I am a 17 year old girl, born and bred in Shropshire, England.
If we start from the very beginning of my life, I recall becoming upset and angry when I was hungry to the point where my mum could not feed me very easily at all. I would refuse to open my mouth and I remember feeling fear. Once the first spoonful was in though, it was okay. I would eat. I would calm down. I almost feel though that this was out of my control. The food held the power. I merely was shoved along by it. I was too young to feed myself if I was hungry and the food took over. How could food, or lack of food, impact and twist my mood so much? I remember those feelings all too well. Such that I couldn’t escape the suffocating, strong grasp of food.
Aged 9, I started school. Previously home educated, I struggled with the social element of this and became shy and reserved. During this time I probably over-ate to fill my discomfort around people my own age. This was a habit I had acquired from my parents most probably. I recall my first (and last) ballet audition where I ate my way through a whole packet of eccles cakes. Just thinking of it now makes me feel sick with disgust at myself. Also pity. It was here I gained a slight realisation that I was not of a ballerina form and these other girls were far more ‘perfect’ than me. I got rejected. I tried so hard. I failed. I hated it. I resented myself and perhaps blamed part of this on my weight. I was obese but I was a slightly tubby child and that’s when my eating disorder officially began in my eyes.
10 year-old me stood on the rocking chair in the bathroom. It was the right height for me to see my stomach in the mirror on the opposing wall. I lifted my top and stared at my protruding stomach. I felt a wave of horror at how my belly could be so big. Its rounded shape filled with the feeling of disgust and self-hatred. ‘How have you not noticed this before?! Why is it so big? I am so fat. Fat. Fat.’ Words buzzed through my head and the worry was ignited. The simpler mind of my 10 year-old self did not have much logic over weight and health; it was something I rarely discussed, nor had I needed to. I had noticed that my stomach was larger at night than first thing in the morning and by child-logic I concluded that eating made me fat almost instantaneously. I needed to not eat to maintain the flatter stomach I had in the morning. So I ate less. I ate smaller portions. I avoided anything bulky. I imagined it in my tummy and thought ‘You’ll look fat if you eat that!’.
My weight fell.
My energy fell.
My life fell.
At the age of 11, I was receiving ‘help’. My family were highly supportive and I was put in CAHMs where I attended counselling which in honesty did more harm than it did good. I learned to hate people trying to help and put a guard up. I lost faith that I could ever live a better life and anyone could help. Despite this I gained weight and returned to a healthier way of living where I had the energy to carry out the lifestyle of a ‘normal’ person. Why? Because I reached a point where eating was less difficult than avoiding eating. I was basically forced into eating. Once I began to eat, it wasn’t so difficult to continue. My psychological issues remained unresolved though.
Despite having a different mind-set from the average person over food, eating and body image, I managed to survive secondary school with a normal weight. I did not have perfect eating habits though, with picking and grazing on food and often skipping lunch and/or breakfast but binging on snacks. I often felt like I wanted to be of a lower weight but not to the extent where I would starve myself or try to lose it, mostly because I feared the return of my eating disorder. Looking back on it, I realise that I had never allowed my body to reach its set point and I was still very much so in starvation mode – my body was still screaming to just recover but my mind told me I was recovered.
By summer of Year 10 (aged 15) I had ‘gained’ weight. I just snacked and snacked and snacked. In retrospect to this, I can see that my restrictive habits were clearly returning because I would restrict what I ate as meals, but my body craved and needed food so I would pick at little bits of food. Peanut butter off spoons… Cereal grabbed out of the box… Dried fruit in bulk… I hated my body and tried to restrict. I even tried to purge and ‘failed’. It wasn’t that I ever became overweight, but for someone with body issues, any weight gain is of some concern.
By the following summer my body repulsed me. My friend told me she was bulimic and I became even more conscious of the lack of control I had on my eating and how much bigger I was than her. She lost weight and called herself fat. I felt obese. On holiday, I purged for the first time. A burger. A fatty, greasy, slimy burger. It became a more ‘regular’ thing and I would binge and purge. Problem was, I sucked at it. I couldn’t get much up and I just gained more.
I got a place at art college, following a summer of stress because I could not motivate myself to do the art homework. I moved out of home during the week because the college was a few hours drive away and so, I was in a new home, with new people in a new place with a new life. My new life was worse. I restricted further and purged my evening meal. I maintained my weight, with occasional fluctuations. I hated the course. I hated myself. I had made a mistake. I was alone. I cried most nights until I returned home and never went back. I was a drop-out. A failure. A perfectionist gone completely wrong.
I had to enrol 5 weeks late at the local sixth form back home where I was back in familiarity more with friends I had known years and my brilliant, supportive family but there were consequences for my mistake of course… I had SO much work to catch up on and finally my eating disorder took full control. Anorexia entered my mind once more and I began to spiral downhill.
I will be happy.
I deserve to be happy.
I will recover.
I deserve to recover.
Around January, I decided this and searched and searched for ways to recover. Problem was that I was mentally and physically exhausted. How could someone summon the energy for the strenuous process of recovery when they aren’t even giving them selves energy in the form of food? They can’t.
My family knew there was a problem. Worries in the house rose and I realised that this was becoming serious. I couldn’t keep saying ‘I’ll work out how to recover tomorrow…’! I agreed to see the doctor.
The tears jumped out of my eyes. My face crumbled. My words clung to my throat, “I…I need help. I am not happy. Its affecting my eating. I just want to be happy…”. It took me a-back. I hadn’t meant it to spill out of me in such an emotional waterfall. I was beginning to let go… and its allowing me on a beautiful journey of recovering from the icy grip of my eating disorder.