When I was in the throes of my illness, there was no bread, no jam and most definitely no butter. Butter was the food stuff I avoided for the longest time. I think I dodged the delicious spreadable gold for a decade or more, going to great lengths to avoid even having to touch a wrapped packet of it. Looking back, I can’t help but shake my head in disbelief at the ridiculousness of it all. Then, though, the situation was serious. Butter, in my mind, was dangerous.
I remember when I was an inpatient at a psychiatric ward in Middlesbrough, and being weaned off my safe rice cakes and onto Warburtons Milk Roll. You know the stuff, right? It looks like Tubby Toast (only not charred) and is pretty much just a small mouthful of air. I think there was less than 50 calories a slice, but I was fucking terrified of it. (I was also scared of putting too much coco butter moisturiser on my skin in case it contained secret calories that would leech through, but that’s for another post…)
It’s only in the past few years that I’ve felt comfortable with deviating away from a rather structured, safe meal plan. Now I eat what I want, when I want, and being able to do that without hating myself and wanting to die feels in-fucking-credible. When I was ill, meals had to be at a specific time, and had to consist of specific food stuffs. If the time for food came and went, and for some reason I didn’t have my specifics to hand, I refused all food and drink until it was time again for me to eat (or usually throw away) something.
Nowadays, if I’m awake past the witching hour and feel a tad peckish for toast I respond appropriately i.e. I get out of bed and go to the kitchen. During the thin years, if I’d wanted more food than was scheduled, the bitchy voice in my head would have scalded me, and demanded some air cycling or sit-ups as punishment for having such destructive thoughts.
Scooting on down to the kitchen, without so much as a backward glance was foreign to me for the majority of my teenage life, and the first half of my twenties. Today though, I grab some proper bread without hesitation – the thin years were all about hesitation – and chuck it in the toaster until it’s done but not too done. I’m picky like that. When I first took the jam and butter out of the fridge a while back (probably a year and a half or so) and coated my toast with the two, I went to my parent’s room and said ‘hey, guys, look what I’m eating!’ They were proud, I could see it in their eyes. My Dad has a certain smile reserved for when I eat something that I shunned for years. I know that sometimes they have to look twice when I’m preparing something to scoff. They’re still not quite used to me being liberal with cheese or butter or, well, any food stuffs if I’m being perfectly honest.
So I slather my toast with some butter, and my favourite sticky Scottish three berry preserve, and scoot back upstairs to eat it in bed. It’s normal for me to finish my toast and have a moment where I sit back against my headboard, and think just how god damn lucky I am to be my own person again, and to have toast, butter and jam back in my life.