Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018 takes place from 26 February to 4 March.
As most of my readers are aware, I live with mental illness. Being diagnosed with Bipolar at 20 years old and then an Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder recently, I have raised awareness and spoke about my life living with these conditions.
What I don’t talk about much is an eating disorder. Although free of it to some degree, I am left with lifelong physical problems due to my history of an eating disorder.
As it is Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I think it is time for me to share my story. Its not nice and yes, I am nervous about writing this so freely, but I think others need to read how severe this mental illness can be.
My eating disorder started when I was 14. My parents had not long divorced and my mum had to move us from our family home. Money was tight, I had gone from a “loving home” to a house without my dad.
I was confused, upset and scared. I felt I was alone in my thoughts, unheard and misunderstood by the adults around me. I have always been older for my age mentally so I couldn’t understand why I was being ignored.
I began to comfort eat and at 12 years old I was a little overweight, I didn’t see it as a problem but others would. School friends and even family members made me feel awful. Little comments such as, ‘your not eating that are you!’ really affected me.
By age 14 I was looking at my body in a mirror on a daily basis, ridiculing it and hating it. I felt out of control. Home life was difficult and I feel I obsessed about my weight as a way in which to control things I had no control over.
The weight started to drop off slowly at first. At home my mum would get angry that I would not eat the food she made me. I explained that I was overweight and that I was going on a diet. Mum agreed I could diet just as long as I ate healthy.
At school I would pick up my dinner ticket and take it to the baguette shop. There I would ask for a baguette, no butter, just salad. This would be the only thing I would eat all day. I would come home and make some noodles, tell mum I had ate a big lunch in school so noodles would be fine. I would then go upstairs and pour the noodles down the toilet. I would finish my day by exercising for 4 hours in my bedroom.
Around a month later my eating got worse. I would eat no breakfast, go to school, ask for just a baguette, no butter, just cucumber. I would walk around the playground feeding the baguette to the birds and just eat the cucumber. I would come home and eat half a bowl of soup.
At this point I began to obsess about food labels, anything I ate would have to have no more than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. I would obsess so much about food, even my dreams were about food!
I remember one day mum and I were shopping and I asked if I could have some tomato juice. She said no. I began to panic, my body was shaking, why would she not buy it? Its not like I eat anything!
With that I had a meltdown in the middle of a shopping aisle, strangers began pointing and laughing at me crying. My body was so starved that I started to hear voices, people whispering that I was fat. I felt my body explode with anger. I started to throw glass bottles of tomato juice on the floor, I grabbed tins off the shelves and smashed them to the floor. I was screaming, I was out of control, everything was spinning. I had to be restrained.
I am not sure what happened next, it was almost as if I had blacked out. I left the store with mum and went home to exercise.
As the weeks went on I lost more weight. Still I felt disgusted with myself. I would wear clothes which looked baggy to others but to me the clothes felt tight and restricting.
I went on a school trip to Paris. I don’t remember having much fun, all I can remember is the obsession with food. I would watch my friends eat around me, why were they so thin? How could they eat chocolate and hot dogs and still be slim!? I survived the Paris trip on tins of Sweetcorn and fruit.
Then we had school summer holidays.
I went on holiday with my friends family to Portugal. 2 weeks in the sun without my mums watchful eye, it sounded perfect. I used this time to starve myself. Yes, my friends mum would prompt me to eat more than a salad, but she couldn’t make me do something I didn’t want to.
I came home, weighed myself, I had lost over a stone in a fortnight!
At 15 I was in the full swing of anorexia, I would survive the day eating one apple or sliced cucumber and water…sometimes a calypso drink if I was feeling dizzy. I would take mass amounts of vitamin tablets but none containing oil.
I was forced to see an eating disorder specialist at Whitchurch Hospital. I hated our appointments, the doctor just wanted to make me fat! I would lie and say I was eating. I didn’t like being weighed. At this time I started to see a physiatrist as the eating disorder doctor felt there was more going on.
At 17 I was very ill, my moods were erratic. I had already taken 4 overdoses and was self harming. I hated myself and my mind. I would drink alcohol to numb the thoughts but this would make me worse.
I remember the first time I made myself sick. I had a drink and not ate all day. I was at a fireworks display with my family, I remember feeling so hungry and all I could smell was the burgers that everyone was eating. I gave in and ate one. It tasted sooo good, it was like I’d never ate before. My mum was thrilled that I was eating.
I felt awful. I had to get it out of me. I would rather be dead than be fat. I found a port-a-loo cabin and made myself sick. It was much easier than I had imagined it would be. That was a bad thing.
At 22 I looked awful, I was living with bulimia. I was very thin but my face was puffy from the constant purging I would do on a daily basis. I would binge up to 4 times a day. I would eat piles of food and then make myself sick. I would feel disconnected when eating, like it wasn’t happening. I would take up to 70 laxatives if someone interrupted my binge. I was barely 6st and told by the doctors I would not live to 30 if I kept up this lifestyle.
The pain I would feel was so bad, I had blisters on my hands from the stomach acid, my tummy would ache from the laxative abuse. My throat and chest would burn. I would make myself so sick, I would try to get everything out of me to the point where I would be sick blood. I never had periods and was told I would find it hard to conceive a baby in the future.
At 24 I was scared I was going to die. I would faint often and have heart palpitations. I had to go on potassium tablets as the doctor said my organs would fail if I didn’t.
It was hard, but after being told my body was packing up on me, I stopped making myself sick. Instead I would eat very little and often. To start it was a few items of fruit and a small salad for dinner. I couldn’t stand the feeling of anything heavy in my tummy (I still don’t)
After a few months I started to exercise 3 times a week. In time my periods returned and I was 8st. I felt really good. I became pregnant in 2011. When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed. I knew I had to eat better for the baby. As my bump grew so did the portion sizes I was eating.
I do think pregnancy and becoming a mum helped with my eating disorder, however, I am not saying I am completely free of it. Even now I check labels for nutritional value, I feel fat most days, I restrict certain foods and skip meals. I think it is something I will never fully get over. For me it goes hand in hand with my mental illness, when I am not well mentally, I restrict foods. When I get stressed or feel I cant control things, I restrict food.
I wrote this post aged 31, mum of two, eating a slice of toast with butter. Things can get better!!
For more information on eating disorders please CLICK HERE