Waking up this morning on my 24th birthday, who would have thought I would be where I am now. Not in an arrogant, cocky way, but six years ago I woke up on my 18th birthday in hospital. What a way to spend an 18th?
My life seems so different now, I sit here waiting for my boyfriend to cook dinner, I have a pudding planned and celebrations over the weekend. Six years ago I would have done none of this. Six years ago my life was planned around food and exercise.
We are told everyday that we should exercise as part of a healthy way of life. Magazines are constantly telling us how much we should exercise, how to lose a stone in six weeks, how to tone up. But in reality is any of this really that healthy? For me, reading these articles and being encouraged to "get in shape" became a compulsion. I would like to think there was a time when I was in control of this, but looking back I am not sure I was. My days would be planned around exercise, I would sneak off to the gym before school and lie to my parents about where I was going. On my lunch breaks I would go for runs and even when my friends argued with me I would ignore them. And if I had been made to eat anything I would run on the spot for hours in my room. At the time this seemed completely normal to me. It was something that had to be done.
When I arrived in hospital as my bedraggled, underweight self, my heart was nearly stopping, but I still seemed to think I had energy to work out. I was told this was not allowed. I did not completely understand why. It was a normal thing for me to do. In my first weeks I managed to find ways to exercise, doing star jumps in the toilets, running in my room, and doing literally whatever I could to burn more calories. After a few weeks, when I realised I was out of control I was desperate to be caught. I would deliberately exercise by the windows so nurses would see.
As with learning to eat in a normal way, I too had to learn to exercise in a normal way. This was hard as I had gone from the extreme of doing it as many times as I could per day, to being completely banned. But as my BMI increased, the nurses realised actually how important running was to me. I was allowed out for three 20minute runs a week with one of the nurses. I loved these times, we would go for short runs around the lake in a park nearby. I knew that the other girls struggled with me going, but I didn't care.
In 2011, I did the London marathon. This was a huge achievement for me. But in hindsight I hadn't been well enough to do it. I trained every day, and barely carb loaded. After my long runs, I would be too exhausted to do anything, and sleep for hours. At the time I thought everything was okay, but that is what makes anorexia so hard to fight. It creeps up on you, gradually controlling you, and you barely even realise.
Some might say I still exercise too much, but how do we know what too much is? Working out in a healthy manner is what's important. I have lost the agitations and anger that I used to get when I wasn't able to work out. I am now able to relax when I don't go, and I go now cause I enjoy it.
My advice for those who do exercise as a form of their eating disorder is to to reconsider how much is too much? What do you feel when you don't go? Can you have a recovery day? The anorexia will make you go, but it is up to you to fight it.
Stand tall against the world. Remember my story and be strong.