My Anorexia became my identity
One young person shares their experience living with an eating disorder
This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of SpunOut.ie. It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for SpunOut.ie please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
"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.