Speaking Anti-Anorexically

Speaking Anti-Anorexically

KATHY [30]


DATE: MAY, 2001

Kathy- for ‘Manners of Speaking’:

Anti-anorexia twisted the very words by which we spoke together. I felt things starting to turn around. Firstly, I turned away from feeling powerless. Before, I just felt like mush inside. There was nothing – no strength, no depth and seemingly not even any marrow in my bones. This way of talking made me able to tackle it.

Secondly, there was a complete shift in the relationship between the ‘therapist’ and the ‘sick person’ and instead we became interviewer-interviewee. And through this, I felt valued. I’m real and not a pathetic person with a pathetic eating disorder. It was a really powerful situation, enabling trust to develop.

Thirdly, this new language made everything acceptable. In fact, the way you asked the questions made bulimia real. And I no longer felt like a freak. Sure, I’m exactly the same person as I was before but now I can see myself as ‘natural’.

Fourthly, this therapy helped me start opening out rather than opening up. By ‘opening up’, I suppose I mean confessing. This is working because I now am able to think anti-bulimically, or, in other words, opposite to a bulimic way of thinking.This has enabled me, for example, to see that my boyfriend may not be right for me rather than me trying to be someone for him that I’m not. When I thought bulimically, it was ‘I must…I have to.’ Bulimia was disciplining me. Within its constraints, there was only pass or fail – strange as it now seems, my failure was inevitable.

Bulimia had no words for freedoms. Talking anti-bulimically replaced the passive with the active. That’s what it is all about. And there were no ‘goals’ in this therapy. And you never asked me – have you vomited? And you didn’t talk about food. That was brilliant because it enabled us to get into the nitty gritty. I found it enlightening too when you told me where you stood on eating disorders. It made me feel we were on the same level…we were there tackling this problem together. I had never felt like this before with professionals.

Now as far as bulimia was concerned, ‘the ball was now in my court whereas before, I was in bulimia’s court.’ That’s how I started feeling free because now I was doing the serving whereas before I was completely under its control and direction. It was doing the talking, not me. I was in a kind of linguistic trap – there was absolutely no way out of it for me. I felt like a dead person in a dead end.


Somewhere Else:

Kathy: I have a question for you, David. How careful are you with your words when you are actually talking with me? You seem really conscious of what you are saying.

DE: Absolutely…utterly!

Kathy: How do you work that out?

DE: Oh practice…practice. I practice really hard outside our conversations. And even talking to you, if I hear a mistake, I’ll ask another question in order to correct myself.

Kathy: How can you tell?

DE: It just feels wrong. It’s almost as if I’m speaking the wrong language. I guess it must be something like a bilingual speaker using the wrong language for the listener. You just hear it. It is almost alarming. Here is an example – say after greeting you, I asked – ‘What’s happened to your anorexia?’ I would correct that to – ‘Tell me about your struggle with anorexia?’



Speaking Anti-Anorexically
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