This woman – small, cropped hair, all in black, a tiny rucksack almost managing to create the illusion of healthy proportion – was choosing ice-cream in a frenzy of extreme mental distress. She would lean over the huge cabinet, her eyes darting over the plastic tubs in terror, as if one of them – she didn’t know which – had the gun that was going to kill her. Then, she would rotate her head, making sure no one was near, and she’d seize the flavour she had decided on, cradle the carton to her chest and scurry furtively towards the checkout. But, she would change her mind, scurry back to her spot, replace her selection and pace agitatedly away, hugging herself, putting her hands by her sides, hugging herself again. Then pace back. Then pace away. Then pace back and start trying again to decide which – if any – carton of ice-cream to purchase. The poor woman was locked compulsively into making a literally agonising choice.So...does she need you goggling at her, Debotah?
I knew what was happening. Of course I did.Of course you did....
Here was a woman in plain view in a public place, in the throes of a savage mental breakdown. The heft of her guilt, shame and self-loathing was obvious, but I didn’t know how to approach her, or whether it would be wise to try at all.Maybe she just really couldn't decide between salted caramel and Bailey's. I sometimes have the same problem.
Of course, I usually solve it by buying both...
Strangely, no one else seemed to notice this searingly painful psychodrama.No-one else has your searing insight, Deborah. Not to mention your all-encompassing compassion.
I thought of dialling 999 – this was in the days before 111. But I knew it would be useless.Well....that's not the word I'd have chosen.
Then – third time lucky – she strode all the way to the checkout, bought the ice-cream and left the supermarket, taking all of her considerable troubles with her. All I could do was hope she had good support from her family and friends who loved her, and access to mental-health services that knew what they were doing. People do recover from eating disorders, mostly. People are also killed by them. Far too often.*stifles comment*
...maybe it’s just the middle-class circles I move in, but what I notice about young people who fall victim to eating disorders is that they’re very often people who have complex, dazzling choices.So we should all be restricted to a choice of vanilla ice cream, or nothing. For our own good.