I wrote this piece about my relationship with my 'Ed' a while ago. Personifying my mental illness made it easier to handle and after reading Ruby Tandoh's article about her relationship with food in Elle UK this month, I wanted to share my experience.
Ed had been my best friend, my confidante and my worst enemy for three years. He had been there for me when I was feeling the most vulnerable, the most alone. I was moving away from home and setting out on my own for University. Beyond the sights of my parents, Ed taught me about myself without interruption. I had had to hide him away before, lie about seeing him, now we could be together, just the two of us, happy.
Happy? Can you die of happiness? I didn’t think I could. Together we were invincible. We grabbed life by the throat and told it to listen to us, we knew what was right, we owned my future, we were in control. ‘We’ weren’t. Ed was.
The trouble started when I brought him home for Christmas to meet the family. I was still a bit ashamed of him but as with anyone you fall for, you’re willing to put them first, beyond anyone who had loved you in the past. He was all that mattered, my parents just didn’t understand. They tried to tear us apart, undermining him and trying to talk me out of my drunken romantic stupor but I couldn’t let him go. He was my lifeline and my security against the world outside that was intent on making me fail.
I was lovesick, metaphorically and literally. In reality, beyond the rose tinted glasses, it was domestic abuse. I was one of those scared women who felt that they couldn’t survive without their other half no matter how much he beat them, undermined them and told them they were nothing without him. I wrote poems to him, letters to him, proved my love at every opportunity; breakfast, lunch and dinner, sacrificing myself at the alter begging for forgiveness every time I felt I had been weak and let him down.
I tried so hard for him. To be the person he wanted me to be, but it was never enough. I was always too fat, too pathetic, too weak. I never lived up to those images he flashed in front of my eyes every time I looked in a mirror, or a window, or a spoon as it hurtled towards my open mouth while he screamed at me that I wasn’t good enough and I never would be if I didn’t try harder.
The break up was long, emotionally draining, soul destroying. Every week I would have to face him and tell him why this had to end, why we had to part ways, it was heart- breaking every time. He would apologise and proclaim he only had my best interests at heart; he was trying to help me, to make me better. Sometimes the violence would return, he would shout that I was nothing without him, that I would lose control and fall into a black hole of despair and failure where I would curl up and die having never achieved my full potential. It was these angry confrontations that spurred me on.
Learning to go it alone, have faith in myself beyond him was my target but I kept missing the bulls eye. Every holiday I would return from university to check my score but it was never enough to win the trophy. I was still a failure, but this time I was failing on my own. Ed was always around the corner of my mind or hiding in the cupboard ready to reveal himself with open arms for me to run back into.
I would like to say there was an epiphany moment, a lightning strike or a knight in shining amour that gave this tale a peak, but there wasn’t, not really. It was lots of little sparks keeping embers aglow which finally smoked Ed out. One of those sparks was my little sister. She was my idol; brave, intelligent, beautiful inside and out. Every time I saw her, that spark would re-kindle. It was when she had to go into therapy during her exams because of Ed that that spark turned into a flame. Another spark came along one night when my mother came to sit on my bed and cried because she couldn’t see me under the covers. To her I had disappeared. That baby she had fed and nurtured for 18 years was throwing it back in her face an becoming a shadow. She was losing her daughter; that was a flame. A university tutor telling me I had potential, a friend telling me she loved me because of everything Ed was taking away, being able to say yes to facing the world alone; every time a new spark would ignite.
Ed died on a pyre, a martyr to the religion of perfection.