What Recovering from an Eating Disorder Feels Like.

‘Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say “I have fallen but i will get up”‘ – Maya Angelou.

I’m going to go ahead and put a trigger warning on this, as my intention is to share my experience not to trigger anyone.

I don’t really remember when my eating disorder started, i never ate like a normal child. I never ate my packed lunches at primary school and used to go home with a full lunch box, my mother would be furious and told me time after time to eat them. I didn’t listen. After a while she told my teachers and they used to watch me at lunch time. As i got older i realized i could just throw them away and nobody would know the difference. Only problem was when i got home from school i’d be so hungry that i’d binge on crisps and ice cream. This went on for years and nothing came of it. As i progressed through my teenage years, i decided i was going on a diet, I’ve never been overweight and as i look back now, i realize that i was probably trying to make up something i was lacking in, probably parental love. When i was 16, i moved in with my father and that’s really when my eating disorder took its full force and really started to take over my life. I used to devise my whole life around food and wouldn’t avoid anything that would revolve around it. I remember this one time, and as i think about it now, its hilarious. I’d never tried coffee before and I’d read online that it can help speed up your metabolism. So i got a jar of coffee, put 3 HUGE lumps of coffee granules in my mug and filled it with water and stirred, it was revolting, obvious due to the fact that there was far too much coffee in it and it was black with no milk. I love coffee now, even black coffee occasionally but that one incident makes me giggle, i was rather naive. Moving on, my dad worked shifts and normally did the night shift so i was alone a lot of the time, which i preferred. My dad never did food shopping and just used to give me money to get my own dinner, which for someone who didn’t want to eat, was fantastic. We hardly ever ate meals together, it was just a thing we didn’t do. He used to leave me piles of ironing and washing to do, especially when i left college as he told me that i wasn’t to be lazy now i’d left. I used to spend my money on other things, make up and books to begin with but as my eating disorder progressed and as i did more and more research on the internet; Laxatives, diet pills and other tablets (green tea, sea kelp, water pills etc). Holland and Barrett’s was my favorite place and i loved the penny sale. I tried laxatives for the first time when my dad was out on a night shift, because i’d read about the effects and didn’t want the embarrassment. I didn’t take huge amounts to begin with but i took more than the recommended amount, and my god i was in pain. I remember writhing around on my bed in agony, promising myself i’d never use them again – being perfect wasn’t worth this i told myself. How things would change. As the months went by, my sleeping pattern grew to be stupid. I’d stay up all night a lot, i could hardly sleep and when i did it wasn’t for long. I had a secret account on bebo with a lot of other girls since i was 14, there are so many girls under names like ‘needtobeskinny’ or ‘fatfailure’ etc, all struggling with eating disorders and self harm and all different kinds of mental illness. I spent so many nights speaking to girls who felt the same way i did, and some who believed that anorexia and bulimia were choices and they would strive to look like severely emaciated girls. I suppose everybody with an eating disorder goes through the ‘pro’ stage at some point, in that way i mean like researching ‘tips and tricks’ online and looking at skinny girl picture but i don’t think i ever once thought that it was a choice. Now, i look back and i wonder if that bebo account some how made me worse in some respects, it can sometimes be like a competition, when your looking at some of the other girls who are skinnier than you and your thinking to yourself ‘i’m going to be skinnier than her, watch me’ but i don’t regret ever making that account, i have made some friends for life. A lot of who i speak to still now, one of them i actually live with. But i’ll get to that in a bit.

I moved out my dads when i was 17. My eating disorder had completely took over my life, i was hardly eating and exercising at every chance i got. Living independently was challenging, i lived in ‘supported accommodation’ until i was 18, while i waited for a flat of my own. I was also self harming which i’d been doing since i was around 10. My weight would yo-yo as i was starving than binging and throwing up and it just all went around in this stupid ridiculous cycle, all the time. It was tough. But i made it to my 18th birthday and a month later i moved into my own place. It didn’t last very long, i ended up inpatient on a psychiatric ward and went back into supported accommodation. Here’s where my eating disorder just went downhill. I left hospital at just over 10 stone. I struggled so much at this weight, i just couldn’t cope with it. I’d never been at that weight before, my whole teenage weight i’d ranged from 6 stone – 8 stone, so being at that higher weight was extremely difficult for me. Looking back now, i realize that those thoughts were daft, there’s nothing wrong with being 10 stone. It really affected me and i spent more and more time and effect on losing weight. My room was tiny, with just a bed, a sink and a wardrobe in it. My scales, that i hid under my bed and my diet pills etc piled up in my medicine cabinet. This is when my laxative abuse started, i was taking 20+ every other night even if i’d not binged, and my stomach was always in constant agony, my bedroom was right next to the toilet so i didn’t disturb anybody when i got up multiple times in the night. At this point i was eating next to nothing, if i did eat it would be fat free Muller light yogurts, or vegetables. I lived off Pepsi max or diet coke, squash and cigarettes. I lost 2 stone in the space of about 2 months. I was that deep that when people told me how ill i was looking, i’d laugh and cry up in my room telling myself that they will silly and clearly needed glasses. Although the number on the scales was going down, i didn’t see the weight come off, in fact the more weight i lost, the bigger i thought i looked. There was a time, i had a pair of size 8 skinny jeans and my goal was to get into them (originally that was my last goal, when i got into my size 8 jeans that’s when i would stop but everyone with an eating disorder knows that it doesn’t work that way, as soon as the final goal is complete another one will materialize out of nowhere). I remember pulling them up and leaping around my bedroom in delight. I ran downstairs and into the office and told the worker who was on duty in glee, how they fit. My joy was short lived however when i realized that even though they fit, i looked in the mirror and still looked like an elephant. When i moved back into my flat in May 2012, my weight had dropped to just under 8 stone. Moving back into my flat was good but also very bad. There i didn’t have anyone to talk to or anyone to support me when i needed it. Obviously i had my friends from the internet, the ED community had now moved over to Facebook  but i hardly had any friends in real life – i’d pushed them all away. I fell into a deep depression and my binging and purging got out of hand. I’d order 20 pounds of takeaway several times a week, normally pizza, eat the lot and throw up. I went to the co op down the road and brought binge food, chocolate, biscuits, crisps, ice cream etc, run home and eat the lot and throw up again. I remember being highly embarrassed one day when two days in a row, i’d gone into co op and brought exactly the same binge food and was served by the same woman who was on the previous day, she looked at me very strangely, and ran home thinking she had x ray vision and knew exactly what i was doing. Some time around here, i tried recovery, i ate decent meals, i was still eating under 1500 calories a day, but it was a hell of a lot better than the measly 300 calories. It backfired not long later, and my eating disorder came back 10 times worse.

In November 2012, about 10 of us in the ED community decided to have a meet up. I was terrified, i nearly pulled out at the last minute because i thought i was too fat. The real true was i was 7 and a half stone. It was lovely to see everybody, some of them i’d never met before in real life. I was highly unwell, i see that now but at the time i just felt embarrassed because they thought i’d overdosed. I ended up going home a day early because of it. A week later and i was in a really bad place, in the worst place i’d ever been in. I couldn’t see that the black fog would ever lift. It was awful. I’d lost another half a stone and was at 7 stone 1. Sometime at the end of November, I went down to see a friend from Facebook, Sarah. She ended up coming back home with me, and we haven’t spent a day apart since. This was the time that i decided to try recovery. I had someone who cared for me and would love me unconditionally no matter what i did. She inspired me to recover, to try, to fight. Although, she doesn’t believe it, i  wouldn’t have tried recovery, i wouldn’t have stopped self harming or overdosing. I didn’t have a reason before, i didn’t have anybody to fight for, and to fight for me. Sarah sat up and took my hand, and said ‘its okay, you can do it.’ and i did. She’ll probably be reading this, and be thinking i didn’t do anything. But you did. You stayed, and you fought for me when i couldn’t fight for myself, you were there, you held me when i cried. You gave me a reason.

I’m 21 now, and have been in recovery for nearly 2 years. I moved 200 miles from where i used to live and we officially moved in together. We’ve been here for just over a year.  In response to my title. Recovering from an eating feel likes hell. It hurts and its painful, its hard and some days you sit there and think why am i even doing this, its too hard. But i look at Sarah and remember why i pick up my fork every day and eat, why i pick up a chocolate bar and eat it even when starving myself just seems like the better option. In reality, recovering is so much easier than living in the hell that used to be my life, its the right thing to do, its easier to pick up the fork and eat instead of lying to crippling agony on the floor from hunger pangs or bent over a toilet choking on your own sick. Or lay curled up on the bathroom floor because you took too many laxatives again. Every day i fight, i may be 2 years into recovery, but i still have to fight the urge to not restrict my food intake, or not purge when my stomach feels too full. I don’t always get urges to purge or restrict but they are still there, but that’s all part of recovery, its about fighting things and never giving up. I am very slowly coming to terms with my body, i am a healthy weight and i have good image days and bad image days, but hey when does any woman like their body. I wouldn’t have got this far without my amazing best friend, my absolute rock. She is my savior  she saved me even when i didn’t know i didn’t need saving. We fight together, we support each other and our friendship just works. I would never have got this far without her.

‘You cant fall if you don’t climb, but there’s not joy in living your whole life on the ground.’

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