Rach’s powerful post on her struggle with anorexia and her journey through recovery
This is a story about a girl who nearly lost the person she was to an illness that wanted her dead.
Nobody understood her; she was bullied by her own friends and called ugly by a boy at school; she felt like she didn’t fit in anywhere nor was she clever enough. She wanted to be invisible so nobody could pick on her anymore. So she listened to the voice that appeared in her head. The little girl’s voice that whispered, “You’re worthless; you’re fat; you’re disgusting; your life would be better if you were thin.”
The girl started to skip mealtimes and exercise up to 3 hours a day. She became obsessed with weighing herself, with losing weight and staying out of the house to avoid food. It got to the point that she could go four days without eating.
Her friends were worried about her but the only help they could find was on pro-ana sites. These sites promoted anorexia and told visitors not to listen to their friends and family, as everyone just wanted you to be fat.
The girl began to visit these sites daily, staring at the protruding ribs and spines on the girls shown in thinspiration photos.
Her mother desperately tried to find help; her father didn’t understand, believing she was doing it for attention.
The girl started to withdraw into herself more, until she could hear no-one but anorexia. Losing weight was something she excelled at.
She wanted to be in control, but sadly she did not realise that anorexia actually controlled her. Soon she couldn’t concentrate on her college work and she found it hard to breathe. It hurt to do her exercises but she forced herself through the gruelling hours. She was cold all the time, even on a hot summers day. It hurt to sit down and to take a bath because the bones in her back and bottom stuck out so much.
Soon anorexia and the health authorities caught up with her. Her BMI was only 12 and she was sent to a children’s unit. There, her life came crashing down. With no beds available, she was made an outpatient but she still had to obey by rules. She was a prisoner in her own home. She wasn’t allowed to go out; she couldn’t drive or go to work. She had to start eating three meals a day as well as drink three supplement drinks a day.
She hadn’t realised how much damage she had done to her body. She had osteoporosis, her brain had shrunk and her heart had started to eat itself. She was weeks from death.
The girls name is Rachel. The girl is me. It took me five years to recover from anorexia, the thing I once viewed as my best friend. Instead, she turned me into a selfish, lying, self-obsessed monster.
Although anorexia is the worst thing to have happened to me, it is also the best thing to have happened. I appreciate my life more now; I take risks and I do everything that I have dreamed about doing. I have been to New Zealand twice by myself; I have swum with dolphins and I have been in love. I have lived in France and I have a degree in French and German. As an ambassador for Beat (national charity for eating disorders), I have met inspirational people, I have given presentations at the House of Commons and various medical conferences.
Anorexia has also taught me more about the world and appreciating other people. I am closer to my family now and know who my real friends are. I am also happier with the person that I am. Although anorexia will always be a part of me, she is not my whole identity.
I believe that true recovery is obtained when you put yourself back into the real world, as it highlighted to me how much I was missing out on. It took me 18 months to decide I wanted to recover, a further nine months to reach my target weight and two years and nine months to be discharged from the unit, with the request that my therapist did not want to see me in there again!
Recovery was full of arguments, lies and fear. I argued about how much food I had to eat and I argued with my unit about my treatment. I lied to my mother about food I hid and the secret exercise. But most of all I was scared. I was frightened of losing anorexia as who was I without her? I also felt sick at the mere thought of food, looking as if I was being poisoned with every mouthful.
Through a lot of hard work, I realised I was more than just anorexic and I wanted to reach my potential. After all, eating disorders can be beaten.
It is hard to be motivated sometimes, especially when you’re really trapped in your eating disorder. I thought I would write down some ideas that have helped me along the way, in the hope that they might help you too.
I know from experience and what others have told me that it is better to have small, manageable goals rather than one big unachievable aim. Instead work day to day or week by week.
I’ve found it useful to have colourful posters on my bedroom walls; especially when I used to spend most of my time in there!
Put inspirational quotes on your wall
Make a poster of celebrities who are curvy and who you think are beautiful
Make a list of incentives to eat
Remind yourself what you want out of life
Throw yourself into the real world – get a job, go to university/college, socialise
Write down compliments you’ve received – keep a book of them
Carry a little book around with you filled with quotes, compliments and goals. Look at this when you’re feeling down or attempting to eat by yourself
Try to be in contact with recovered anorexics – shows that you can beat this illness; support each other and offer advice
Spend time with people who love and cherish you
Remember that anorexia is your enemy not your friend
Do nice things for yourself
Reward yourself when you manage to do a hard task
Write down five happy things that happened to you that day
This week, February 26 through March 3, is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. It’s about bringing public attention to eating disorders and the prominent impact they have in our society. Because eating disorders are often accompanied by isolation and shame, the seriousness of these…