My Anorexia Story & Things You Might Not Know About Eating Disorders
Recently I’ve noticed the the media seems to glamorise the subject of Mental Health for some bizarre reason. It’s seen as something cute to have, even fashionable! I don’t know why this has come about, it seems to have happened with a lot of Mental Health conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and even self harm.
I’ve wanted to write a post about the side effects of eating disorders for a while and seeing things like this is the media recently has motivated me to bite the bullet and write this now. I’m so nervous about telling my personal story, I’ve spent so long pretending it isn’t a problem and I’ve had a lot of negative comments said to me over the years, so I’m scared of the reaction this post will get. Still I’m a big believer that we can only get rid of the stigma around Mental Health (of all kinds) by talking about it, so I guess this is me practicing what I preach!
Now I just want to put a disclaimer and a warning in here: I’m not a doctor or medical professional of any kind! What I write here isn’t gospel, it’s just what I have found from my own personal experience with ED. If you’re concerned about anything you should always go and talk to a medical professional and always remember that no two people experiences things the same. Also I’m aware that some people can be triggered by things like this so just a little heads up that this post will cover eating disorders (anorexia) and the possible effects from them. If you think that this might upset you then please click the little X in the top corner and I’ll see you for my next post 🙂
So time for a little bit of back story on my eating disorder.
I’ve always had a bit of a problem with food, my family used to say things like “don’t eat that it will go straight to your hips” and “don’t eat that you’ll get fat”. This gave me a really negative view on food at a really impressionable age and I would regularly have days where I would eat as little as possible or even nothing at all if I could get away with it. It only lasted a day or two normally and then wouldn’t happen again for weeks or even months, so it didn’t impact on my life except to annoy my dad and have him shout at me he was going to force me to go to the doctors every so often.
Then when I was about 17 I caught that Novo bug that was going round. For anyone that doesn’t know what this is, it’s a really aggressive sickness bug that put a fair few people in hospital, it was that bad. Now I could count on one hand the number of times I’d even been sick before that point and I’d never had a problem with it. Don’t get me wrong I didn’t like it but it didn’t scare me or anything. But for some reason the thought of being sick absolutely terrified me this time, I’ve still not figured out why. It something that’s stayed with me and I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be stuck with the phobia for life now.
Now my brain in its infinite wisdom decided that the best way to stop me being sick was to not eat or drink anything and it seemed like a brilliant idea at the time! I never was sick (although that’s probably the anti sickness tablets I was taking like smarties rather than my brilliant logic…) but I noticed that I started loosing weight and liked the empty feeling that starving myself gave me, so I kept doing it. If there had been more information and awareness on eating disorders this behaviour and thinking would probably have pinged my radar but I never thought twice about what I was doing.
Anyway to cut a long story short it ended up turning into full blown anorexia, I was living off a cereal bar and a glass of water a day for about 4-6 months. My memories of this time are a bit off so I’m not quite sure how long it was. Seemed like forever at the time. When the bug finally left my system I carried on not eating because I liked how much weight I had lost. God only knows why when I look back on one of the only photos I have from this period of my life: I was ridiculously thin, you could see every bone in my body and I looked really ill!
I managed to kick myself out of this when I realised exactly how close to ending up in hospital I actually was. My parents have already lost one child, my brother, I wasn’t about to be the cause of them loosing their second. I slowly started to eat again and nearly two years on my relationship with food has improved loads. While I still relapse more often than I like to admit, I’m at a point where I can compensate somewhat and try and make up for the bad days. Its not perfect but I’m better than I was!
Now onto some of the things you might not know about eating disorders and the long term effects and consequences that it can cause.
Loose teeth/Bad gums.
This is something that can be caused by malnutrition and lack of vitamins according to the dentist. My front bottom two teeth are slightly loose and I can’t bite with them for fear that I’ll make them worse and end up loosing them. Even now they’re still a problem and I don’t know if they will ever go back to how they were.
Hair falls out.
The reason I cut my hair so short was because my hair was falling out and it had started to get quite bad. Don’t get me wrong I’d always wanted to try short hair since my mum has had it for most of my life and it looks lovely on her! I guess I would have been happier if I’d chosen to do it rather than having my hand forced somewhat. Luckily cutting my hair made it so much healthier and gave it back some of the thickness and life that it had lost. I’ve now managed to grow it back to shoulder length and it is so much healthier than it was even before I started with my eating disorder- guess there’s a silver lining in everything!
You gain so much weight when you enter recovery.
When I started to recover I slapped the weight straight back on. Now this wouldn’t bother me if I’d just gone back to the size I had been before. I was a health size 8 and 8 and a half stone…I’ve now got to the point where a size 12 can be tight and I weigh 10 stone. While most people would just say that this is a healthy size and not to worry about it, what you have to understand is that to go from one extreme to the other in a pretty short period of time is very difficult mentally. I am in a daily battle not to start starving myself again because I know it will make me loose weight. Instead I’m going to try and loose it the normal way, by eating healthy and exercise.
You’ll have constant headaches/be lethargic/have no energy.
This was a huge problem for me, I would have to go to college every other day and concentrate on my work while hardly having enough to energy to brush my teeth. No wonder I only just passed college. I was predicted DDM and I only scraped through with MMP which, to be fair I’m surprised I managed to get. Anyone who’s ever tried to work with a bad headache will know how hard it is to concentrate and I had one constantly! This nearly cost me a place at university and it’s only through some very good luck, a kind tutor and an unconventional journey that I’ve managed to get where I am now. One small thing can effect your whole life without you even realising!
You’ll loose a lot of your muscle strength.
I’ve always been pretty strong and prided myself on that fact but now I have almost no strength left in my arms and my legs aren’t as strong as I’m used to! I’m working on building them back up but it’s hard to do when they start shaking the second you start using them.
I’d love to hear your own experiences with eating disorders of any kind, I think it is still seen as a bit of a taboo subject and I’d love to change that!