J F – librarian
I was admitted to hospital in London for the fifth time and could see that everyone was trying as hard as they could to save me from wasting away and dying from malnutrition – as they kept warning me. That’s not how I saw it at the time.
I was anorexic and had been for over ten years. Nothing worked. It was a game, but didn’t feel like one, of hiding how I felt and what I was and wasn’t eating. No one understood what was wrong. No one could understand me; not even my own mother and sister. When I fainted at the bus stop and two women there said I had a fit, I was taken to the hospital for tests. They were normal and the doctors decided it was because I was underweight and wasn’t eating enough.
My life was in a mess. I had been failing at school. The only friend I had was obsessional about food. She was vegan and it’s as if we competed over our weight – not to gain it but to loose more. We never talked about it but I knew she was competing with me to look better and to feel more comfortable in herself than me. When my school said I couldn’t take A-levels my parents went ballistic but the school wouldn’t let me and that was final. Just after that my weight dipped again and the nurse who saw me regularly said I had to go back into hospital.
We had been through family therapy and every other treatment they could think of. With the shock of not taking any exams my father said I should try Adaptation Practice. He convinced me to at least go and look to see what it was and now my life was about to change when I left school and go where? I had to contact Dr Sherlock myself. I didn’t have any hope he could help me. He would just be another health professional who would go through all my past and ask lots of searching questions and then tell me everything I had been told before countless times.
How wrong I was. When he saw me he spoke to me like a normal person and not as a child or an imbecile who wouldn’t be able to understand. He asked me what I wanted and I told him what had happened. He listened without saying a word. Then he explained how normal emotion affects us in how we see things and how we behave and think. It made sense. He didn’t ask anything about my childhood or parents or if I loved them or my sister or if I had intimate relations with a boyfriend or anything like that. I waited for him to ask about eating and food but he didn’t. He said that if I did Adaptation Practice my life would change for the better but I would have to trust him and be willing to try to do what he said. OK. I would try.
He told me to write down on a piece of paper a timetable for getting up, three mealtimes and going to bed six days a week. They were to be the same times every day and I had to keep to them exactly. I started to ask him about meals but he stopped me and said he wasn’t interested in what I ate, only that I should stop whatever else I was doing at the time and go to the table and sit there for at least ten minutes. It didn’t matter if I ate or not. I had to pay attention to everything I did in a special way all day everyday.
After three weeks of really working hard at this and the other things I had to learn to do I had to start to work with emotion itself without expressing it in any way, without talking about it and without suppressing it or distracting myself from it. That meant not to use music, film, Internet, books or especially not thinking, as a means of escaping or trying to deal with my problems.
It was certainly different from anything I’d met before, even from the very beginning. It seemed so weird to me at first that I thought I’d give it a go. Clive (he asks everyone to call him by his first name) takes life very seriously and he took me very seriously from the moment we met. This really meant something to me, especially when later he told me to take life more seriously and explained that that meant taking myself less seriously. But I knew he only said this when I was ready for it. He took me seriously but up until then I was too preoccupied with myself and didn’t take life seriously. It was all about me. He didn’t seem to mind at all but he kept firmly to doing The Practice.
At first I rebelled against it. I wanted to do it but something in me rebelled. I felt embarrassed to meet Clive the next week because I had hardly done anything he had told me to do but still I went. To my surprise he wasn’t interested in what I had done; only in what I hadn’t done, which was everything, and he asked me in detail what had happened. This was typical of those early sessions. Through just a few of them I became aware of what was happening in me, how I behaved and how I reacted to everything in life, than from all the therapy I had had in the past. In these sessions I started to get to know myself. I don’t mean my thoughts, or past or beliefs and things like that; I mean who and what I actually am and especially how I behave and react.
After a while I found myself eating without it being a problem. I remember what for me was a very strange experience: there was no reason not to eat. It made no difference to Clive whether I ate or not. He never asked. He never weighed me. He never seemed interested in my weight. But in other things I noticed that he was unusually observant and so I’m sure he must have seen how thin my body was and the state of energy in it. I became steadily more animated and involved in life and less preoccupied with myself and as I put on weight I felt healthier and fitter and stronger. My family couldn’t believe what they saw. My GP didn’t believe it. When I look back, I find it hard to believe myself and I still can’t say I understand how The Practice works but there can be no doubt that it does. And I am so very grateful for it. I feel it has saved my life literally but, even more importantly, it has given me a real quality to life.
One last thing. My schoolgirl best friend was anorexic. She saw what happened to me and eventually took the plunge and saw Clive and started Adaptation Practice for herself and she is now as well as I am.