If you are struggling with an eating disorder, confidential support is available via the The Butterfly Foundation. Call 1800 ED HOPE to speak to a trained counsellor.
For years now, I’ve watched even the strongest people around me crumble and break down over my illness. My mind has been chaos, my body has been a mess and my life has been in grave danger. But even still, I wasn’t ready to change.
I’ve had six hospital admissions since my diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. Every single one of them was voluntary (though in some respects, there were a few occurrences where I wasn’t really given an option). I’ve never been fed through a tube or had to have serious medical intervention, but if I had refused to be admitted I would’ve come close.
It’s quite a common conundrum, though; choosing to go into hospital to ‘get well’ and wanting ‘recovery’ so bad, yet knowing how to play the system to your greatest advantage and still having a drive to lose weight or an inexplicable fear of putting it on when you come out. It is just such a battle with your mind and body that you can’t explain to anybody who has never experienced it.
In September of 2017, after I was discharged from my most recent hospital admission I went on a date with a boy. Someone from my past with whom I’d previously shared a little bit of romantic history but never anything serious. So I wasn’t taking it seriously this time.
However, as days turned into weeks and weeks into months, I grew to liking him quite a lot (which was an utterly confusing emotion for me – how was there even room in my brain for somebody else?). As much as I hoped the feeling was reciprocated (not the confusion, the liking me back part) and even though I think I knew deep down that he was actually quite fond of me (go figure), I was petrified it wasn’t going to go anywhere. I thought that he was still just having fun, so I was still fucking around with food all day and engaging in restrictive behaviours. I guess in a sense, I was also scared that if I did make significant weight gain, he would no longer find me attractive.
My first turning point.
I had a holiday coming up with my family over the New Year break. For most people, holidays are something to look forward to. Relaxation, food, wine, swimming and a break from reality for a while. For someone with a highly restrictive eating disorder, they are anxiety provoking and are approached with apprehension. I really wanted to enjoy myself, but I knew I would be watched like a hawk. There was no escaping this one.
I followed my revised meal plan and also consumed alcohol on top of it (not every day, but most days), and to my surprise NOTHING HAPPENED. My weight did not balloon, in fact, it didn’t even make a dent. On the plane on the way home though, my mum asked me if I enjoyed myself, to which I replied that I had. She then said something which might not sound so profound to a healthy person, but really hit the nail on the head for me.
“I’m glad you had a good time, but I hope you don’t look back one day and think about what you missed out on; that ice-cream I saw you eyeing off at the parlour every-time we walked past, walks on the beach because you can’t move around too much, or all those fruit juices you said you were going to try.”
I wanted to cry. She was right, I had missed out, yet again.
My second turning point.
A few weeks later, I went to the tennis with said ‘fellow in my life,’ this shocked me at first because he got the tickets from work and chose to take me instead of one of his brothers or his mates (maybe this is more than what I expected). Anyway, we got drunk and it was really fun.