I am well… now. There was a time i was not, a time many years ago when I had a voice inside my head dictating to me what I could and couldn’t eat every single day. That voice was the insidious voice of Anorexia Nervosa; my friend AND my foe. It all started when I was 19 and unlike many people I speak to, my eating disorder never began as a diet. I had bad anxiety for many years prior to my Anorexia taking hold, I was bullied relentlessly at school about being overweight (even though looking back, I was far from it), I had no confidence due to ongoing mental abuse by my parents growing up, I was kicked out of home at 16 (and then moved back home a few months later) I thought that if only I could lose some kg’s, my life would be perfect; my parents would love me, I would have more friends, I would have a good job… how wrong I was……
It was October 1999, I had just turned 19 and I felt like my life had not turned out the way I wanted (c’mon, I was 19 !! ) I was unemployed, lonely, still suffering from the mental abuse of my parents and I still felt like I was overweight. I was also still suffering from bad anxiety. One particular morning I woke up and literally couldn’t eat. I just wasn’t hungry. I felt grossed out every time I looked in the mirror at myself and went to the doctors who then diagnosed me with anxiety and depression. He also made my stand on the scales (bad idea)… Standing there in the doctors office looking down at those scales, I saw I lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. That was the beginning of Anorexia Nervosa and (almost) the end of me. I spent the next 10 years with Anorexia never really living, only existing. I spent 10 whole years in and out of hospital gaining weight, losing weight, running away from my life, myself and responsibility. I spent the whole of my 20’s missing out on life because of that voice inside my head who pretended to be my friend. A friend who wanted me dead (some friend this turned out to be).
I never really believed this illness could end my life however it almost did. It was upon admission to intensive care (just another typical Friday night) overhearing the doctor tell my mother to start planning for my funeral as I may not be be here in two weeks. I strongly believe that this was the beginning of recovery. 10 years I lived with that illness and imagine living with something for so long and letting it go. Recovery was such a foreign concept to me. It was scary and daunting and it seemed impossible. Anorexia was the only thing I had known for 10 years, who was I without it? I was about to find out.
Tips for getting better: – ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS listen to your psychiatrists/counsellors/social workers/dietitians etc; trust in what they are saying and take their advice. I know first hand this is hard but you have to hand over all your control to the specialists and people that care about you. Listen to them, not your head. – EAT through the good days and the bad days. Upon recovery, there will be more bad days than good but take each day as it comes and keep, keep eating. The amount of times I wanted to stop or ‘just lose that little bit of weight’ (so my head kept telling me to) but I kept eating and ignoring my head. Food is nourishment. Food is medicine. Food is neutral. There is no such thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ food. Food is created equal. Food is non negotiable. – Find a purpose to get better. Find a purpose to eat.
My purpose was to inspire people. At that time, I didn’t love or respect myself enough to eat for me so for every bite and every kg gained, I did it so I could inspire people, so I could show people that you can fully recover from Anorexia. There were many long term side effects from this illness; I ended up with osteopenia (which has now been reversed) , I have brain atrophy (which mainly affects my short term memory) I lost all of my upper teeth and now have to live with dentures for the rest of my life and then don’t forget, I lost all of my 20’s. Anorexia is not your friend. Complete recovery isn’t easy, complete recovery is damn hard. It is a long and at – times painful journey however, I still feel like it is my biggest accomplishment to date. It will be yours too. Having anorexia was the best thing that ever happened to me. It has made me who I am today. I am now a qualified Personal trainer/ nutritionist, and soon to be counsellor. I gave up my eating disorder and in return I gained so much; I gained friends, an amazing career, a social life, happiness and I got my life and freedom back. Complete recovery is both possible and worth it. If I can do it, you can too.