I am a strong, beautiful, passionate young woman with a bright future ahead of me. Four years ago, I would not have been able to describe myself in such a way. Four years ago, I was trapped in the claws of anorexia nervosa, an incredibly vicious eating disorder that is misread and swept under the carpet by the alarming majority.
After an entire year of visiting the doctor and receiving bumper sticker statements (“oh, it’s just a phase” and “just eat a little bit more and you will be fine”) I was referred to a mental health service. I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and with no say on my end of the stick, admitted straight into hospital. I spent one month as an inpatient and this was not a once-off event. You see, recovery is an extremely rocky journey and over the 2013-2015 period I was admitted to hospital on four separate occasions for physical stabilisation. What is scarier than me typing these figures out, scarier than my freakishly low body mass, heart rate or the shutting down of my internal organs is the fact that I didn’t care. I was so totally and utterly consumed by the voice of my eating disorder that I simply dismissed the possibility of death and continued down this path of self-denial. This was my life day in, day out, witnessed by family, friends, teachers and peers. I had fallen so deep into this dark place that I would rather suffer than surrender control. I was put on anti-depressants after an attempt to take my life and I was constantly fearing food. Food, food and more food, it was everywhere and I hated it – I’d hide it in my pockets, down my bra, in my drawers, and there came a point where water was feared in much the same way.
With this explanation, I hope that you can see that anorexia nervosa is most definitely not a phase. Contrary to popular belief, it is also not simply a matter of losing weight. This is the by-product, the symptom of an illness that saturates the mind and in turn, damages the body. If you are reading this and you have experienced/are experiencing an eating disorder of any description, you will know that it is not a matter of choice; nobody chooses to have an eating disorder, they are triggered by all or one of biological, psychological, and/or environmental factors.
Similarly, it is isn’t an easy hold to break out of. Four years on and many weekly counselling sessions later, although I can proudly say that I am no longer consumed by this illness, I am still at war. I still have battles to fight and challenging decisions to make, however I do believe in complete healing and restoration. I remind myself every day of how lucky I am to have a rhythm in my heart and a pair of lungs that fill with air. I remind myself of the places I want to go in life, the people I want to meet and help, the things I want to do, see and hear. As my therapist put it, I am healing ‘one day at a time, one meal at a time and one bite at a time’ and I want to extend the heart of this message to every beautiful being who is struggling/has struggled with mental illness – you are worthy of wholeness, you are worthy of goodness and you will find your hope amidst the hopelessness. Trust me, I have been there and to my absolute surprise, I am no longer there!! If I can do it, you can too. xx