After months and months of promising myself (and everyone else) I would start a blog, I’m finally dipping my toes into the blogging world. Do I have anything important to say? Will anyone even read what I write? Will I still remember the tips given to me on “non fiction text types” from my English Language teacher? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. But I do know if I can reach just one person, it will be worth it.
So I’ll begin by writing my back story, which is still relatively new for me to talk about in public (despite doing it on a local TV channel for thousands of people to see). I am one of the 1.6 million people in the UK to have suffered from an Eating Disorder. Although for many people there are specific triggers, such as sexual abuse, bullying or being brought up by harsh, judgmental parents, none of these applied to me. Through my (very) in depth exploration of my own disorder I have realised that I had very low self esteem from the age of around 12/13 when starting high school; have always – and continue to – be a complete perfectionist in every aspect of my life, including my body; and seeing both my peers and the media idolize thinness, manipulating and shrinking their bodies by taking part in “water diets” or doing hours of exercise. When I was around 15 years old I started adopting these behaviours and trying to manipulate my own body. By the time I was 17 I was well and truly enveloped in my own little eating disorder bubble, aswell as in the midst of some other very destructive behaviours I won’t go into in this blog post.
I was counting every single calorie I consumed, going to my school gym during lunch times and then after school aswell, hopping from cardio machine to cardio machine until I had hit that 700 calorie mark and then maybe throwing a morning run in there for good measure. I would bring fruit for my dinner and eat it in the pub whilst I watched everyone else eat their pub lunch. I would walk around the living room while my mum was upstairs, to have that little bit extra calorie burn. I would weigh myself every single morning, trying to get below 51kg, 50kg, 49kg, 48kg … but it would never be enough and the number was always too large and I was always taking up too much space. I lost my period, and was thrilled because it meant I was skinny enough for my body not to work properly. I developed horrendous insomnia which lasted for a good year and resulted in me being so tired I had to miss a number of days of school. Food was no longer food – it was either “good” or “bad” and I didn’t touch cereal, crumpets or any sort of pastry for a good three years of my life and unsurprisingly, despite loving these foods, even recently it’s still hard for me to push back that voice telling me not to. Reading back on my old journals it’s so painful to see me tallying up my food for the day and if I ate something “bad” writing the most self hate fuelled words to myself – “you’re disgusting, you’ll never be good enough” etc etc. I looked through all my old photographs the other day and was surprised by all the negative connotations that came with so many of them – I remember sobbing at pictures of one of my friends 18th party because I looked so “fat”. The restriction phase always gave way to another – the “binge” phase, although from my knowledge of Binge Eating now, I understand it wasn’t even nearly enough to class as a binge, but in my mind it was. I didn’t care what it was, if it was food I was having it. If we went out for a meal and I’d “failed” to get something healthy, I would go all out and then eat my kitchen when I got home too. This also occurred after I had been drinking, as a hangover was a legitimate excuse to binge. I attempted numerous times to purge but became so frustrated when I couldn’t manage to succeed in even this, so exercise became my purge mechanism. I was sad – I wouldn’t say clinically depressed, but I was just so sad and angry at myself, and I took it all out on my body.
I vowed to myself I would recover when I started university, but in the beginning it made things worse – I had complete control over my food, no one else was cooking for me (which had been a rare occurrence when I was at home anyway as I had made sure to be the only person that cooked) and there was no one to watch over me. However as time went on I realised how much harm I was doing to my body, and started to educate myself on nutrition and then later, weight training. I truly believed this saved my life. I started to track what I ate so I made sure I was eating over 2000 calories, tiptoed my way into the big scary weights room, and started to get stronger and stronger. I LOVED seeing my body change – I no longer pined for my ribs and bones to show, I pined for a lean, toned, strong body that could squat and deadlift more than my body weight. Of course this meant I was still focusing too much on aesthetics and not my mental health, but it was a start.
Since then it has been a LONG journey. A very very very long journey. One in which I’ve struggled with compulsive exercising, been sucked into the world of “fitspiration” (blog post to come!) dipped my toe back into the Eating Disorder again and again and clung onto things I know do not serve me. I started buying heaps and heaps of books to aid my recovery, completed thousands of online therapy worksheets, surrounded myself on social media with body positivity pages, journalled EVERYTHING and perhaps the most important thing of all was learning to always be compassionate for myself – “treat yourself as you would your daughter”. I also started yoga, mindfulness meditation and researching Buddhist principles and have learnt to recognise that my body is merely an outer shell. What really matters is our inner essence.
It’s been a slow process but through millions of baby steps I’m there, and for my placement year I worked with other sufferers offering support and advice, and it was the most rewarding thing I have ever done.That does not mean to say my journey is now an easy one – it still takes active effort every day to chose recovery, and to chose not to listen to the voice of the eating disorder. Most days this is easy – but some days it isn’t, and that’s okay. I’ve found who I am outside of the way I look and have found that I would rather be known for all my good traits and the what I give to other people than to be known for my abs, or how lean I am.
I could have written pages and pages of my story, right down to the nitty gritty details but I have chosen not to as even though the past makes us who we are, it does not define us. If any of you can relate to this and have not found the courage to speak out yet, I couldn’t urge you to more strongly. You might feel like you’re not “sick” enough, or there are other people worse off, but Eating Disorders are a dangerous game, and the sooner you talk about it the sooner you can be rid of it. If you need any help speaking out, seeking help or are worried about someone else please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I understood myself only after destroying myself.And only in the process of fixing myself did I know who I truly was.”