“I couldn’t”

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2020

Please be aware that the content could be triggering for someone currently suffering or recovering from an eating disorder. Only read if it is the righ thing for you right now.
I’ve started to get some mixed feelings about #EDAW. Of course, it incredibly important to raise awareness of eating disorders – illnesses that destroy lives. But at the same time, is it superficial, just naming a week for eating disorders? And can EDs themselves use it as an excuse to trumpet themselves, big themselves up? (Click here for more on the idea of thinking about the illness as a separate being)

Instead of the usual narrative about life with an eating disorder and recovery etc., I wanted to give a glimpse as best I can into the maelstrom that is a mind infected with an eating disorder. A whirling, contradicting, ever shifting battleground where the casualty can only ever be your self (not just yourself). It’s an impossible task really. If you’ve never heard that voice in your head, felt that body-gripping, grinding, blinding, deafening fear and anxiety, it’s hard to imagine – I certainly couldn’t before I did.

Again, this isn’t about sympathy, or pity, but about trying to help other people understand eating disorders, about making them less taboo, less unknown, less powerful. I’m not sure if this is any good at all, but here’s a poem I once wrote which tries to convey that battleground: “I couldn’t”


I Couldn’t

It’s coming again.
I know.
It’s nearly time.
I know.
You can’t
I can
You shouldn’t
I should
You couldn’t
I could
You mustn’t you wouldn’t you won’t

You mustn’t you couldn’t you shouldn’t you wouldn’t you can’t you shan’t you won’t you wouldn’t
I should you shouldn’t I could you couldn’t you won’t you can’t I can’t I couldn’t I wouldn’t I won’t I won’t I can’t you can’t
I can’t I won’t I won’t I shouldn’t I shouldn’t I shouldn’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I won’t

You don’t deserve it
I don’t deserve it

You can’t deserve it you won’t deserve you it shouldn’t deserve it
I can’t deserve it I won’t deserve it I shouldn’t deserve it

Huger hunger fear of hunger
Fear of fear and fear of hunger
Hunger hunger fear of hunger hunger for hunger
Hunger for fear

You can’t you won’t you shouldn’t you wouldn’t I wouldn’t I shouldn’t
You lie I lie it’s lies all lies they’re lies don’t lie I won’t I can’t I shouldn’t I wouldn’t I couldn’t

You’re fat you shit you filthy little pig
You’re weak you dick, pathetic little shit

I shouldn’t deserve it you don’t deserve it can’t deserve it
You’re bad you’re bad it’s bad I’m bad it’s bad it’s I’m bad I’m bad I’m bad I can’t I won’t I couldn’t I shouldn’t I won’t
Guilt and shame and hate and shame and guilt and hate and shame and hate
I can’t you can’t you shouldn’t I wouldn’t I can’t I can’t I can’t I won’t I can’t
Don’t do it I can’t do it don’t do it mustn’t do it shouldn’t do it won’t do it
Won’t do it won’t do it can’t do it can’t do it won’t do it never do it
You’re weak, you’re guilty you’re filthy you’re shit
You don’t deserve it I don’t deserve it I can’t deserve it I won’t deserve it
You’re weak, you’re guilty you’re filthy you’re shit
I can’t I can’t I won’t I can’t I wouldn’t I shouldn’t I shouldn’t I won’t
Bad you’re bad it’s bad you’re bad I’m bad it’s bad don’t do it won’t do it
I can’t I can’t I won’t I can’t I wouldn’t I shouldn’t I shouldn’t I won’t
Shrink and shrivel and fade and dead and dead and gone and gone and dead
I can’t I can’t I won’t I can’t I wouldn’t I shouldn’t I shouldn’t I won’t
Wanted not wanted not wanted don’t want it don’t want it can’t want it want it don’t want it
I can’t I can’t I won’t I can’t I shouldn’t I couldn’t I can’t I won’t
Shrink and shrivel and fade and dead and gone and shame and guilt and dead and gone
I can’t I won’t I won’t I can’t I shouldn’t I wouldn’t I couldn’t

I didn’t.
I didn’t I couldn’t I didn’t I wouldn’t I couldn’t I didn’t
You didn’t you didn’t you wouldn’t you won you won I won

You lost you lost you won you lost you lost you lost you won
I lost I won I lost I lost I won I lost I lost
I lost I lost
I lost.

Weak weak, pathetic and weak
I couldn’t I wouldn’t I wouldn’t I didn’t
You didn’t
Well done
You won you lost
I lost thank god I lost I won

Control. Control.

Pathetic you worm you filthy little shit you couldn’t you wouldn’t you didn’t you couldn’t
I couldn’t I lost, pathetic, I lost
I should have I could have I could have I should have
You could have
I should have
You couldn’t have
I should have I could have I should I would
You wouldn’t
I could
You won’t
I should
You can’t
I can’t
You shouldn’t
I shouldn’t
You can’t I can’t you couldn’t I couldn’t you wouldn’t you shouldn’t I wouldn’t I couldn’t
I could I should I will
You won’t
I could I should I would
You wouldn’t
I could I should I would I will
You won’t
I will
I can
I could
I would
I should
I did…

If you or someone you know may be suffering with an eating disorder, here are some links to find out more information about the illness and treatment. Please don’t think you’re not ‘ill enough’: if you need help, ask for it...

Recovery information from Beat, including helplines

NHS information about different types of disorders and how to find help

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