Breaking the Spell: A Conversation with Jenny and Ron
David: Well, we were going to meet last week but I understand that we almost lost you.
Ron: I had a heart attack but it’s not serious.
David: What did you think, Jenny, when you first heard about it? Were you so sure it wasn’t serious then?
Jenny: Yah, I kind of knew what was going on. However my feelings at that time were not from a clinical point of view obviously. It was from an emotional point of view. I wasn’t interested in knowing what was going on from the physical point of view. Yah, he is recovered but he is supposed to go back for a bypass. So, it’s not really that simple.
David: No…no! Were you worried for your dad?
Jenny: Reasonably . . .yah.
David: Ron, are you worried for yourself?
Ron: No, I just want to avoid the surgery if I can. I am looking at other alternatives.
David: Jenny, I understand from my brief conversations with your doctor and yourself that anorexia started operating on you more over this period of time and it had you collapse. You just told me before we started recording that you have resolution to act against Anorexia. Ron, would you please bear witness to this?
Jenny: Yep. . .
David: And I bet your doctors, your parents, and your relatives have been trying to tell you about their concerns for you for some time? So I am wonderring why it is there is something so different about you since we last met. When I talked to you on the phone, you were like an anti-anorexic person. First of all, what is this resolution you told me about?
Jenny: One of my resolutions is to really suppress the people who fuel the anorexia. I believe these people are required to be literally brought down.
David: I’m all for that. How are you acting against any such person or any such force?
Jenny: Well, at work I’m a project manager. My boss is my only superior apart from the COB. ÿI am working on a project of his right now with a deadline of Oct.14th. My doctor has given me leave to exactly that date.
David: Three or four weeks ago, my guess is that you would have told your doctor that you would take leave only after the 14th October?
Jenny: Yah, I would have certainly said that. But I am still doing one or two hours at home.
David:: There must be more to it. You are glossing over what I take to be significant. Ron, would you agree?
David: Three weeks ago, she would have preferred to go to her death rather than not completing the project under the deadline. She would have been the ‘dead’ in the ‘line’! WHY? WHY?
Jenny: Like I told you people like my parents, my PhD supervisor and a few people at work are worth putting yourself on the line for or jumping into the trenches for. But there are some people and some institutions I might add, which are not worth giving up your life for.
David: Now this couldn’t just come out of the blue? Was it related to the threat to Ron’ s life?
Jenny: Yes and my collapse. But when I collapsed, I sort of brushed it away and I went back to normal but when it happened to dad and I was feeling very nauseous at work, it hit me quite strongly. It really made me think!
David: Anorexia wouldn’t have liked self-caring thoughts or being concerned about your own welfare, would it? Were these unusual thoughts for you?
David: Tell me how you possibly could have thought these thoughts because they are life-saving thoughts and not death thoughts?
Jenny: Well, I know that anorexia is always going to be out there in the world and take the form of these people and these institutions.
David: I think saying you can be free of anorexia would be like saying you can be free of air. However, you can decide to breath fresh air as opposed to polluted air! I am wonderring what you are thinking of what I am thinking?
Jenny: Yah, the world is never going to be purged of anorexia.
David: I hope you don’t mind me pressing a little bit. There still isn’t enough for me to understand how, even though anorexia has occupied your life for so long, your mother’s life and your aunt’s life for periods of time, you could just turn against it like that. Surely it will ….
Jenny: (interrupting) COME BACK!
David: COUNTER ATTACK!
Jenny: Yes, it could. It could always try.
David: It’s not trying to counter-attack RIGHT NOW?
Jenny: Well, it doesn’t hold enough ground to counter-attack NOW! (laughing)
David: Really! Ron, I know you have a remarkable daughter but I don’t think I have heard anything so forcefully stated for several years now. Ron, we should listen carefully, shouldn’t we? Jenny, do you know what you are saying?
David: It’s not that I don’t believe you because I have some sense of you but I am still marveling and I mean that literally. The scare of what you have done is something akin to saying several weeks ago that you were finding it tiring walking the three miles from your home to university and now you tell me you have scaled Mt. Everest. And I’d like to appreciate it too!
David: And I’d like other people to hear about this from you.
David: You are telling me it is not counter-attacking?
Ron: It was trying a bit yesterday evening.
Jenny: It tried but …
Ron: She was at work with her boss again.
David: Did that give anorexia the advantage for a little while? Can you explain that so we can better understand how anorexia operates?
Jenny: I went to work despite my leave just for a couple of hours or so. I went there to help out. And then people starting making demands and it turned nasty. So I said – ‘I’ve got an ulcer and I am on medical leave. I have to go!’ And I just went and of course no one stopped me. But when I cam home, I could really feel the stress. I felt quite mutilated.
David: I appreciate your use of language. This is a very, very strong word. How did you experience their demands on you as mutilating of yourself and you body?
Jenny: Well, it feels like they are actually cutting through you. You actually feel it like when I tried to help, they asked me to do more and ‘hey, you can ÿfinish this off in another hour. . .’
David: They started giving you some deadlines?
Ron: They said they wanted it tomorrow in spite of her doctor’s certificate for 2 week’s leave. I don’t know how they can demand a deadline. I am going to speak to him when I get back to work. This is illegal.
David: I would like to know for my own learning and other people who will come after you . . . you returned home .. . anorexia had a temporary advantage but you pulled yourself away from it? My guess is that three weeks ago, that would have led to a sweeping victory for anorexia?
David: How come? Did you do it all by yourself? Was someone a support to you? Did some anti-anorexia ideas enter your mind? Did what you refer to as your ‘soul’ come forward and prevail? Was it one or more of those things?
Jenny: Well, I just felt that I wasn’t ready to be sad anymore. I understand now that sadness and remorse – these are not very nice emotions but they are quite respectful and should be reserved for things li }ke what happened to Dad. And I feel sad. That experience of sadness was like a clear and filtered experience of sadness compared to the stupid sadness and remorse at work.
David: Do you mean that the sadness and remorse you felt for your Dad’s heart attack showed you that this was what was really important in your life?
Jenny: Yah, it showed me that this was a part of life that was quite significant.
Ron: I guess what she is trying to say is that sadness and remorse are feelings that should be reserved for occasions that call for them. They are not to be used in everyday life.
Jenny: Yah, I should be brushing off what happens at work instead of feeling sad. What happened to Dad and what might have happened to my family is something I genuinely feel sad about.
Ron: This is a remarkable shift in her.
David: Yah, I am ‘knocked off my perch’ here. This is quite breath-taking, isn’t it?
Jenny: It is too!
David: Can you sense my amazement?
Jenny: Yes, I can.
David: Are you as amazed as I am? Or am I more amazed than you are? This could be a turning point in your life?
Jenny: IT IS! I would certainly say that it is!
Ron: If she can hold on to it.
David: A turning point merely points you in a different direction. It does mean that everything goes away
Ron: That’s right. OF COURSE!
David: I’d compare it to the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944. That turned the tide of the war but just because they landed, Berlin didn’t fall.
David: If anything, from there on the war was fought more fiercely. We are now at war whereas before everyone was trying to tell you – ‘Please fight for your life! Please fight for your life because we cannot fight anorexia for you’ I can assure you we can be with you. And I would very much like to do that. Jenny, is this a matter of your prudence? Do you think if your dad ¡hadn’t had his life threatened, that this would not have happened?
Jenny: That is exactly what I thought myself. The minute he went to the hospital, I thought that we had hit rock bottom. And we just had to come back. There was a stage there where either we all cracked our heads or we bounced back?
David: What does your mother think about what you are doing?
Jenny: She has started taking life a bit easier….slowing down. Do you think so, Dad?
Ron: Yah, slightly relaxed now. DEFINITELY. Quite a bit more relaxed than before. We are trying to c-operate as much as is physically possible..
Jenny: She still has to look after Dad and me.
David: Does that make her busy?
Ron: Quite busy but she is quite a bit more relaxed because Jenny is out of danger.
David: Was there anything in our previous meetings or the letters that laid the foundations for this?
Jenny: The experiences of other women in the letters you gave me…THEIR PATHS TO FREEDOM…they were quite significant too.