Looking back to the past is both empowering and painful simultaneously. In 2010 my whole world disappeared, leaving me entangled into an illness that was going to take over my life for over five years. It has left me with many missed opportunities, delayed experiences, lost friendships, damaged relationships and even more horrific memories that I would rather not remember.
I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa which counts for only 10% of all eating disorder cases. What struck me the most in the beginning was the reality that was before me; it was not the stereotypical anorexic portrayal you see right across the media. When I was featured in the online newspapers, they asked for images of when I was at my lowest weight, what they didn’t mention was that it actually took 3 1/2 years to get there. I was classed at ‘underweight’ for the most part of my illness, which is most likely going to shock you.
Every year thousands of people are having to cope with the affects of a seriously debilitating illness, that can’t always be seen from them outside. My impression of an eating disorder before I was ill, is probably something very similar to what many people are still led to believe is the case; an extremely emaciated person who will not eat. However the vast majority of eating disorder sufferers are not underweight.
Yet the symptoms of all eating disorders can cause terrible affects to those who are ill and their loved ones around them. The stigma leads to far too many going undetected, embarrassed or ashamed of their illness because of the stigma attached to suffering with food related issues. At the start this really affected me, making it extremely hard to accept what was happening to me because I didn’t fit the stereotype.
Though as I mentioned previously, anorexia is not the most common eating disorder, 40% suffer from bulimia whilst the rest fit into an EDNOS. What is even more concerning is the lack of male sufferers being diagnosed because they are pressured into thinking that it is classed as a ‘female’ disorder, when it can affect any gender. I honestly believe that if the stigma was released that more males would be willing to accept their condition and seek help or prevention.
No matter what the diagnosis, eating disorders are not to be look upon as weak minded, there are torturous and life-threatening. The darkness casted over your mind is unbearable, clouding your vision of a future of any sort. To relay to you all what is was like, is really hard to compile together to make any sense. But what I can say is that it took me through to a point a self-destruction, no longer wanting to be tortured by my own mind. There was no sense of contentment with life, I hated everything about my being, with core beliefs that are still with me today – I am not good enough.
In the depths of my disorder, I had negative care from inpatient and outpatient care, that contributed the enforcement of my core beliefs. Becoming more consumed, I began to have obsessive compulsions to act out so many rituals like constantly washing and sanitising my hands, sitting in a certain chair, setting the kitchen table up precisely before I could even begin the battle to eat a morsel of food. Mental illnesses can often inter-link, as when one is improved, another grows stronger. Yet they are not always cared for together, which is what can cause a lot of sufferers (such as myself) to be seriously ill for far too long or to the point they can not ever fully recover.
Recovery was one of the hardest things I will ever have to do, specially when the state of the NHS services are so poor and underfunded that I can’t get over how I actually managed to do it on my own. It took an unthinkable event in my life to give me that huge drive to change my life, and I am so proud of the fact I was able to use it as a positive inspiration rather than allow it to pull be further down into the depths of anorexia.
Though recovery was so incredibly tough, the fight was worth standing the test of time for. I am now more at peace with myself, and have really begun to get to know who I truly am and love the person within. My appearance is just one part of me, something that will change over the years no matter how much I obsess of it, but one thing that will never change is my personality. To say “I am proud of myself” was unthinkable for as long as I can remember, yet this ‘Yellow Brick Road’ has shown me the way to inner-happiness and contentment.
Unfortunately, not everyone can do this alone, as I certainly couldn’t have done it without some form of support. My family were my rock throughout but they lacked the knowledge and advice from services to help us all through it safely and sooner than what actually happened. Sufferers need professional help, the right guidance, a support network and a general understanding from others that it is an acceptable illness and it is possible to recover.
I am so passionate about raising awareness for mental health issues, in particular eating disorders as I have seen and gone through a vast variety of experiences, that should not have been so terrible to live through. My sharing my story more and more, I really hope to make a difference, one way or another, giving others who are going through their own journeys that no matter what your beliefs, you too can find inner happiness.
You have the strength to overcome anything that life brings. There is always hope, never give up and you will become your own saviour
For more information on eating disorders and finding support for sufferers and their families please visit: https://www.b-eat.co.uk