Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
I still find it almost impossible to pin point the moment this all began. After all this time I’m unable to say: “this is how it all started.” Because the truth is I don’t know. No matter how much I dig for the roots of my self-destruction, I hit a brick wall. There’s vague memories of the thoughts creeping in and it was definitely a gradual thing, then sudden change.
For this reason we’ll go with April 2013. I was 11 years old and half way through my last year of primary school. As a child I was very anxious and looking back definitely showed symptoms of OCD. I’d spend hours in the garden before bed “checking” the security of my rabbit’s hutch.
It was a stressful and draining process that I “had” to do and it always concerned my mum who had to supervise or I’d be trapped by my mind all night.
When the words “my daughter has anorexia” escaped her lips I was shocked for a moment. It has never sounded right in my head.
As I got older the obsessive thoughts got more manageable although still a struggle. Only now I realise the danger of projecting these tendencies onto an essential source of life; food.
My parents got divorced when I was 8 and my dad now lives in Scotland. When me and my brother went to visit at Easter that is when the thoughts about restricting food really started. I was still eating normally at that point but my mind was constantly on the topic of food.
An example of my head: “you’re eating way too much”, “that’s so unhealthy”, “you’ll end up gaining so much weight”. It was only when I got back home that the bad feelings really kicked in. I have a very vivid memory of sobbing to my mum about 4 slices of pizza. We’d just moved house so cooking was out of the question. Everyone ordered Dominos and despite a quiet voice in my subconscious telling me that pizza would make me fat, I was well enough to ignore it and eat. It was only later that night the guilt became unbearable and I begged my mum to work out the amount of calories I’d consumed that day.
Life went on, I became obsessed with healthy eating and allowed myself occasional treats such as ice cream, chocolate etc. I guess because of this things looked fairly normal. This carried on for months; I became addicted to exercise and slowly lost weight due to restricting (food). By the early summer I was on the cusp of underweight but people were telling me I looked so “fit” and “skinny” so of course I thought everything was okay. It was only on sports day 2013 did I realise what effects restricting was having on my body.
There was this girl who had bullied me for years. She moved back to my school that term and she was very into her sports too. I defiantly felt pressured as she was the only one in my year that could possibly outrun me, and stupidly I thought this was because she was lighter than me. We’d been friends since we were little and she’d recently been teasing me about my weight and called me a “fat idiot” to my face. I’m a very sensitive person and I care what people think of me. This, combined with the competitiveness and rivalry between us is another factor of what made me take things to an extreme.
During the race I was in the lead until the final 100m. My poor body was so burnt out that when I tried that final push my legs buckled under me. It was such a close call as we were literally shoulder to shoulder but the judge said she won “just”. This made me feel like a complete failure and at the time I put it down to “not being thin enough”. I really couldn’t have been more wrong.
When I hear the word “anorexia” after 4 years it still doesn’t resonate with me. I remember my mum answering a phone call from an old friend. When the words “my daughter has anorexia” escaped her lips I was shocked for a moment. It has never sounded right in my head.
Now I’m further down the road to recovery and physically able to face the “normal” challenges of everyday life I often forget the effect my illness has on the people closest to me. The majority of my struggles are kept to myself so it has nothing to do with anyone else, right?
I’ve only recently come to terms with the fact that it’s completely the opposite. I’ll admit I get angry when I’m told my family’s lives revolve around my illness. Hearing that is a bit of a punch in the stomach when you’re constantly trying your hardest to contain the thoughts.
My argument is that I never talk about food, I keep to myself if I’m having a bad day, food preparation is all down to me etc. And yes, the selfish part of me resents my mum for worrying about MY food and MY intake when she has the choice to be completely free of those thoughts. If I could erase all struggles from the past I would. I strongly believe my life would have been better without an eating disorder.
However the bond between me, my mum and little brother has strengthened; the empathy and wisdom I have gained from this is more than the old me would’ve ever obtained.
I’m very lucky to have such a strong, supportive and determined family to get me through this and I’ve learned to be grateful for their sacrifices, worries and anger.
With time I’ve discovered it’s only because they care and, putting yourself in their shoes, how frustrating must it be to see someone you love destroy themselves? Many claim mental health issues tear families apart but in my case, and I hope for many others too, my family have never been at such a level of understanding and closeness.
I’m still under CAMHS at the moment and have made definite progress over the years. By admitting me they saved my life and after all this time continue to support me and my family. Without the “safety net” of professionals I would have without a doubt struggled to continue recovery in the community. My therapist has stuck by me and offers appointments every two weeks or more if I need them. Getting help from the service has taken the strain off my family immensely and given us the tools we need to manage my illness. It’s so much easier when you have a team behind you all working towards one goal; to help you take back your life.
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or worried about a friend, you can find a service local to you that can help by searching on our homepage. See our help and advice page or for immediate help, visit out crisis page.