Sunday, 6 November 2011

Who is Ophelia now?

I studied a book at University called ‘Spasm’ in which the author suggests that someone might create an illness because she ‘knows no other way of telling her life’s tale...the illness a conduit to convey real pain.’
Is that what my eating disorder is to me? The desire to stuff my face and throw up, the need to run until my feet are blistered raw, the buzz from fasting and curling up in a ball locked in the toilet cubical - are these desires created or born from the inner pain I had for so many years and had no way of expressing or feeling physically?

Cassio is in the dangerous position of making me remember who I am. I am the girl who devoured books and poetry, wandered around the galleries alone, writing, dreaming, opening up her bare, raw soul to the harsh elements of Art. He is a culture snob. Fine dining, classical music, expensive clothes, European languages, European cities. He could never love London like I do, even as an Italian, his heart will always belong, not to Rome or Venice, but to Paris. We talk about all these things, all the things I used to hold so close to my heart. That’s why I studied English Literature at University. But I chose to walk away from it all.

I came home, exhausted and emotional last Friday night and pulled out Sylvia Plath from my bookshelf and went to sleep listening to her recording of ‘Fever 103’. It was the first time I’d touched literature since I started in The City back in July and it reminded me that literature was the only thing that could make me feel what I was feeling. At least the last time I was working in The City I used to have time during my journey in and out of work to read a couple of chapters. Now all I read are the business pages, reports and analysis, news journals and magazines. I walked away from everything I used to love, everything in my heart, everything I am – was.

Of course I still love it. But I’m not going back. When I speak to people now, I tell them my biggest regret was letting my love take over me. I tell them I wasted three years of my life studying something pointless. Who cares that I have views on Shakespeare and Romantic Literature? That won’t make me money, that won’t get me a job, that won’t earn me respect.

But Cassio brings it back to me. He talks of his friends in the large investment banks with disdain. He tells me that the glamour I dream of is a lie. It’s all sleeplessness and overwork. He speaks of the beauty of Paris, the importance of culture and beauty. He makes me miss all the things I used to love and treasure.

My business trip to Dubai has been amazing. I was so anxious in the run up to going as I was travelling and meeting clients on my own, but I did it. The little girl from South London held her own; fearless. I walked away realising that there was simply nothing I could be afraid of now, nothing. I flew out alone, held meetings at funds and banks alone, holding court with men twice my age and experience. I did it. Brimming over with pride and relief after every day came to an end. I did it. I'm doing it. I've done it. There is nothing I can be afraid of now.

A year ago I wrote in this blog that I had lost everything, I shut my eyes at night praying that I wouldn’t wake up the next day. And honestly, I don’t know what it was inside me, but I didn’t die, I didn’t give up, I came back and I’ve achieved things I never even dared to dream. I achieved all this because I walked away from the avant garde, the love of Art, beauty. I would have been a penniless author like those I read about on Grub Street. There’s a reason why all the greatest writers and artists were mad or depressed – that’s what philosophy does to you. Living in the real world, cutting off those sensations, numbing the desire to read and write and feel... that is what has enabled me to take flight in the world of business.

So you see, I can’t go back. I can’t go back to that girl that you probably used to love to read about. Ophelia, the classic form, tragically broken and fragile, clambering for beauty, for the flowers which I hung about my room in ecstasy. That Ophelia was also the girl in the dressing gown, underneath her duvet, alone in an ice cold house, a floor strewn with images in magazines and a laptop full of written dreams. That is not my vision of success.

The only downside to the 'success' I've felt in the last few months is that once a bulimic, always a bulimic. The events of last Friday night threw me off the edge and into a spiral of uncontrollable bingeing and purging. Over and over and over again. During my time in the Middle East I dined on 5* food every night. And threw up 5* food every night. I came back to London looking like a whale, unable to control my intake, unable to put the fork down and say no. A typical poor person’s attitude to food; put me in front of a buffet that I don’t have to pay for and I want to make sure I get everything I can out of it. “I’ll never get to eat like this again when I go back home...” straight back to my hotel room, clean out the mini bar and stick my fingers down my throat until it’s all gone.

* * *

On Friday the lawyer, Aiden, sent me a message telling me he was finally going to be in town on Sunday. ‘Passing through' London, and his first port of call is to let me know.
Shame that I feel like a gross monster after a week of bingeing and purging extremis. But who knows when he will be 'passing through' next? I had to say yes, I'll be around on Sunday and I'll meet you for a coffee (lame on the coffee front but I take what I can get). Besides, it's nice to be chased for a change.
I was supposed to be knockout beautiful when I met up with him. I'm not going to be. But I have to get it over and done with.

I ran for two and a half hours yesterday to prepare, to try and deflate some of the weight which I had put on in the last week. I ran along the Embankment, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park... back round to my gym in the square mile. I hobbled into the sauna and came out clutching at the handrail along the stairs, the world reeling about me. I felt so sick. Locked myself into the private changing cubicle, laid out my towel and sat on the floor. Horrified. I put my body through this, and look, still a roll of fat on my tummy, look, look. There is still fat on your body. All the miles you've run, all the good work, the bulimia will always undo it. Bulimia will always keep you fat. Last Friday I reached my lowest weight since I was 15. Lost control, binged for a week, and saw a dial on the scales go right back up again.
On the train back home I had to press my hand to my mouth to stop myself from vomiting all over the floor. Vomiting on public transport during the day is just so not done. I nearly didn’t make it. It was the cocktail of a banana smoothie and lucozade drink which I had after my run. Internal violence.

It’s Sunday lunchtime now and I have heard no word from Aiden. Poor form either way. To keep me hanging and waiting around or to pull out and bail on me. I don’t know which yet, but both are just as bad.

Today I feel very numb. And it’s almost as if I couldn’t give a damn. He is just some guy I put my body through hell for yesterday. So what. Even if he does message me now, I’m tempted to say it’s too late notice, made other plans now, sorry. My life moves at 100 miles an hour, you get one chance to catch me. I'll kill myself for you, but I'll only do it once.


  1. "I'll kill myself for you, but I'll only do it once"-- beautiful

  2. Please forgive if I'm overstepping, but as a relatively new reader who nonetheless went through your archive in one sitting and now checks here regularly for updates, I feel compelled to say this:

    Ophelia. You are lovely.

    Whether you like it or not.



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