ED Awareness

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Devil whispered in my ear, “You’re not strong enough to withstand the storm.”
Today I whispered in the Devil’s ear, “I am the storm.” 

Anorexia is a shadow that only has the power to walk a few steps behind me these days. It’s a part of my life which I am open and transparent about, however, which I often dismiss as ‘that time I decided to starve myself’. Although I will probably always joke about what happened (if you don't laugh, you cry, right?), this years theme for eating disorder awareness week is ‘Get Real’ so I thought i’d talk about what anorexia gave me and what I lost as a result of it, because although starving myself was pretty non sensical, I hope discussing the reasoning behind it will help others understand and in turn help themselves or a loved one.  

During treatment
I didn't just wake up one day and decide that I was going to starve myself down to a skeletal frame and avoid food until I was hospitalised. Those who think anorexia or any eating disorder are a conscious choice born in vain due to a pursuit of a vacuous higher beauty are, quite frankly, stupid. I didn't do it because of models in magazines (although I do not dispute that the media, Instagram included, has a lot to answer for in terms of the rise in eating disorders.) So, why? Why does an intelligent young woman with a place at a great university, a big loving friendship group, a wonderful boyfriend and a million opportunities awaiting her push herself to teeter on the fine line between life and death? The first reason; Secrets. Anorexia is an illness of secrets. I often describe the proceeding circumstances as the Wisteria Lane effect (any Desperate Housewife fans, bare with). So, theres this picture perfect house with this nuclear family. Inside that house is a daughter with a Cheshire cat smile which she slathers across her face for every photo and event. If desperate housewives taught us anything, it’s that behind those doors shit goes down and old ladies have frozen bodies in freezers (just to clarify, no one in my family had a body in a freezer). What i’m trying to say in a round about way without totally exposing my family or loved ones is however things may look, you have don't always know what is going. The people I worry about the most are those who are always ‘fine’. I felt as if admitting to not being okay was unacceptable, meanwhile there was a gnawing inside my mind I could not reach. A feeling in my gut which convinced me of my insufficiency. I began to obsessively measure my value by the amount I could diminish my body. Avoiding food made me feel powerful, everyone was going on about weight and diets, well I would be the best at not eating. Same for exercise, I needed to run the furthest on empty in order to deem myself acceptable. I had so much self control, right? …I still vividly remember the moment I had to admit I was not in control. I had been travelling for a few months, my weight had been worrying prior to leaving, however, as I stepped out of arrivals at Heathrow excited to be reunited with my best friend and boyfriend, the look on their faces instantly told me something was wrong. It wasn't until I got home that I was confronted with the reality of how worrying I looked. It’s bizarre to think how little perception I had of my illness. Looking back, I can see how obsessive I became on my travels. I remember being in South Africa and going to ask at the hotel I was staying at whether I could use their luggage scales, all I wanted in that moment was to weigh myself and I saw no other option. That is the problem with anorexia, it was all encompassing. It was my best friend, the love of my life, my worst enemy. My body became the battle ground upon which I thrashed out my problems and I was unable to properly focus my attention on anyone else. I knew I was hurting people and I really really didn't want too, but I couldn't stop chasing the high that anorexia gave me. There is no drug more deceptive than starvation and I was addicted. 

Loss for me came in many forms other than weight. I lost years of my life, time which I look on now and wish I could get back, time with loved ones that i’d give anything for today. I lost the ability to truly perceive my body. I lost love. I lost so many laughs. I lost trust in myself. Anorexia numbed pain which I could not express, but led to a hell of a lot more. So why am I writing all this? Because theres always hope. Yes, I lost a lot through illness, however, I gained so much through recovery. I am a totally different woman to who I was before. Recovery made me strong. Recovery helped me take time to workout what I really want in life. I proved to myself that when I set my mind to something, I can do it. Hell, if I can get that thin, fall that far down the rabbit hole and scramble my way out, I’d like to see what I can do channelling all that energy into my career. I now understand so much more about human emotion and about my own emotions. I will admit to still having wobbly days, I don't know that I could call myself fully ‘recovered’, but I do know that I’m going in the right direction. In the moments I catch myself regarding my body as ‘not enough’ I talk about it. Talking solves a LOT you know. I know now that I am worth so much more than the number on a scale. I am more than the gap between my legs or the dip where my hips meet me thigh, and that is vital. Everyone deserves more than a life starved of happiness and love, so whether you are struggling yourself, or worrying about someone, please do something. Do not hesitate. Life is far more glorious on the other side. Become fiercely determined to create a life you love. 

*Little disclaimer, this post was inspired by my best, Thea, turning to me as we wandered the streets of Barcelona and simply saying ‘I am so proud of you, you are so very strong’. From one of the most incredible people I know, that means the World.*

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