Trigger warning. This blog post contains photos of low weights and could be extremely triggering for vulnerable minds. Before you continue, be aware of your mindset, and question if this type of content will be helpful. This has taken me a lot to post, as I still feel like I was never ill enough. Hopefully this shows the brutal reality of life with anorexia. The recovery, the relapses and everything else.
Food was never simple for me. From a young age I didn’t like eating food from places that didn’t seem clean. It wasn’t a real issue though, and I have plenty of nostalgic memories of bakery cakes and indulgent midnight feasts. I was always aware of food, and that may seem like a strange claim, but food was never simply existing. But up until I was eleven, it never presented itself as an issue.
I didn’t understand it then, but I was extremely anxious. At eleven, I’d just begun my second year at a new school, and I was constantly questioning myself. I knew I had people who I could talk to and laugh with, but I still found myself thinking that everybody hated me. I would convince myself that these students only spoke to me because they felt sorry for me. And I really missed my Mum. Every single day, I was homesick, and I now see that was my anxiety slowly showing itself as this childish emotion that I couldn’t shake. I didn’t understand what was happening and thought I was mad for feeling so sad and upset when I wasn’t at home. Nobody else had such a dread at the thought of a school day and I hated that I couldn’t understand what this was. I didn’t speak to anybody about it. My parents worried but weren’t sure what was happening and immediately suspected bullying. I remember strangely wishing that I could tell them something like that. If I was being bullied, then at least I could explain it. If I was being bullied it wasn’t my fault and it could be fixed.
Within the next few months I began to stop eating at school. It was my little project and I was good at it. I could go days without feeling any form of hunger. Not eating gave me this sense of strength. If I ate I was weak and I had no control. Skipping meals and going those 24 hours everyday without food was a feeling that I still see as euphoria. I would go to dance lessons and see my reflection morphing into a round and heavy shape that stuck out of my leotard. I started to develop rules. Record everything you eat. Record the calorie count for each piece of food. Never eat anywhere but at the table, with family. Never ask for food. Never eat unless you are with family, and always eat less than everybody else. I constructed lists of reasons not to eat and excuses to use when people asked why I wasn’t eating.
Skip forwards a few months and I am sat waiting for an emergency appointment in A&E. I am here after admitting I hadn’t been eating and a tearful confession of my eating habits that followed. This was a month ago, however, and since then, I’d had ECGs and blood tests, been referred to CAMHS and been informally diagnosed with anorexia. But my mental health was deteriorating along with my physical state. My anxiety and OCD were beginning to get to the worst point they have ever gotten, still to this day. This waiting room involved a clearly mentally unwell gentleman telling me that his colleague had been shot that day and he was there to see her. I was sympathetic and tried not to get too spooked. Another young woman also told me about her traumatic childhood and proceeded to show me her self harm scars. I sat there with my Mum for 5 hours.
After tests and being weighed, I was seen by a crisis CAMHS worker who asked me a few questions before telling me to have a day off tomorrow and try school again the next day. 8 hours being poked with tubes and machines for that revolutionary advice.
It wasn’t long before I was carted back through those doors after my body began to give up and my heart started to give out.
A few months passed and I was discharged, with an even worse state of mind, and a slightly healthier body that wouldn’t last for more than a week. I was seen by CHUMS, because I wouldn’t be seen my CAMHS for another 5 months. I saw a lovely woman called Hannah, but she admitted that she wasn’t qualified to help me after two sessions.
I have a gap in my memory of the next few months. At some point I started seeing CAMHS and began taking medication. But most of it is a blur of anxiety attacks and hollow emotions. Despite everything, I was still not eating. I was eating enough to keep me away from inpatient, or so everybody thought. I drank 2l of water before every weigh-in and stuffed food up my sleeves and if all else failed, I would throw it. I also started being tutored my medical needs, and for some time I think I was ok.
Last year my anorexia got worse again. I was abusing laxatives and forcing myself to be sick after any meals over a certain number of calories. I also found myself obsessed with ED twitter and compared myself with these accounts who tweeted their weight and intake each day. I was constantly finding myself collapsed in toilets from the lack of energy I had after walking from the station to my tutoring. We went away last summer and my family still talk about how none of them got any sleep because I would have to do x amount of cardio before sleep. I could never stop though.
I can’t remember when I started to recover. I think I started when I wasn’t ready, and my brain was yelling at me to avoid the dinner table at all costs. I started afraid. I started terrified. I started when I didn’t feel ill enough. I still don’t feel ill enough. But I keep going. I refuse to let anorexia take away any more of my life. Thanks to my dietician, my CAMHS team, my family and my friends I am getting my life back. I am nowhere near recovered and maybe I never will be. I still have anorexia but anorexia doesn’t have me.