Updated: May 8, 2022
Firstly a warning. This is my personal story of anorexia and the journey to recovery. There are some bits you might find upsetting. My intention is to educate and inspire. I won’t be offended if you don’t read it.
Incase you are wondering, my childhood was perfectly normal. I’m the eldest of 4 girls and was brought up in beautiful Hertfordshire countryside. There is no reason that I should have developed anorexia. I remember feeling very emotional as a child and worrying about things children wouldn’t normally worry about but on the whole I was pretty average.
I remember learning about anorexia at school from another student who had been through it. She bravely told her story to the entire school during an assembly. I must have been around 12-13 and I distinctly remember turning to the girl next to me and saying. “I could never be anorexic, I like my food too much.”
I was always quite a big girl but I say wouldn’t say I was fat. I was tall and “robust”. I vaguely recall becoming body conscious as I hit puberty and generally hating what was happening to me. I couldn’t manage my emotions and I think I must have been difficult to deal with. It is fair to say that my relationship with my mum was not great. But then I’m not alone there!
I cannot really recall how it all started, I think, like many teenagers, I wanted to lose weight and so I ate less. Anorexia hit me like a train and before I knew it I was scared of pretty much every food and my poor parents were left floundering. They took me to the GP who must have advised them to try and get me to eat because our house became a constant war zone, they would try and make me eat and i would find ways to avoid doing so.
I got to the point where my weight was so low that my grandad thought I had some muscle wasting disorder and my periods stopped. I was cold all the time and my body started producing hair in an attempt to keep me warm. Luckily my dad had health cover and I became an outpatient at a very nice clinic. I remember, in my assessment , the doctor explained why women have periods and how, if I didn’t start eating, I might become infertile. I was 14 and was not in the least bit interested. I was still seething because my mum had tried to put coleslaw in my ham sandwich. Little did either of us know how much grief I was going to cause that poor doctor in the months to come!
I recall my poor dad driving me to that clinic day in day out. I didn’t care then, but the strain my entire family was under was unbearable. I think it’s important to recognise that as bad as it is for the sufferer, they are often only concentrating on themselves, the family suffer just as much and for me that’s the most painful part of this illness. The pain I caused them is immeasurable.
Time passed and I was able to make no progress. I did want to get better but I was so mentally week, I felt like anorexia was “eating me alive” ! I was admitted to the clinic as the only child in an adult mental health clinic and I wasn’t an easy patient! That poor doctor would come looking for me every time I absconded or wondered to areas of the hospital that I wasn’t meant to me in! I can tell you some great stories about that place but that’s not for today! They did their best and they kept me alive so I owe them a great deal of thanks!
Sadly my funding ran out after 4 months and I was sent home again. Despite everyones best efforts my condition declined and I was taken to Great Ormand Street hospital for assessment. I was told that my organs were failing and I had 2 days to live. As the words were delivered, all I could think about was how I could burn off the calories of my sugar free chewing gum! I was sick!
The day after my 15th birthday we went to check out a hospital especially designed for children with ED, or so I thought. What actually happened was, my mum had packed my bags and I was not leaving that place. I remember my first night, feeling betrayed and angry and clinging to a radiator because I was so bloody cold!
I spent the best part of a year in that place! On reflection it was good for me but my god was it hard going! By the time I came out I was nearly 16. My friends were doing things that normal teenagers were doing and I was still essentially a child! My drive to be normal and fit in was the same as every other kid my age but of course I was different. I had been through a lot of shit and I had no idea how to transition.
Going back home was hard. I still felt bitter about being abandoned and found it hard to conform to the structure of home and school. I was a rebel without a cause and my eating still was not “normal”. This rebellion went on for three more years until I transitioned again into adulthood. I met my husband to be and started getting my shit together. I realised that I was carrying a lot of anger and other emotional baggage, not least guilt for what I had put my family through. I had distanced myself from them in some poor attempt to protect them from me. My husband helped me realise that I had two choices, draw a line in the sand and move on, or live in the past and sabotage my future.
From then on I worked hard, probably for the first time during this journey, to beat my anorexia for good. I took it all on, no excuses, no bullshit. I held myself to account and I wasn’t giving up until I had my life back. It took years and i was worried that when it came for my husband and I to have kids that I wouldn’t be able to. The words of the doctor came ringing in my ears and only then did I realised the magnitude of his warning.
We were lucky, we got two great kids, then came the whole new battle. How do I protect them from this god awful disease…..afterall they are average kids being brought up by average parents and the statistics are bleak. Last time I checked 1/10 girls will get an eating disorder and while 60% recover that means 40% don’t!
I have never been back to those dark days, for at least 10 years I hardly spoke of them. I realise now that my story is part of who i am and may help others, my recovery may inspire them, it has certainly inspired me to work hard for what I want to achieve. I know now that I will never be anorexic again. I appreciate that is a bold statement but I am not that person anymore. I do love my food, as much as that 12 year old me listening in assembly, but I also love me and I’ll make damn sure that will never change.