Now, when this word Anorexia is said I know the image that comes to everyone’s mind. A teenage girl that looks completely emaciated from starving herself. But this is very very often NOT the case. Yes of course there are some suffers of Anorexia who are teenage girls and who end up this way but there are so many other people who are suffering. Men and women. Young and old.
I’m writing this blog Me and Anorexia hoping to dispel some myths around Anorexia. Out of all of my illness this is the one that people understand the least and the one that I get judged for most.
It is about body image yes, but that’s not all that it’s about. I was always the skinny one for as long as I can remember. At school I was called ‘stick insect’ lamp post’ and more. But I was OK with that. It gave me an identity. Without being this skinny girl I was no one. I had no sense of who I was without this.
When I was hospitalised I was given rules, restrictions and medication I had to take at certain times in front of staff. I was being controlled and treated like a toddler. I wanted control back and the one thing they couldn’t control was what was going in my mouth. And that’s where things got much worse. A desperate attempt to regain control. I did not want to lose my identity!
It’s not a pretty illness. Most people will assume Anorexia is all based on vanity, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
You get deep black circles under your eyes. Your skin goes grey. Your hair falls out in clumps but then starts to grow all over your face and body. You are always freezing cold. You bruise very easily and they last forever. My friend waxed my legs and I was left with huge black and blue bruises! Clothes hang off of you never looking nice. And you get heart palpitations and a lot of dizziness.
It’s not an extreme weight loss diet.
It’s not something you consciously decide to do. You have no choice. This is something friends and family of mine still can’t get their heads around. In my case it’s about control and sometimes punishment. It’s a deadly illness with a huge morality rate. The biggest out of any mental health illness. And it doesn’t just affect you. It’s your family, friends, work colleagues, anyone you are close too.
Anorexia is not just about eating one apple a day and that’s it! This is definitely something people don’t understand.
Now don’t get me wrong there were some days/weeks that I lived off of iceberg lettuce and grapes but mainly I would drink 10/12 cups of tea a day and pick on biscuits and chocolate. Anytime I would feel dizzy I would have a biscuit. As long as I didn’t go over my daily calorie goal I set myself.
Your life is ruled by strict rigid rules and routines. From daily calorie counting, lists of forbidden foods and safe foods. Weighing yourself constantly and over exercising. I would HAVE to do these things every day or I would feel that I was a complete failure. My life was ruled by food, even now I mentally work out the calories in any food that I’m offered or thinking about eating. I would also never eat off of normal sized plates or bowls. I still don’t – I’m working on it – I eat off of my little boys plates through fear of eating too much. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. T.V, books, conversations with friends and family. I was always alienating myself. Living this rigid life was all that’s was important.
I would, and still do, assess everyone else’s weight and compare it to my own.
“Are they skinnier than me”
“How much exercise does she do to get that thin?”
“She’s a size 10 probably”
This happens everywhere. When I’m doing my weekly shop. Picking my son up from preschool. Meeting with friends. I can’t seem to stop myself. I have an overwhelming need to be the skinniest wherever I am. This also leads on to when people comment on my weight. Someone uttering the words “You’re looking healthy” would instantly mean FAT! I would spiral downwards pretty quickly after this. On the other hand if people mentioned I was looking “Too skinny” I would love it!!
Diet pills and laxatives were another tough battle. I took them everyday. Even when I started my recovery I refused to stop taking either of them. I believed that the minute I stopped I would lose all control and become huge! I did gradually wean myself off of them and feel much better for it. but it was a tough battle in itself!
Professionals never really helped me at all. I wasn’t skinny enough to be put into a food clinic despite my weight getting down to 8 stone 4 pounds. This doesn’t sound very light for an average woman but when you consider that I’m 5 foot 11 that it extremely underweight! I never had help forced on me. I was always told by professionals, if you want to get better then call us for an appointment. Which is ridiculous. When you are inside this illness you don’t want help! The mere thought of eating normally was terrifying!
What really got me on the road to my recovery was my little boy, husband and loved ones. They kept reminding me that if I wanted to see my son grow up I needed to be healthy. I was so exhausted I could barely do a puzzle with him. That’s not how I wanted to live anymore. I wanted to run around and play football, go to the park and have days out. Be, for want of a better word, ‘normal’.
Recovery is possible. It’s still very early days for me and I do struggle daily. A close friend once pointed out to me, “For God sake Amy, you prepare lovely, fresh healthy meals for your family so why not bloody eat them too??” Good point! I am a vegetarian but I do eat much more than I did and I even have the odd meal out!
I know I will always be Anorexic but I won’t let it control me the way it once did.
Lots of love to you all