Hello. You might know me, or you might not. Either way, I want to talk to you about eating disorders. You may have one, you may not have one, you may know somebody who does…
I want to let you know about a time in my life where my eating disorder was at it’s worse. It was May 2014. I had just turned 17 years old. I was fainting all the time, had many bruises and injuries, and was irritable with almost everyone. My fingernails and nose were blue from lack of oxygen. My potassium, sugar levels and electrolytes were extremely low. My hair was brittle and fell out. My skin was pale and weak. My stomach was distended from lack of food and I was dehydrated. My mental health was lower than low. I sat alone at college because I was too caught up in my own little world to socialise with anyone. I spent all day nearly fainting or sleeping because I simply had no energy. I refused to eat anything for weeks at a time because the fear of food was too intense. I lost 7lb that week in may 2014, and weighed 4 stone lighter than I do now…
It was then that I started to notice that my relationship with food was not normal. I realised that I wasn’t just hungry for food. I was starving before I ever refused a meal. I was starving for perfection. I was starving for a perfect body, for a flat stomach, for a thigh gap, to look beautiful, and to feel happier. I was starving for something that didn’t really exist. I didn’t really believe that I could ever get Anorexia Nervosa, but I did…
It took me a long time to truly understand recovery. Recovery started with many nights of tears, frustration and the pure refusal to eat a thing in the fear of gaining weight. Recovery started with many hours of re-feeding and the horrible symptoms that came with it. Recovery started with fear and anger at all those who forced me to get better. As the months went on and my body shape began to change, the self-hatred grew and the self-confidence decreased. With recovery came hatred. With recovery came depression. With recovery came anxiety. Recovery gave me freedom to eat food that I wanted. Recovery gave me the ability to eat without truly thinking about it. Recovery silenced Ana’s voices – for a while. But recovery brought weight gain…and it brought confusion.
Recovery is often beautiful, however, so don’t let this put you off. Relapse is torture, but one thing I know for certain is that battling with both is hell. Darkness, like light, often leaks in through cracks. Recovery has never been one easy happy path. Recovery has had many more bad days than good. Recovery often leads to relapse, and thats perfectly okay. Relapse is inevitable.
I know that an eating disorder is not easy. It’s not easy when everyone tells you that you are what you eat or what you weigh or that you’re only as good as your calorie count or the number on your social media. It’s not easy when people talk about how they’re having a ‘bad’ food day or that they need to run off the chocolate cake they had. It’s not easy when people go on diets, or cut out food groups like carbs or suddenly develop dietary requirements. It’s not easy when people comment on the weight they’ve lost or tell you they’re on a diet. It’s not easy when the calorie information to food is right there in front of you, or the temptation of throwing everything back up is nagging at your head. The world revolves around numbers. The truths below are listen in numbers, but they are numbers to be followed. Please listen.
- You have a voice – I know your eating disorder seems to be in control and it takes up every single minute of the day. The truth is however is that your eating disorder does not control you at all. You are a person and you have a wonderful voice hiding in that body of yours.
- You’re not defined by your eating disorder – I know that eating disorders can become some sort of protection, but your identity and who you are is totally detached from your eating disorder. Your eating disorder is an illness you have, not what has you.
- You’re really not crazy, I promise – I know all the voices – especially Ana’s voice – in your head make you feel like you’re crazy and you wish sometimes that they would just stop, but you’re not crazy. I know you’re not. You’re hungry…your body is looking for food, but your mind is hungry for life and purpose.
You may know me, or you might not. Either way, please listen and know you’re never alone.
I love you and I wish you the best.