Tomorrow is the day I turn 20 years old. I have officially survived and lived two decades. It’s crazy to think how fast time flies; how many birthdays I’ve celebrated; how many things have happened and changed. How much I’ve changed.
At 11 years old, I didn’t think I’d survive to be 12. Each year since then has been a battle. Each year since then has been an absolute roller coaster. Joy, change, hurt, sadness, depression, anxiety, happiness, fear, shame. At 15 years old, I cried myself to sleep because I didn’t want to celebrate my 16th birthday and become ‘grown up’. Now I’m sat here, the night before my 20th birthday and I won’t cry myself to sleep. Life isn’t a walk in the park. I’m far from where I want to be but much further than I have been.
Tomorrow I will wake up and celebrate that I have actually made it two decades in this crazy world. Two decades of life to which half has been filled with mental illness…
Having an eating disorder can be such a struggle and there are so many myths associated with the condition. When I was unwell, I came up with 5 struggles that people with eating disorders go through.
Hunger. A lot of people think that people with Anorexia hate food altogether and refuse to eat much. This is not the case. Although we do try to limit our intake of food and absolutely hate consuming it, we do feel hungry. Sometimes, we do get cravings and want to eat chocolate or ice cream or that piece of cake you just offered at the birthday party. Hunger seems to be a constant emotion. The amount of food we take in is usually controlled by ‘Ana’ or the voice in our head, even if we do wish to eat more.
Weight. We don’t always lose weight. Some weeks, we could lose a couple of pound. Some weeks, we could gain some. It can be so difficult. Not all people with Anorexia start off with a low body weight. Some people with Anorexia start off with a normal body weight or may even be overweight. Anorexia is a disorder of the MIND, not body, and so it can be terribly frustrating when people have the belief that all Anorexics are severely underweight.
Emotion. An eating disorder, like any mental illness, can cause serious distress. With Anorexia comes a lot of confusion. It’s being completely safe and comfortable controlling your food intake and exercising excessively but then becoming extremely irritated, upset and guilty when others want you to eat more, or notice you aren’t eating very much, or when others make comments on your weight and appearance. Daily and weekly weigh-ins pay a big role on what our mood will be. If we lose weight, we are more than likely going to feel happy and fall deeper into our eating disordered patterns. If we gain weight, we feel terribly frustrated, guilty and angry which leads us to be irritable with everyone we come into contact with.
Lies.There’s one thing you have to be good at when you have an eating disorder. Lying. You have to be good at lying in order to keep it quiet, in order to stop people finding out what is going on. We have to lie, even if we don’t want to. Did we eat today? Oh yes, of course. How long did you exercise for? Oh, only about half an hour. Are you feeling okay? Oh, yes I’m fine.
Exercise. A lot of people believe that because we exercise excessively and spend endless amounts of time at the gym that we simply love to exercise. It’s not always the case. Exercise makes us feel less guilty and allows us to keep the little amount of calories we consumed inside our stomach. Sometimes, we don’t have any energy to exercise. Going to the gym is sometimes the last thing we want to do. But, we do it anyway, because in our disordered minds, it allows us to feel safe. Exercise is a necessity, one that we must do every single day in order to feel okay about the food we’ve eaten.