Names have been changed to honour anonymity
The secrecy surrounding eating disorders
Reflecting on my struggles with food and body image, I starkly realised that I had not shared this with anyone before and yet it had ‘controlled’ my life for 15 years. Recently, I was reminded why I kept it ‘locked away’.
Someone asked me what I was writing:
“A blog” I said.
“Oh really, what about?” They ask.
“Eating disorders” I reply.
“Oh.” They say. Then leave the room.
It brought me back to that feeling of isolation I often experienced as a child and adolescent. Alone, scared, no control over my life.
What triggered my eating disorder?
I cannot exactly place what triggered my obsession with food control and excessive exercise, but food was often a point of stress. I was constantly being told how “fat” I was and reminded of having nowhere or no one to turn to when I cried.
At about age 14, life felt empty and pointless. GCSEs were looming - I was worried about my future. One day, after Christmas, I weighed myself. I had put on weight and hated it.
I decided to limit my food intake and it felt great. This was even encouraged by family members (which now would ring alarm bells). I started going to aerobic classes, loved it and wanted to pursue it as a career. The ‘high’ I was experiencing of not eating and exercising was like a drug, I felt so transformed, even my grades at school improved!
The eating disorder tightened its grip
It wasn’t long however, before the obsession tightened its grip and made me a prisoner. I couldn’t stop exercising, I couldn’t stop calorie counting, and if I did eat, the food had to be ‘pure’, or ‘clean’.
If I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror, I was utterly devastated. That meant I was not doing well enough, I had to try harder. It didn’t matter that I collapsed frequently, was cold all the time, I stopped menstruating, and was numb emotionally. In fact, I enjoyed the numbness and had to keep going.
I believe I was trying to help the little girl in me who, at age 5, looked down at her ‘rounded’ tummy and thought, “I’m not like the other kids, I’m different. I’m odd”.
I tried to reach out and told my tutor at school, realising I needed help. Her response was, well, not helpful at all!
“…an eating disorder? Might it have been something you ate?”
I gave up then.
I knew I had to stop but didn’t know how to. No support was available, so I just carried on.
People gradually noticed something was wrong
A concerned comment from my brother came out, “you’re painfully thin”, he said. My parents never noticed until then. As a result, I was frogmarched to the GP by Mum. The GP said I wasn’t ill enough to get help but gave me some brown tablets. I never knew what they were, but I took them. They caused me to binge eat. I couldn’t stop, so I went the other way and gained weight again. Well, I was out of supposed danger, but the pain inside remained.
The thinness returned and it took suicide attempts to get ‘noticed’. One of my many diagnoses was Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), which means that the affected person focuses on perceived flaws in their appearance. Well, at least that was something but, really, I battled with this on my own.
Going from strength to strength
Now, in the present day, I look at how far I have come. My partner and I had four large cooked breakfasts in a row this week, and I am okay about it.
I have put on weight in the last year and I am OK with it.
My body is not perfect (in the media sense), and I wobble when I walk, but I am okay with it.
Okay is acceptance. Okay is good.
My big regret is that I did not have access to a support service like SWEDA. If I had, my recovery may not have taken as long as 15 years, nor would I have felt as alone.
Being new to Somerset, I only discovered SWEDA’s existence in 2019. I looked them up and was amazed at the work they do. I wanted to be a part of this and signed up to be a Volunteer.
SWEDA is an incredibly supportive organisation and I am proud to be part of it.
If you are concerned you may have an eating disorder, get in touch with us. *Jude’s story proves that recovery is possible and that difficult life experiences can lead to promising futures. Many of our clients experience symptoms of multiple eating disorders and this is not uncommon. If you feel you can relate to *Jude’s story, get in touch today and begin your recovery journey.
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