My Anorexia became my identity
One young person shares their experience living with an eating disorder
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"Soon people started to notice my odd behaviours and that was not okay with me or my disorder"
I suffer from an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. I don't want to be ashamed of it and hide it because that's what essentially caused it.
I always admired those who could be brave enough to admit and speak freely of their eating disorder, so what a better week to do that?
I struggled with disordered eating and still do quite frankly since childhood really when I wouldn't eat my lunch in primary school and eagerly give it away to other kids. My parents even knew about this but sure I was always a picky kid, what harm did it make? I was always a small child. And in all honesty, I see the innocence of that mistake because that's where my hatred of food began. I couldn't have my foods touching, I didn't want to touch my food with my fingers, I found kids eating around me repulsive and therefore I couldn't eat.
To me eating was a vile act. As I said I was always a small kid, soon my identity in my social life became one of thinness. I'll always remember the first time I heard the word "Anorexia". They're had been juvenile rumours that I was anorexic. Initially I was shocked to hear it but I'll never forget the tingling sensation of pride. Yes, pride that I was finally something. The "anorexic one" yet I was something that people seemingly strived to be.
Fast forward to secondary school. I had good friends, I was finally interested in school for once and things were new and exciting. But there lingered this realisation in the back of my head. I wasn't happy. I wasn't happy with my appearance. Everyone around me seemed so beautiful and naturally stunning whereas I always had to try so hard to look somewhat okay in my head.
I was never okay with my skin. It was never majorly bad but I couldn't handle spots. So, I decided that not eating sweets was a good idea. This personal decision made me feel somewhat mature and in control of my otherwise confusing life. I couldn't bring anything with a sugar content to my lips without guilt burning my stomach and screaming filling my head.
I made the fatal mistake of one day stepping on that shiny weighing scales in our bathroom only to see my "achievement". I started to notice the change in my weight and thought perhaps if I lost some more weight I'd be pretty and worth something in my head. I’d feel proud of myself again and stand out. That's all I wanted was to be a unique individual in my own head.
It wasn't long before I cut carbohydrates from my diet. Then meat and then dairy and then soon I couldn't even pass water through my lips by the age of 15. I lived on a steady diet of 3 calorie gum and water during my Junior Cert.
Running incorporated its way into this recipe for disaster. I could only notice people’s body size now and how massive I was in comparison. How I wasn't anything like them. How I wasn't losing weight quick enough. That voice of anorexia only grew stronger with every demand I gave into. With every meal, I threw away or skipped, with every day I went without food, with every laxative I swallowed eagerly and couldn't even function without.
Honestly, I never saw anything wrong with this. I thought I was being smart. As far as I was concerned I did not have anorexia, I was just fixing myself.
Soon people started to notice my odd behaviours and that was not okay with me or my disorder. I wanted all my private issues to stay hidden because although I was still extremely unhappy with my body and I still only saw fat I wanted to become tiny. However, I needed the attention around me to go away. So, I ate around those who were wary and to appease the uproar in my head I'd threw it all up secretly.
It was a never-ending cycle. I never felt thin enough. The number on the scales couldn't fall low enough. I still wasn't enough. Three torturous years of this demon on my back still wasn't happy. It promised me happiness and peace of mind but I never found it. I was now entangled in a toxic web of lies and secrecy.
I trudged on in private until the end of fourth year and I hadn't eaten a thing in 10 days. I was restricted to laying on the couch wrapped in a duvet sipping water and only ever moving to make a laxative tea which I believed was my holy grail. It hurt to walk. My head was spinning. I was vomiting blood. I couldn't think. I was shivering even in the May heat. All I could think was I still wasn't thin enough. That I could just do another few days and I'd be amazingly thin.
One night I shuffled painfully to the kitchen to make my fourth cup of dieting tea when I was faced with missing tea. I panicked. My whole world crashed and panicked. I was enraged that someone would take my laxatives. It was mine and this diet was my business. I stared into my mum's eye angrily but I knew it was over. The gig was up, I was not longer in a position to listen to my disorder. I cried and cried and cried that night. My whole "identity" was shattered. I was now, in my eyes, nothing.
I’m now in a much stronger and better place than before. I speak about my problems, I still struggle but I know I'm not alone anymore. I know I can't listen to my Eating Disorder. Things will always be hard but things get so much better and I wish I could tell my younger self that.