I will never stop saying eating disorders are shit as that is the reality.
My eating disorder was never about wanting to be ‘skinny like models’ or being influenced by society. In fact I loved the thought of others looking at me in disgust, revolted by my unfeminine physique, viewing my shrinking frame as repulsive and unattractive. Food became my way of finding enjoyment and comfort in life when I was unable to find it from elsewhere. I had something to focus on, something to base my worth on. Yes I was surrounded by people but my mind was intrusive with constant negativity and restriction became a companion. After numerous years of struggling I finally found a perfect distraction, something to free me from thoughts that terrified me. It gave my life a purpose. For a while I felt it was bliss, my eating disorder could help me conquer anything. The thing I’ve learnt though is that it’s not sustainable. Nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever enough. Although I originally never aimed to lose weight it was a repercussion of my actions and like any addiction, I became hooked. The reality is, if it was possible to weight nothing an eating disorder would still not be satisfied. The once beneficial distraction shortly became all consuming. It’s ironic how the one thing you fear most is all you ever think about. The thing you won’t let enter your body you can’t get out of your mind. No amount of lectures from doctors makes any difference because you have your eating disorder. I understood everything they told me, yes I knew my organs were failing, yes I knew my blood pressure was dangerously low ,yes I knew my bloods were screwed up, yes I knew I was dying but I didn’t care. Not because I thought I was different to everyone else or that I was actually okay but because I would rather have died with my eating disorder than live a life without it. The reality of an eating disorder is that you genuinely don’t care about anything else.
I was recently talking about recovery to a friend and she said that “it’s the only mental illness where to get better you have to lose so much” and after having thought about it I couldn’t agree more. There are no medications to make it better. You don’t walk out of therapy suddenly cured. The only way to recover is facing your biggest fear numerous times a day for months and years with the hope that you’ll one day realise your thoughts no longer consist purely of food quite as much.
Recovery means giving up your coping strategy, opening up emotions that have been buried for years and exploring the raw pain they bring you. It means making yourself vulnerable whilst re building relationships you let break to remain loyal to your eating disorder. It means leaving your comfort and throwing yourself into a life of unfamiliarity. It means letting go of the control you believe you have. The prospect of recovery brings me more fear than those many professionals who told me I was almost at death, only days to live. It’s a feeling of bereavement, unwillingly saying goodbye not knowing how you’ll get through each day. Unlike physical illnesses it never feels the right time to recover. You can never celebrate feeling ill enough as at that point your eating disorder has lured you beneath the ground. The prospect of recovery is terrifying. My eating disorder has become my identity and the idea without it fills me with dread. I’ve lost the person I once was and to get better means re-discover that person I once hated, the one who felt alone, scared , utterly low and struggled to see the purpose of getting up each day.
I have done fake recovery but have learnt that it is impossible to feel the positives of life whilst still gripping on tight to old behaviours. Whilst you still obey those obsessive rules and manipulative thoughts. An eating disorder teaches you the tricks of lying and fooling those around. An internal thrill from each secret. Fake recovery provides a sense of joy to the eating disorder, not to you !
True recovery means investing it all into the unknown and although the idea is terrifying I am yet to meet someone in true recovery who has regretting their decision. Yes there are to be bad days but the challenge of overcoming them is part of life. There are to be moments when relapse is desirable but recovery is about separating yourself from this deadly demon and holding the internal strength to recognise your worth is based on much more than a disorder. It’s a point where you see that the opportunities in life can provide you with the happiness that an eating disorder has never and will never be able to fulfil. Although my eating disorder was not a choice, recovery is!
Many believe living with an eating is hard but to me the idea of recovery is the hardest.
All my love xxx
My biggest motivation in recovery is my siblings. When panic suffocates me ,my love for my sister and brothers is the only thing that can distract my mind from giving in. My young brothers love and innocence as I kiss them goodnight and their forgiveness and acceptance as I’m reminded of my many faults. No young child should have to hold their sisters hand as she refuses to eat. As she cries and shouts. Encouraging her to take one more mouthful and questioning whether she has hidden food. Fortisip has become as common in their mind as any other drink as they ask me which flavour I will have. Aged 7 and my brother is telling me I should go to McDonald’s or KFC as “that will sort the weight issue” . Aged 5 ,my other brother is hiding food around the class room, pretending to have eaten it. My baby brother was born whilst I was inpatient and I worry that this is all he will know. A loving family ; plus the devil of anorexia destroying our happiness.
It breaks me each time I expose them to this terrifying illness. The confusion in their eyes as I allow myself to become more unwell.
They comfort me when nothing else can and my will to recover is to once again be the sister they deserve.
As I finished dinner on Thursday they appeared at the window, their faces grinning and eyes lite up with excitement. The hell of each forkful for the last hour suddenly became worthwhile and I felt proud of my progress rather than my mind filling with guilt and shame. Holding them close for those two hours overwhelmed me with joy and saying goodbye was harder than you will ever imagine. I know I will see them shortly but each day I am here it becomes their norm and the memory of me happy and healthy fades away until the reality of anorexia becomes all they know.
It is often hard to justify recovery for myself. I feel all is already lost and the challenge of each day is too hard to attempt. I have met many in recovery who relate and struggle to see that they are worthy of happiness and their body deserves to be nourished and accepted.
I have learnt that if I can’t find the motivation to recover for myself, I need to hold on to the motivation to recover for those who I love and accept their support and encouragement. My sister and brothers inspire me and help keep a small light glowing in even the darkest of times ,
all my love xx
Today is exactly a year since I was admitted to hospital for anorexia ,making it a year since my journey of recovery from this agonising illness began. But i’d be deluded if I claimed I have been trying to distance myself from this monster. Instead I have clung on and feared to let go.
It is impossible to recover when you do not desire to and my motivation has been escaping health professionals to lose more weight and commit to my deadly behaviours .I thought I did not need food and instead my body starved as I was fuelled by self hatred. I find it near impossible to separate myself from my eating disorder as I have viewed them as one for such a long time. Where ever I go my anorexia comes too ,parading at the front of my identity. There have been moments where it’s been left as a shadow but as the glimmer of hope disappears the shadow latches back on tight and becomes my identity once again. The fear of the unknown has allowed me to believe restricting has brought me happiness and i’ve repeatedly become blind to the purpose of life.
I never strived to be skinny or lose weight but that has come as a side effect of this agonising mental illness and my overwhelming fear of food. I know it is irrational but that makes it no less real and the numbers on labels any less of a fixation. Think about your biggest fear. The one that people claim is ‘silly’ and ‘bizarre’. How each time you think about spiders, or heights or clowns your heart speeds up and your stomach flips. Everyone comforts you and tells you there is nothing to be afraid of ,they will protect you and your fear can’t hurt you. But their words can’t console you as your anxiety smothers your shaking body as you struggle to breathe. Imagine facing your fear each day, 6 times a day. If you don’t face it willingly the doctors will force it upon you threatening to leave you dangling at the top of the tower, alone in a dark room, lost in the woods or with an ng tube keeping you alive.
This last year I have starved myself from life in order to keep the control that I fooled myself I had. As I contemplate these past few years I wish I’d called out for help sooner but I could never have predicted what my self destruction was to bring. I like to believe I have tried my best to get better this last year but that is a lie. It’s taken me the year to decide I do want to get better despite how impossible and daunting it seems.
Each time I see how my eating disorder impacts those I love it fills me with determination to overcome this illness. The determination may only last a short while but that is long enough to get me through to the next part of the battle. To those who’ve held my hand through the cries and shouts , appointments and laughs, thank you so very much. As you show you’re love through support willing me on, I show my emotions back through anger and rage. Thank you for never giving up on me. I hope to one day look back with full gratitude and thank you for the wonderful life you have helped me gain back xxx
I have found one of the many questions professionals have a habit of asking is ‘when did it all start?’ .When did your relationship with yourself become so disastrous and self-hatred creep in to suffocate your mind? Repeatedly, I am instructed to disclose the moment I took the wrong path . How I roller coasted towards dysmorphic views and felt threatened by my own body.
As doctors and therapists wait patiently for my explosion of events, pinpointing the beginning of this ‘significant spiral’ , I discuss self-acceptance turning sour. I can now recite the past years like chapters in a book . But my memories are blurred and I can no longer be sure of fact from fiction. Unlike novels fuelled with fantasy and thrills, I can’t turn back the pages to the beginning. Where childhood’s joy exchanged to a chore and self doubt fluttering, drowning my mind. The repeated speech of not understanding myself has become tedious. My mind adapts to false beliefs. I see the disappointment as I’m unable to explain the moment the sequence of self punishment was founded. I can recall no event which caused myself to get lost. How each day a part of me became invisible, getting replaced with disastrous beliefs as I faded with numbness. I frequently wish I knew all the answers. If I could just eliminate the theories to seek out the truth. Perhaps if I went back five years with the knowledge of what was to come I could not have acted on my beliefs, resisting each temptation.
As doctors sit there questioning I feel belittled. Expecting to explain myself and justify each action ;but how ? The origin of this agonising self hatred is buried too deep ,too distant to access. I can not label the reasons behind my beliefs. No event that occurred or spiteful comment which hurt. So as I sit in the chair, each professional a tower above; I wish I could hand over my book. For them to analyse each action and the consequence it had caused. Tell me where it went wrong and the moment which lead to me being here.
Many would say it’s the eating disorder that has clung on to me, transforming my beliefs to those of a manipulative monster. However as I sit here feeling compelled to hide each raisin ,I do so slowly, a couple at a time . The speed they could be going in my mouth in an alternate life. Yesterday I was caught. Pockets are now too obvious, my mind has been using the last of my bodies energy from adrenaline to whirlwind through an alternative. I am in control. I fear food but thinking of it fuels my mind, feeding thoughts of excitement, happiness, anger ,grief and regret. I am in control. A sudden flash of last weeks soup sharply snatched my breath as a tightness overtakes all rationality and reminds me of the life I’m living . I can hear the screams and fear filled shouts inside my head. But it’s not in my head. It’s real ,these cries are real. It’s me. As the ones I love try keep me alive ,my love transforms to hatred. You are an enemy. But beneath my empty body and chaotic mind I regret each time I will you away. Consumed by numbers and anxiety ;my screams and struggles drive you to tears and desperation. I see you lose hope. It makes me happy; it makes me sad. I am desperately lost just like you . The pathway foreword to happiness is only shared by words. There are no instructions to follow , no step by step list to tick off. I’m told it’s overgrown with sharp blunt thistles but I can’t see it. To me it’s not there.
The daily routine causes unbearable pain yet the familiarity it brings remains my only comfort. I’m scared but I’m in control. As I head to my premature grave, You may believe I don’t think about my options. My choice of life or death. But I am, I always do. I know what is to happen if I follow this devil down the slippery slope. In fact as I go to bed with the thought my body may shut down; I’m sure I think about my choice more than you could ever do.
My mind is a battle, a continuous conflict ground. As I decide to frantically fight for a future, my only familiarity holds my hand willing me to a life in the box. As I escape the cage, nothing’s the same. I feel lost and panicked as I don’t recognise my home, my school , my friends or my family. My screams and cries like an earthquake, shattering all that I knew. I can no longer find who I am and instead get lured back to my comfort of restriction and self punishment. I’ve lost control.
This photo was taken on Wednesday 23rd November 2016. To most it is purely an unflattering selfie of me (plus my beautiful mum) but to me it is far from that. This photo was taken two days after it felt my world was falling apart ,the day following my transfer to a hospital far from home but more importantly an unbearable distance away from my family and friends. I have never been one to show my emotions particularly well, I’m afraid to say I’ve repeatedly forgotten to show my appreciation to my mum. She has sacrificed so much to ensure I have the incredible life that I’m privileged with and I often fail to show it but I am grateful for everything. Irrelevant of how small or unimportant it may seem. Previous to this photo I’d been crying almost non stop for 2 days. I claim it was crying but the amount of tears flowing down my cheeks must most certainly be know by another name! The Tuesday I got transferred I recall calling my mum on the hospital phone. I was terrified. The only thing I wanted was to be in her arms. The person who has kept me safe from the start irrelevant of my mistakes. I begged her to come visit me and I’d never wished for anything so much. Minutes before this photo was taken was both the best and hardest moment of the last 17 years. Wrapped in mums arms ,her lips on my forehead ,we both cried. All mum wanted was for me to be happy and I could see it broke her that this was the one thing she was unable to do for me. That evening made me realise a lot. If not for myself I needed to get better for mum and the rest of the people I care so dearly for. Saying goodbye to her that night was the hardest goodbye I have ever had to say but it filled me with determination. I left that visitors room with a mindset far from when I walked in. Everyday remained a challenge but never again at that hospital did I need to carry around multiple boxes of tissues wherever I went !! Yes I had many times filled with fear ,feeling incapable to carry on but I remembered the words my mum had spoke to me. She asked me to be brave and in that moment that was the one way I could thank her for everything she has ever done for me. So I stayed brave.
Mum, Thank you ! These last seven months have been a challenge for us all but you have stuck by me and never lost faith. I love you so much ,aims xxxx
One of the main reasons people struggle to reach out and receive the necessary support for their eating disorder is because of the expectation. The expectation that it is only when your weight drops to a significantly low number that your relationship with food becomes abnormal. However weight is irrelevant to your thoughts ,therefore does not determine ‘how ill you are’. It is easy for society to label a slim person ‘anorexic’ irrelevant o
f whether they have a successful relationship with food and obtain the capability of enjoying their life. However it is when an individual doesn’t satisfy the stereotyped weight or presentation that people question the truth behind their illness. Society fails to acknowledge the internal aspects of an eating disorder,claiming to fulfil the criteria you must look physically unwell. The shape and size of an individual gets focused on ,rather than understanding the unseen internal aspects of the disorder. An eating disorder is not determined by weight, similarly to how physical illnesses are still important and essential to treat even if they are not visible to the eye.
The perception of mental illnesses causes anxiety ,fear and lack of acceptance, by both outsiders and the individual struggling but this ought not to be the case! An eating disorder is just as real if you are at a healthy weight or even overweight. An individual’s reach out for support or diagnosis does not need to be justified by a number on the scale. Although research demonstrates the un importance of weight regarding to diagnoses ,society fails to accept reality and sugar coats the illness, presenting it in a way that is far from the truth. The first step in reducing the influence all eating disorders have on people’s lives is by acknowledging that an unhealthy relationship with food does not necessarily correlate with a low weight. Just because someone may look fine at first appearance, internal damage and thoughts are just as problematic no matter what the number of the clothes label states.