You may have noticed that balancedbrooke has been a bit neglected recently. Ok… a lot neglected. I could sit here and blame my endless uni assignments and exams and my unsociable and very busy working schedule, but the truth is, my blogging hiatus is purely down to one thing and one thing only. My poor health.
I’ve thought long and hard about posting this. In fact, for weeks on end I would tell myself that that day would be the day that I would have the courage to hit that “post” button and share my story and reveal the continuous torture I’ve been putting myself through for the last few years. But as each day came, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. I would find some excuse or other and day after day, I talked myself out of it. But mainly, I was just ashamed, embarrassed, nervous, apprehensive and anxious of the response I would get. Finally I realised I can’t run from this any longer. There’s nowhere to hide anymore. Since National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDAW), I’ve seen more and more people sharing their stories and as I read more accounts of people who have been through the same situation, I finally felt as though the time was right to speak up. And so here I am, sharing my story.
Before I get started, I want to stress that I am not looking for praise or seeking approval. I am simply speaking up in the hope that I can help even just one person or encourage someone to get the help they might desperately need. My story isn’t going to be your typical story. I’m not going to talk about my life pre-eating disorder, nor am I going to discuss how I developed my anorexia. I will, however, discuss how I got to my current state of recovery, which I believe is much more important.
I’ll start by saying that I am in the VERY early stages of recovery. It’s taken a long, long time to reach this point and at times, it still seems strange to me that I have. So how did I eventually get to this stage?
Well, it wasn’t until I visited my doctors after Christmas that I realised myself just how serious things had gotten and I began to understand the physical damage I had done and was, indeed, still continuing to do. The appointment had been made by my parents behind my back (something I was furious about at the time) and I was dragged there against my own will. In the weeks prior to the appointment, my parents had continuously expressed their concern about my physical state. At the beginning, they were angry and frustrated with me and we would have the same arguments over and over again. In the end, they were pleading with me. Their concern had reached an all time high and they were now desperate for me to get better. My dad, someone that rarely shows emotion, had tried to reach out to me numerous times. As he tried to stress the worries he had, his eyes would fill up with tears and his voice would begin shaking. But still, this wasn’t enough for me to wake up and realise the torture, pain and anguish I was putting myself, and everyone else for that matter, through.
When I eventually (but very reluctantly) agreed to go along, I demanded that I saw the doctor myself. I immediately saw the concern on her face when I entered the room. As I began to explain my situation to her, she looked more and more worried and looked at me sympathetically. I could see that she understood the pain I was in yet she seemed frustrated at what I had put my body through. After we had talked in great length, she suggested that she take my measurements and weight. I freaked out and tried to refuse but I knew it was for my own good. I hadn’t weighed myself in months as I was so afraid of the number that would appear on the scale. For some reason or other, this number was something I allowed to define me over the years. I, somewhere along the road, developed the mentality that the lower the number, the “better” I was. She got me onto the scale and immediately gasped. While I won’t go into too much detail about the exact figures and numbers, I will tell you that it was shocking, even for me. As someone with an anorexic frame of mind, I always believed that I would feel amazing when I hit my lowest ever weight. But as I stood there “weighing less than your average nine year old female”, I felt the worst I had ever felt in my entire life. I had achieved what I had set out to, yet I felt empty, weak and nothing more than a shell of my former self.
After taking my measurements, she sat me down and very seriously told me that if I was to continue down this route, I would eventually die. As a matter of fact, she told me that in my current state, I had 5 months to live. I will never ever forget that moment. Ever. I remember feeling as if I was floating or having some kind of out of body experience. I kept telling myself that she had somehow miscalculated and got something wrong. My eyes began to fill with tears and my poor, mistreated body began to shake. My chest suddenly got tighter and I tried to gasp for air. I now realise I was probably experiencing a panic attack. Something which I had experienced more often than not during the months before. She continuously asked me if I had understood the severity of the situation, I nodded and after discussing the next steps that had to be taken, I left her room. My boyfriend was waiting for me in the waiting room and when he quizzed me about the appointment, I lied to his face. I told him everything had gone fine and that the doctor had some minor concerns but I assured him that I knew what I needed to do next.
See, this is the thing with anorexia. It turns you into the worst possible version of yourself. It turns you into a compulsive liar. It turns you into an aggressive, nasty and vindictive person who wriggles their way out of every situation. You cut yourself off from the world. You stop seeing friends and are constantly “unavailable”. When family members come to visit, you refuse to take part in celebrations (even Christmas and New Year) or engage in any kind of conversation. Instead, you sit in your room (your new “safe” place), ignoring everyone and wallowing in a state of self pity.
I’d like to think that part of the reason I lied to my boyfriend that day was to save him the pain and angst that would inevitably follow. However I know that the real reason was because I was a coward. I couldn’t face up to it myself. And if I couldn’t deal with it, how could I possibly tell someone that I loved that I had destroyed my own body so much that I was now a walking time bomb? I felt overcome with guilt, anger, pain and extreme sadness. After the appointment, I went home, curled up in my bed and cried uncontrollably for a solid hour. When my mum and dad returned home from work that evening, I continued with my false story about how everything had gone ok and kept up the facade. There was just no way I could tell my mum that she could be months away from losing a child. Until this day, they still aren’t aware of the news I was given that day. I think a large part of me was still in a state of shock. The news hadn’t quite sunk in yet and muttering the words to someone else would make it all real. Very real. Perhaps, too real.
It wasn’t until I was alone that evening that I realised I now had absolutely no choice. It was either recover or die. Simple. There was no two ways about it. Either I worked to get my old life back or I’d be left with no life at all. In the following nights, I would lie in bed wondering if I would wake the next morning. I even had a nightmare once that I had passed away in my sleep. I woke up during the night drenched in sweat, and breathed a sigh of relief when I felt my heart rapidly beating and realised I was still alive.
Although I was furious at the time, I am now eternally grateful that I had been forced to go along to the doctors. Who knows where I’d be, otherwise. After that day, my whole life changed. Everything seemed different. I began to make substantial efforts to overcome my fears and I began to feel liberated and free. I would wake up happier, with more energy and for a much greater appreciation for life.
If you’re reading this and believe my story sounds similar to something you’re experiencing yourself, I’m sorry that we can relate to each other under such sad circumstances. But I do hope that my story gives you the nudge you need to speak up, seek help and take control. As anorexics we put so much emphasis on this notion of “being in control”. But really we have no control when we are in the grips of anorexia. The only time we truly gain control and can take charge is when we choose to get better. I remember thinking that there was no way I would ever life an anorexia-free life. I used to lay in bed late at night (whilst shivering cold) and worry about what my future children would think of me as I sat at the dinner table with nothing more than a glass of water or the disappointment they’d feel as I helped them cut their birthday cake but refused to enjoy a slice with them. I am by no means free of my demons and I am certainly not totally free of my anorexia, nor do I claim to be. But what I can say is, I am on my way. And that, is something I never ever thought I would be able to say. Each day I am making leaps and bounds. I am well on my way to regaining life and I am no longer ashamed by my anorexia. Sure, anorexia is a part of my life and no matter how much I hate it, it always will be a part of who I am. The difference is, I will no longer allow anorexia to define me.
I will probably never forgive myself for the things I have done: the relationships I have caused to breakdown, the pain and stress I have caused my loved ones and the damage (some maybe irreversible) that I have done to my body. But I am learning to forget and move on. For me, my recovery isn’t about regaining my old life and going back to how things were before. It’s about creating a new life. A happy life. A life that I now truly value.
If you are worried about a family member or friend or are indeed living with an eating disorder yourself, please speak to your local GP or visit b-eat.co.uk for more information.
Now that I am in a healthier state, both physically and mentally, I have decided to start blogging frequently again. So you can expect a lot more posts and updates from me. Don’t forget to follow BalancedBrooke to get any new posts delivered directly to your mailbox 🙂