My hellish journey with anorexia nervosa started in early childhood. I became afraid of food, consumed by the fear that it would make me poorly. I was a perfectionistic and precise child and as I grew, anorexia grew with me and shaped itself into a comfort and a barrier through whatever it was that I was struggling with. I began self-harming in primary school, banging my head against the toilet wall for getting a question wrong in class. All these stereotypical 'teenager illnesses' began before I was even ten years old but it was brushed off as fussy eating. I wasn't diagnosed with anorexia until I was a teenager and far within the depths of the illness.
In the grips of anorexia I would survive on a miniscule meal a day, I'd be so cold that my skin would turn purplish in a heated house, I'd cry at the ache in my legs, the feeling of my body eating my muscles. There is a reason they call it 'painfully thin'. I would obsess over food constantly, my entire day would be spent staring at pictures of food on the internet or reading recipe books and I would have planned every mouthful that I would eat for the next two weeks. I didn't care about anything other than food and calories, I couldn't hold a conversation with my family, I lost interest in my passions: dance, fashion, writing and creativity. It all disappeared. I wasn't me, I was wholly anorexia. Anorexia pushed me into a corner and I truly believed that the only way to get out of the situation was to die and I came scarily close to death after a very serious suicide attempt.
I've also battled with over-exercise to the point I would exercise from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night too. I was addicted to laxatives and would take ten times the recommended dose every single day for years. My most distressing behaviour was binge eating. A few years ago I tried to attempt recovery from anorexia alone after I was let down by NHS services and it turned into a horrific binge/purge cycle. I would wake up and have a bowl of cereal and it would turn into another and another and then I'd be sat on the kitchen floor shovelling biscuits, crisps, chocolate, chips and whatever else I could find into my mouth. I'd eat icing and drink vinegar. I didn't enjoy any of the food, it'd scratch my throat and I'd bite my cheeks whilst tears rolled down my face and I couldn't stop it. One day I sat in bed with a dominos order and the windows open so that my parents wouldn't smell it. I binned the cardboard boxes in the park on the way to end my life because I couldn't take anymore. I didn't believe the binge eating would ever stop but it did eventually.
I've been hospitalised for anorexia many times and each time has been horrific. I can't believe there are people out there who think anorexia is glamorous! I was watched 24/7, whilst I went to the bathroom, bathed and slept there was always at least one pair of eyes on me. Having my urine measured, being watched whilst naked in a bath and having so many blood tests every day that my veins were collapsing was not glamorous at all and I shed many tears over shame alone. Then there was the homesickness, the pain of refeeding and the guilt anorexia made me feel. I actually felt like calories were crawling on my skin. Bubbling. Itching. Two months of being on the same ward day after day was horrible.
I'm in recovery now and whilst eating is still a daily battle I feel positive. I want to live my life and see the world, for the first time ever I am excited for the future. I'm working on a project with Fixers to tell people the truth about anorexia and what it is like to be sectioned because I have come across a worrying number of people who aspire to have mental illnesses and be sectioned. I really want to make a difference. I have always wanted to do something for eating disorders awareness week but I've never been well enough. This year I will be climbing a mountain with my best friend to raise money for the eating disorder charity, b-eat. I chose a mountain because I think it represents recovery from an eating disorder. Towards the top of the mountain it feels hardest, you are exhausted from all the walking and it's getting harder and harder but that's because you are nearly there and once you reach the top it feels amazing. You are alive. You may slip down the mountain but no matter what you are never back at the beginning, you are never stood back in the car park. You are still on the journey to recovery.
Useful websites and helplines:
Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393