There is hope
I was the last person I expected to get an eating disorder. But it still happened to me.
My ED started when I was in Year 10 and was probably caused by multiple factors but a main one was being weighed in PE class at school as part of fitness testing. I remember noticing that I was gaining weight but not getting any taller, and I was so scared of becoming fat. Somewhat suddenly, I decided that I would lose some weight so I wouldn’t become ‘unhealthy and overweight’. But what started out as a relatively harmless idea, quickly became obsessive and took over my life. Within the space of a few months, I was weighing myself all the time, obsessed with exercise, and restricting my food. I started having orthorexic behaviours and was terrified of eating ‘unhealthy’ food because I genuinely thought it would harm me. As a ‘Type A’ person, my ED gave me a sense of control and achievement.
At first, I could only see the benefits that my ED gave me, but after 3 or 4 years it started affecting my life to the point where I wanted to change things. I was diagnosed with IBD – an autoimmune condition that I’m sure was at least partly caused by the huge amount of stress I was putting on myself, I lost my period, my hair got thinner and one year my fingernails were so brittle they started falling off. My relationships also suffered because I was such a difficult person to be around – constantly anxious and often in a bad mood because I felt guilty or scared. Yet all this time, I had no idea I had an eating disorder.
My ED ended up sucking a lot of the joy out of my life and when I was 19, I finally realised that I had a problem – no one around me was ever really concerned because I was never ‘underweight’ and was so secretive about my thoughts and behaviours, which was helped by me moving interstate to start uni. I actually remember the exact moment when the lightbulb went off in my brain and I decided to get help – I was on a plane on the way back from a short holiday and I just started to realise that my relationship with food wasn’t normal and was becoming such an obstacle to living a fun and happy life.
Today, over 2 years after that lightbulb moment, I’m proud to say I’ve recovered from my ED and I’m using my lived experience to help advocate for eating disorders. My life looks completely different and things I never thought possible during my ED are a part of my daily life. I’ve kicked my ED out of the driver’s seat of my life and put myself back in it. I feel like myself again. To all those who are currently struggling, I want you to know that your struggle is valid, and that recovery is possible no matter who you are. Recovering from an ED in this culture that is often fixated on appearance, shape and health isn’t easy. But I’d like to tell everyone that even though it’s difficult it is possible and there is hope.