12 July 2016

Taboo Talk #4: Battling Eating Disorders (TW) | #SpeakUp

Hello lovely readers! I've been sitting on this post for a few days now and have edited, cut, chopped it up and almost deleted it a few times. It's been a little while since my last Taboo Talk, (icymi I am now a fully fledged tree hugger) so this is a rare and more serious post than the ushe. Youj? Youje? The usual. *breathes* Bare with me!

There will be a more upbeat and positive post in the next couple of days that I'm excited to share with you! For now, I'm not usually one for over sharing and it's incredibly difficult for me to talk about this still. In fact I usually avoid the subject all together!
Hence why it's super scary for me to post and promote this. I feel that less of us need to be scared of addressing this topic so here goes-

A few mornings ago I read a guest post by Robyn from OhSoDaisy over at Thrifty Vintage Fashion, explaining what it's like to live with an eating disorder. She summed it up perfectly; all encompassing, life revolving, it's a cycle that you can't break.

This isn't going to be a sob story. I want to highlight the invisible struggle of these illnesses that are STILL prevalent in young girls and boys, more than we know. Not enough people understand or take eating disorders seriously. I wanted to write my experience and recovery story as a source of comfort, knowledge or inspiration for any of my readers who might be suffering or know/suspect someone is suffering from an eating disorder.

They are life threatening. They are not a fashion trend- lets reduce the stigma and taboo.

I'm 20 now, and was around 13-14 when eating disorders began to play a part in my life. It started with cutting out snacks and desserts, then I didn't want to drink sugary drinks anymore (I still don't drink cordial out of habit), then it turned into looking into ways lose weight. Looking back, I wasn't fat. I was of average weight, lean and the parts of my body I ridiculed weren't all that different from the people I admired.

There was so much sneaky behaviour I indulged in when all of this started, which comes 'naturally' with eating disorders. You're ashamed but need someone to talk to, need people to indulge your self-hatred. Twitter was a cesspool for these types of people- whom were also sick but encouraged it in others. I'm sure I encouraged others weight loss too; there was a network of anonymous accounts encouraging eating disorders, referring to Anorexia and Bulimia as your friends 'ana and mia'.

After I let all of this sink into my easily influenced mind I began competing with myself. When I reached a new lowest weight I had to go lower, and lower, and lower.

*trigger warning*
At my lowest point I consumed no more than 50 calories a DAY- making excuses to miss dinner, hiding food and throwing away lunches. 

I still feel so guilty about this now because at the time my mum cooked all the meals and made the lunches. How cruel that an illness can make you disregard the care of loved ones. Oh god now I'm crying haha, she really put up with a lot of things. Love you meems!!

Eating disorders are a mind controlling, all powerful disease. Eating disorders are a mental illness. When you reach a new low, you need to go lower, and while being frustrated that you're so cold and hungry, you want to shrink away more.

Then came the therapy; I attended CAHMS for I'm not sure how long throughout senior school and in all honesty the sessions just made me more angry and defensive. At one point I was even worse than at the start and was told that if I sank any lower I'd have to go into hospital. It all started with cutting out snacks. See what I'm pointing? 

It all begins with the smallest, most thoughtless string of decisions, or behaviours.

So CAHMS didn't help, most likely because I didn't want to get better. The eating disorder was so invested in my brain that it became a sole purpose and goal for everyday. In the end I ended up so depressed about myself and life that I RESENTED help, was angry at those who tried to help me, becoming even more secretive and causing other issues that I won't touch on today.
I struggled this way with starving myself (or 'fasting' as the anonymous Twitter demons would call it) which eventually led me to throwing up when I did eat. Not everything- the worst part for me at that time was that I didn't look, or I thought I didn't look thin. There were barely any signs of this mental illness on the outside.

That's so, so, so important to remember- that if someone tells you they're struggling that they probably ARE. They aren't seeking attention and it's most likely taken a hell of a lot of courage to ask for help. I can't even remember who/what/how I ended up going to CAHMS.

Signs and Symptoms: 
With bulimia, sufferers can get a puffy face from water retention after throwing up. Bulimics are often average weight or even overweight. I'm not sure about now but anorexia has a low weight criteria for diagnosis (which I disagree with COMPLETELY, if someone is mentally ill and starved of nutrients then they are sick). So you see how hard it can be to spot someone suffering?

Excessive chewing, water loading, moving food around and hiding food even under other food on the plate are also signs that someone is struggling with an ED. Secretive behaviour (excessive exercise, secret logging, stashing and binging) are also signals that someone might need help. At one point I used to chew gum and tap my foot for the whole day because I heard it could burn calories, ridiculous I know. But you wouldn't have guessed I was doing these things to harm myself!
---
Recovering:
I can't recall what it was that made me want to get better, but I began forcing myself to eat breakfast as a way to start the day. Before that I used to count every midnight as a new day- I was obsessed with this idea- that it was a new day at that point and I could begin again. So I used that to my advantage and forced myself to eat, so that I had already dipped my foot in the water for that day.

These little behavioural changes made a world of difference. After I slowly began to be comfortable with the idea of meals again, and tried my very best to not purge (this was so difficult) and after what was more than a few what I considered 'relapses', then a few years of my brain instantly telling me what the calories of everything I ate was (I'd learned them all from years of reading packets) and making a CONSCIOUS effort to not add up calories or step on a scale,  things started to get better.

Honestly stepping on a scale or weighing yourself regularly if you're already struggling or trying to recover isn't going to help at all. You need to get away from the numbers.
In 2012, in the midst of recovering, I had anaphylaxis that you can read about on my mum's old blog, and the whole time that my body was giving in I was trying not to panic thinking "This isn't any worse than what you've done to yourself" over and over in my head. It was this experience that made me realise that I never, ever wanted to treat myself so horrifically ever again and that I did want to not just live but THRIVE. 

Never let any illness define you.

I'm not saying it takes an experience like that to recover but it certainly has kept me away from relapse. I think I'm pretty much in the safe zone now, years free! I'm now living at university with my boyfriend and friends, I don't even think about calories (click to see why diets don't work), I forgive myself for weight gain, eat relatively healthy but most importantly I'm sooo happy. Food is one of my greatest joys in life now! Cooking is something I do everyday.

I might never be as toned or trim as Kylie Jenner but who gives a flying feck. These things are not important. Learning that the hard way sucked, but I want use my experience for good to spread that message.

Knowing how damn EASY it is to be gripped by this mental illness is so important. It could happen to your boyfriend, your best friend, your mum, sister, girlfriend, even yourself.

I hope that this has made at least a few people realise just how damaging, non-glamourous, painful and cruel eating disorders are. They are not a trend, they are a STRUGGLE. I also hope that it's helped you to hear a story of recovery if you are struggling or suspect someone you love might be. All you can do is talk to them, don't get angry, it will push them away further. Be understanding that these secrets they have and the way that they damage themselves is because there's some part of them telling them that they have to or need to. It's as cognitive and ingrained as OCD!

Treat others with kindness, show love and empathise with those struggling. Never aspire to an eating disorder. You might lose your life.  #SpeakUp


If this post has affected you and you want to chat, drop me a comment or my inbox is always open! E-mail in sidebar. Lets reduce stigma together!
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