Thursday, 9 August 2012

Holding on to Emptiness

A few days ago I posted about the emptiness left by Louise's death, however I didn't explain the full effects that this has had on me. I have recently read the blog of, and spoken to, an extremely courageous lady, Laura, who has inspired me to share another aspect of my story.

The emptiness left by the death of Louise leaves a hole inside me that I have always tried to fill. I remember at primary school sucking in my stomach to try and reduce the size of the void inside of me, it was such a physical pain. The loss I felt for Louise was also a major contributing factor to my development of anorexia nervosa at the age of fourteen, a condition from which I still suffer.

Before I talk more about this, it is important that I explain what anorexia actually is. Despite common misconceptions, it is not vanity, or a desire to be thin. Neither is it a choice. I try my hardest and am slowly working myself free. Anorexia is a mental illness, and results in anxiety and strong feelings of fear when you deviate from your normal regime. Anorexia is strange, nefarious thoughts that are not my own but infiltrate my mind in a way that is beyond my control. It is like having a tiny demon permanently stationed on your shoulder, constantly whispering to you about how pathetic, useless and unwanted you are. Anorexia has a profound impact on both the sufferer and their family and close friends, which results in a huge amount of guilt on the sufferer's part. Worst of all, very few people can see how hard they are fighting, trying to make the anorexia change. I watch the world from the other side of a waterfall. I see it, but the light is distorted and blurry, and I cannot reach the other side. I shout, cry out, but nobody can hear me. I am not loud enough to drown out the roar of the tumbling water which threatens to pull me down.

I feel that the death of Louise greatly contributed to my eating disorder because being an identical twin is such a deep connection and encompassing relationship that you feel lost when it is gone. Being a lone twin is like falling through space and time and life, with no solid foundations to hold onto. I reach out, but grab hold of nothing but the emptiness which consumes me. Anorexia offered a way out. It cannot remove the emptiness, only numb it ever so slightly. Basically, I fall more slowly but I am still tumbling downwards. It also gives me a way to punish myself for the guilt I often feel at being The Twin Who Survived. As is common with twins, I have always felt like Louise was better at everything, that she got all the nicest things and that my parents loved her the most (not true- just to clarify, they loved us equally). When Louise died, this was intensified. 'Mum loves me less than her' became 'Mum wishes I was dead instead of her'. Although I'm not sure that I have ever admitted it before, I feel incredibly guilty for not having died. Sometimes because she should have lived instead of me, other times because I should have gone with her. At least Daddy didn't let her go alone.
Daddy, Mum and Louise, six hours old
Anorexia was a way of trying to fill the void. My relationship with Louise came from the inside, and the anorexia resides temporarily inside me, too. They are separate, and yet they are very much connected. It is exhausting trying to separate them out, to deal with Louise's absence and the anorexia at the same time. Mainly, anorexia intensifies the feelings of isolation and being alone that I experience as a lone twin, as well as being the one thing that helps me to cope with it. I live in a terrifyingly paradoxical world.

Laura's blog is about her journey with anorexia. She gives a much more insightful and articulate explanation of anorexia and what it is like to live with the constant shadow hanging over you than I can. The shadow makes me feel so cold, and somehow puts up barriers between me and words. Laura is so brave for breaking those barriers down.

Inspired by Laura's courage and determination I decided to share a little of my anorexia story with you. I hope I have explained it well enough to not sound crazy (or at least not like an utter raving lunatic!). Laura is going to America for treatment, which I think is an amazing thing for her to do. It is people like Laura who make other sufferers feel as thought they are not quite so alone, and I cannot put into words how valuable that is. Thank you, Laura, and I wish you all the hugs and hope and love in the world.

Louise cannot be replaced, and her absence is too encompassing to avoid it, even for a second. The emptiness is relentless, but slowly I am learning to find my footing. Hopefully one day, the battle will be over and anorexia will be gone. It will take time and a strength which I sometimes believe that I don't have, but one day I will be free.   

1 comment:

  1. You are so very brave Sophie. I am more proud of you than you will even know - or certainly than you will ever allow yourself to believe! I hope you have children one day Sophie as only then will you understand how a mother loves each and every one of her children absolutely and completely and 100%. A mother's love is not diminished by the more children that she has - it merely grows and is infinite. My greatest pain at Louise's death was not my loss of Louise - it was (and still is) the agony of seeing your loss. I didn't just lose Louise - I lost a part of you too. Louise can never come back but I hope that one day Sophie you will feel whole again and then I will get you back.Mum.xxxxx