Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018, I talk openly about anorexia and bulimia.
As most of my readers are aware, I live with mental illness. Being diagnosed with Bipolar at 20 years old I have raised awareness and spoke about my life living with mental illness.
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 get a baguette for lunch, 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!
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.
During the summer holidays, my friends family took me to Portugal. Two 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.
Mum being worried took me to the doctors who quickly referred me to a psychiatrist.
I was then referred to an eating disorder specialist. They said I was suffering with anxiety and anorexia. 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 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.
By the time I was 18 I was alcohol dependant. The alcohol made me feel better, it helped with my food obsession and I didn’t feel hungry when I was drinking. My anorexia was taking over my life.
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. If someone interrupted my binge I would self harm. I was 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. 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.
I was scared I was going to die. I would faint often and have heart palpitations.
At 23 I had an emergency detox. My husband was told I was undernourished and I may not survive the night. Luckily I did! After my close shave I had to go on potassium tablets as the doctor said my organs would fail if I didn’t.
Now sober I was able to talk to my psychiatrist and I realised that I was very ill and in need of support.
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 and I feel fat most days. 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.
For more information on eating disorders please CLICK HERE