. You’re not there when I have a bit of company.
DE: Tell me some of the people who you think are preferable to my company?
C: BIG FAT FRIENDS.
DE: Are you hanging out with fat people? (shock) Oh God no!
C: You don’t look very thin to me (laughing).
DE: Hey, do you mind me being David again? I noticed you had a bit of fierceness there. You remember you saying you were ‘helpless’ – you’re not so helpless. Would you agree, Paula?
PP: Yah, I would.
DE: When you push anorexia aside, there is a pretty strong sort of person there, right?
C: I have been told I’ve got quite a lot of strength.
DE: Who told you that?
C: Oh, various people.
DE: Are you starting to agree with them?
C: Yah, I think so. At the hospital, they thought I was very, very strong-willed.
DE: Can I ask you when you say you’ve got strength, is that moral strength, physical strength, or spiritual strength? Or all of those things?
C: I don’t know. All of them I think. Sometimes I feel pretty weak, especially if I have been bashing around here there and all over the place.
DE: Do you think you have a moral or spiritual strength coming towards you?
C: I hope so because various people I have been meeting, especially over the past 4,5 weeks, through the powers that be, I have managed to be able to get out. The girl I met at a meeting up at the church…2 or 3 years older than myself. She’s divorced. They had a coffee morning after mass on Sunday. And we just got chatting and I have been out with her a couple of times since. Just for a walk in the park and she popped around and had a cup of tea. And I went around to her place the night before last for dinner. Another lady there and we had a lovely night.
DE: Did anorexia sit at the table with you?
C: No, he wasn’t. It was really nice. And I was having quite a few cramps. And we had a couple of glasses of wine and the conversation was really nice.
DE: Why do you think it is that when you are with people, anorexia is no longer there in your life? Why do you think that is?
C: It’s a lot more distant, that’s for sure.
DE: Am I right in thinking that friendships are anti-anorexic?
C: Yes (conclusively).
DE: And loneliness would be anorexic?
DE: Isolation is anorexic?
C: Also it’s quite interesting once you get to know various people and find out what sorrows and crosses they are bearing. And really how some people manage to get through. People can break other people.
DE: You know as we talk now has that lead you to reconsider these charges against you? Like you were saying when we first started our conversation that you were helpless in the face of these charges. What do you think now?
C: No what I meant actually was helpless in my actions…in my carrying on. Well some of the time. Well, when I am feeling a bit on top of things and I feel I am doing something for other people. And also enjoying it myself. Enjoying people’s company. That makes you feel you are worthwhile spending time with.
DE: When you are enjoying people’s company, you feel you can control things?
C: Well reasonably.
DE: Great! Were you as aware as you are now that these things you are doing – developing friendships and getting out and around – were anti-anorexic? Would you have been aware of it?
DE: Is this actually a slap in the face for anorexia?
C: Oh yes (conclusively). Because I will tell you another thing. I went out on Sunday with this friend of mine that I’ve known for 3,4 months now. I had the best day I think I have ever had for the last 10,12 years’. It was wonderful!
DE: Okay, I want to hear about the ‘best day in 10,12 years’. Last Sunday. What was the date?
C: It was Sunday…Carols in the Park it was! In the domain.
DE: Carols in the domain.
C: I went with a friend of mine called Jane-Marie.
DE: (writing) I went with Jane-Marie. Before you went there, did you know you were going to have the best time of…
C: No, I didn’t. No, because I didn’t really want to go. I had to make the effort to go.
DE: What did anorexia say to you about going? Did it try to talk you out of it?
C: It said: ‘Ring her up and say you are not going to go’.
DE: ‘Ring her up…you are not going to go’. And what did you say back?
C: Mmm…what did I think? I don’t know…sorry I can’t remember.
DE: What would you say now, knowing what you know?
C: What I would say now, knowing what I know, that is the anorexia telling me to stay in -‘Blow you….you stay behind!’ That is another thing while we are about it: ‘You make sure you are not in my apartment when I get back there as well’.
DE: ‘I’ll give you a couple of days but I’ll be back in 3,4 days’.
C: No, you won’t. You can clear off and I mean that. You stay away. You have got to tell me…promise me you will stay away from my apartment.
DE: No, I don’t give promises.
C: Paula, can you persuade this anorexia/bulimia to keep away from my apartment…and promise me.
DE: I’ll be back…I’ll be back…you’ll get lonely. You’ll need me.
PP: You won’t be welcome.
DE: You’re used to me; we’re used to each other. I don’t expect you to like me all the time. Just do what I say.
C: What do you think then of my two beautiful pictures?
DE: I don’t think you should have any pictures. You should have blank walls. You shouldn’t have anything nice to look at. You don’t deserve it.
C: You don’t like looking at nice pictures?
DE: You are not allowed to have them in a jail….
C: Well, that’s fine then. You are absolutely banned from my apartment. It’s not for you (conclusively). It’s a special sort of jail…not for you.
DE: It’s all very well but you will want me back.
DE: What about if I pop in every so often just to see if you need me?
C: You won’t be able to get in.
DE: I have ways and means.
C: The doors are bolted. How?
DE: You will be begging me to come back – ‘You’ll say, ‘I need you….I’m so guilty….’
C: NO I’M NOT. I think I proved the point yesterday. You weren’t there, were you?
DE: I was. Were you doing something behind my back?
C: Yes, I ate a couple of little biscuits in front of people. And had a glass of whatever it was.
DE: Look this is going a bit far.
C: And they all had lots.
DE: But this is the rot inside of you. It will make you so fat. I will make you sick.
C: I know I wasn’t sick. You came back, didn’t you, when they all left! No, I don’t.
DE: I may not be the best friend but I am always there.
C: I have just had enough…
DE: I am always reliable…
C: Yah, I bet…
DE: These friends you’ve got, they won’t last. Stick with me because I will always be with you. You can count on me to be there to the end…to the very end.
C: Well, life is for living It came to me this morning. I am living a dead sort of life with you hanging round me. You just take control, don’t you! You make me so bad…and guilty..
DE: No, I let you get in control…
C: And grouchy and I take it out on my family. And they keep telling me how bad I am.
DE: Well, you really shouldn’t have anything to do with them. They don’t like me much.
C: I don’t like you. BUT THEY THINK IT’S ME. BUT IT’S NOT.
DE: Well I tell them that.
DE: I tell your….
C: NO, YOU TELL ME AND I TELL THEM…
DE: I tell you to tell them that you’re bad.
C: No, you don’t!
DE: What do I do?
C: YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE ME. AND YOU ARE TELLING ME THAT I’M NOT.
DE: I know I’m not you but I’ll speak for you.
C: You don’t have to do that any longer. I can speak for myself, thank you very much.
DE: This is going to be a bad year for me next year with you.
C: Well, I hope so. Because you nearly finished me off this year, that’s for sure.
DE: It’s bloody Paula!….We have to part company the way you’re talking…
C: And I think it’s about time as well. I had half a year of hell with you. Huh….New Year’s day through to the end of June….and then, thank God through the powers that be, I managed to get back into my apartment. The hospital almost drove me crazy with all their threats and everything…thanks to you, yah!
DE: You have been listening to Paula too much.
C: She was the only good thing out of that. I will never, ever forget that. My brother put me through 2,3 weeks of mental anguish before they put me there. Every day, thinking about it. It was dreadful. It was the waiting and then what happened….all those people.
DE: It was a day I will always remember. There I was with you and everyone saying – ‘Go with anorexia. We are giving you to anorexia’.
C: My dear Saint Teresa…my dear Sacred Heart…
DE: And you didn’t come. You went with her.
C: And they certainly wouldn’t have invited her if they knew. They had nearly finished me off, thanks to you, with all their drips stuck into me. I nearly had a heart attack. I swelled up like a great big tree.
DE: They were trying to do their best.
C: It was too late. They should have listened to me. I told them. The same as hospital B. Thank God! I don’t know how I managed to get out of that dreadful place. And those dreadful people.
DE: I love them. I believe they are on the same team as me.
C: I’ll bet they are. Boy, did I have a job to get out. Talk about jails. And that’s what it is with you hanging around as a friend. It’s like being trapped in a jail.
DE: Okay…okay…but look: I’ve been missing you this last little while…
C: I’ll be free like that picture (Garden of Eden). Like the bird in that picture. JUST GO AWAY.
DE: Before you get so high and mighty, freedom is hard…you will have to think for yourself. I can tell you what to do.
C: I will decide what the right thing to do is; you have always told me the wrong thing to do. You have always tricked me, telling me lies. You have never acknowledged it, have you? It is never too late. 3, 4 times it was nearly too late. And then it started all over again and you came right back, didn’t you? A black hole. Well, I can see the sunshine now. I know it is there.
DE: Well, I will miss you.
C: You’ll get over it, don’t you worry! (laughter all round).