Recovering From Anorexia
Updated: Mar 1, 2019
This topic is something close to my heart and I wanted my first proper blog post to mean something to me, and considering suffering with anorexia led me to be who I am today, I guess it would be a good thing to start with.
I don't quite know where to begin, the feelings you experience are so overwhelming that you get wrapped up in yourself and forget who you are and what's happening. As a child I never cared about what I ate and like most children I could eat whatever I wanted and not put on an ounce of weight, it was normal to eat and it would come naturally. But once I arrived at high school, I was surrounded by a whole new range of people and that's when my self awareness started to kick in.
Year 10 was the start of my downward spiral. As a young girl, you begin to notice boys and the way they look at you as well as fellow girlfriends and at first, I didn't think much of it. Every journey is different but my eating disorder progressed gradually. I started to feel inadequate and started comparing myself. As a result, my eating pattern became unstable. I'd either eat nothing all day and suddenly eat all my calories at dinner or I'd eat no proper meals only small unhealthy snacks throughout the day. Finally, mum asked me to go to the doctor because she noticed I was loosing weight and not eating properly.
The doctor was a lovely woman but I appeared an ordinary teenage girl to her so I assumed it was natural and I carried on as I was doing. By year 11 I'd lost weight but I wasn't at an unhealthy range, I was wary but still ate the food I loved and could deal with the repercussions, although I wanted to be skinny, I still didn't feel over weight and I didn't want to give up my favourite foods. Unfortunately, something sparked in me during the transaction to sixth form. I was a transformed person. I became obsessed with food and loosing weight, those unhealthy thoughts completely engulfed my existence and I lost myself. I desperately wanted to be 'skinny' because I wanted girls to be envious of my figure and for boys to find me attractive.
I got into the habit of eating very little, in fact I remember the figures exactly: for breakfast I'd eat low fat natural yogurt with raisins, for a snack I'd have half an apple, for lunch I would have a simple green salad with a few vegetables (it was literally all green) and for dinner I'd have a salmon fillet with a few vegetables - I ate roughly 500-700 calories a day along with an hour or more exercise. I cut out confectionery and carbs completely (my two favourites) and instead pushed and pushed myself to exercise more.
I wanted my body to feel empty, I wanted to feel weightless and light, yet as you can imagine, I had no energy so I often felt light-headed and dizzy all day. These were only the start of my symptoms, throughout the year my hair began to fall out, I constantly felt cold and carried a hot water bottle around, I slept all the time, I constantly had pins and needles and I distanced myself from everyone because I didn't know how to socialise, I hid myself in my own little bubble and most importantly, my period stopped.
I maintained these unhealthy habits for months but they gradually got worse. I would sit on my own in the library to eat lunch instead of socialise in the common room with my friends. Anorexia rids you of the desire to be around people, I convinced myself I wanted to be alone and do work but in reality, I just didn't want people to notice me. The thought of people watching me eat filled me with anxiety so I hid away. My bones began to show, my clothing began to loosen and my balance began to waver. I'd gone from a size 8 to a size 4. I thought no one had noticed, but of course they did.
My friends began to pick up on how small I was and my parents began to observe how little I ate. Despite the absence of energy and constant lack of concentration I felt amazing. I finally achieved what I wanted, I felt skinnier and light as a feather, I never wanted that feeling to go away but unfortunately, enough is never enough, I was never satisfied with how much weight I'd lost, I always wanted more which in turn just increased the amount I exercised and decreased the amount I ate. I convinced myself I was healthy because I all I was eating was fruit and vegetables.
Once again, my parents took me to the doctors and I was later referred to a specialist nurse for eating disorders. My first meeting was with two women, they were very welcoming and made me feel safe. They asked me questions and they wrote down the answers. They asked me what I usually ate, how I felt and my symptoms. I found it incredibly difficult to explain how I was feeling, I got very emotional and didn't quite know where to begin because I had so many emotions running through me and I wasn't sure how I was supposed to feel. I felt like a complete paradox, I wanted to get better and feel happy and myself again yet I craved the feeling of being skinny. Consequently, I was asked to come back next week to see Sarah, who I would regularly see within the next year.
For the next year and a half I had weekly meetings with Sarah. Each week we identified something wrong and we'd think of a way to approach it. We started off discussing food and understanding what I was doing to my body and how to improve it, we made meal plans gradually getting scarier and increasing in calories and diversity. Then we targeted the mental side of things, which was the hardest for me because I couldn't change my mind set. I felt guilty when I ate something I classed as 'unhealthy' and would compensate if I ate a chocolate bar. I'd starve myself for the next few days and exercise excessive amounts to make up for it. I didn't want to put on weight. I don't think I truly wanted to recover at this time. I'd make brief progress where I'd put on weight but I'd reach a point where I would scare myself into relapsing and I'd have to start again. It was a draining process.
Luckily for me, I was getting better and in April I met a new group of friends who completely changed the way I felt about myself. They saved me from my demons: I used to think I would never recover and these thoughts would haunt me forever but my friends brought me out of my comfort zone. Each one of them is unique and has a quality I desperately admired, they taught me to love myself regardless of my weight and I have never felt happier being surrounded by supporting and lovely people. My family never gave up on helping me, they showered me with love and encouragement. Things began to look up and I overcame my fear of eating and fell in love with exercising and eating. I've found a lifestyle that works for me and I try to balance my eating to make me feel good and content. I still haven't quite mastered my eating habits but I'm getting there and I've been discharged from the eating disorder clinic this January, I have confidence in myself to be who I want to be.
Although anorexia has taken away many things from me, I would not change what happened because it has taught me so many things about myself and who I want to be. I've learnt to love myself and let go of having to be in control all the time. I want to encourage all girls to love themselves and save themselves from falling into the trap of getting 'skinny'.