Dr. Daamini Shrivastav (BA.MBB Ch) heads marketing, media and communications at Conceive Gynaecology & Fertility Hospital. `She’s a self-confessed ‘all-things-health’ buff and besides being a Pilates Instructor, she is also the co-founder and author of The RYE Life.
Ding ding dong dong – the clock chimes to an empty house. It is the hour of my discontent. The television is tuned into a music channel and has Taylor Swift’s ultrapeppy “Shake it off” playing. It seems to be deliberately mocking me, and I blank out the lyrics, but I can do nothing about the tune. The only thing worse would be silence, cold and uncaring, so I leave it on.
The hollow pitted feeling in my stomach is now so familiar that even when I feel a deep rumbling lurch from within, I automatically take a deep breath and swallow a few times to suppress it. As I pass the mirror in the hallway I stop to stare at my profile. I pinch a roll of flesh around my hips. “This is why!” I motivate myself. My head pounds savagely, a dull almost rhythmic thump against the inside of my skull. I’m walking mechanically over a path I have walked many times, and the floor tiles are cold and hard beneath my feet. I am tired and sick at heart, but I have to do this – it is unavoidable. I feel numb – there are no tears left, no pain, just a sick sense of compulsion. “This is good for you,” I tell myself, but the words sound empty and meaningless. My head is clear despite the ache, but my legs are unsteady and wobble like jelly.
I feel no sense of urgency. There is time to do what I have to do. All I want is to get it over with, but I am incapable of moving any faster. My feet feel like lead weights. Shadows darken the walls, black as ink, hiding the cream paint and the cherry print on the bed-quilt.
I am aware of so many sounds, the whirr of the dryer, the music, the ticking of a clock, the tinkling of wind chimes in the balcony, all blending and swirling in my ears, combining with the dull thump in my head. “Must remember to take some Paracetamol for the headache,” I think to myself.
I am at the door, and then suddenly all strength fails me. I clutch reflexively at the wooden shaft. “I cannot stop now,” I tell myself, “not now. I’ve come too far. Walk in and do it. You’ve done it before so there is no reason to get panicky. Be strong. Do this for yourself.”
Slowly I walk into the room. Details register only vaguely – a mirror, a shower curtain…a sink. “You can’t back out of this so don’t try. It’s unavoidable….Wow! That sounds like a dialogue from a movie! Oh God….can’t you even focus on what you’re supposed to be doing?” I ask myself.
The bowl is the same as I remember, plain white enamel, cold and stable. A moment of uncertainty! As I stand there unsure of what to do I glance into the mirror.
A cry of disgust escapes my lips. My reflection stares back at me screaming ugliness. Now I know why I am doing this. Limp lifeless hair hangs about my ears. My skin is sallow and the dark circles under my eyes are more evident than ever; can’t remember the last time I had a proper night’s sleep. I stare down at my fingers – the nails are chipped and my cuticles are split across the hands. Have to learn to better hide the evidence!
What follows is a rush of sudden movement, jerky and rapid and completely out of control. Hatred, despair and agony swamp my mind and screams echo in my head, rising in volume and accusation. I feel a sudden stab in my throat as the fingernails dig into the raw flesh bringing up semi-digested food in a sudden surge into the toilet bowl.
A few minutes later, there is only bile, and the remains of my last meal lie floating on the surface of the water. Straightening my back, I am aware that the thump in my head has grown into a full-blown headache. Self-hatred washes over me, and I turn away abruptly as long-suppressed, hot tears prick at my eyelids. Automatically I go through what I have come to know as the ‘cover-up work’; flushing the toilet and cleaning my teeth. I feel wasted and lethargic. My eyes are red and swollen, my tangled hair wild about my pale face.
I switch off the light and stand there in the darkness, breathing hard and trying to regain some self-control. Odd, that I feel no better or thinner or happier. That’s what I’m supposed to feel. But it’s too late to stop and I know I’ll have to go through this for, goodness knows how many tomorrows. I walk out of the shadows, through the corridor and into the balcony. It seems even colder and darker than before.
I can’t even hear the music anymore.