I collapse back onto the sofa, clutching the hot water bottle to my chest. The warmth is soothing. I have taken off my coat and jeans, and replaced them with an oversized hoody and soft trackie bottoms tucked into thick fluffy socks. I am so comfortable. I wrap a blanket round my shoulders, and huddle into it. My fingers cradle a hot mug of tea. This is my cocoon. This is where I am safe. I am alone. I do not have to speak to anyone. It doesn’t matter what I look like.
The final layer of this cocoon is anorexia. Layered on top of the warm clothes, the hot water bottle, the blanket, finally, is anorexia. A solid, protective layer, keeping the outside world at bay. The outside world is cold and scary. It’s full of responsibilities and worries and failure. Anorexia defines the edges of my safe cocoon. Anorexia comforts me. Keeps me apart from the outside world and it’s challenges. Whilst other people worry about money and jobs and relationships, anorexia keeps me away from those fears. It is selfish, I know that. Anorexia stops me worrying about other people. I have no room in my mind for that. I do not have to worry about a career, a job, money. I do not have to get up every morning and present myself to the outside world. Instead I can stay curled up in a dark cocoon. One long duvet day. And when the challenges of the outside world try to get to me, the hard outer shell of anorexia tenses, tightens it’s grip a little, and the worries simply rebound off.
But each time anorexia tenses and tightens it’s grip, it closes in a little more. Slowly, slowly, the cocoon is becoming smaller. Day by day, week by week, the cocoon is shrinking. Closer, closer it comes. It’s becoming more claustrophobic. Until the boundaries of safety are so small I can barely move. There is less and less air in the cocoon. I begin to panic. I am suffocating. But still, I am comfortable, cosy, warm. The air is running low. Each breath is a gasp. Tighter, it comes, closer, constricting me. I want to fight. I want to struggle and lash out and smash the cocoon and run for my life. But I am so warm, so relaxed. I could just lie here. I don’t have the energy to fight. But now there is no air. How long can I last? The anorexic cocoon is so tight around me, it is merging with my skin. Indistinguishable from me. Part of me. It is so rigid I cannot move. Solid and still like a statue, held in the vice-like grip of anorexia.
Soon, the cocoon will shatter. The layers of warmth and protection will be stripped away and I will be naked and shivering, blinking in the bright light, blindly stepping forward, and away from the remnants of my safe anorexic cocoon.
Will I be able to keep walking away? Or will I scurry back and rebuild the cocoon once again?