health

"It's complete and utter hell." The reality of living with an eating disorder.

The following is an extract from Monica Kade’s book, The Storm Under My Skin. 

Now, for anyone who still believes eating disorders are a desirable way to live, let me give you the reality check on this lifestyle.

It is complete and utter hell. The eating disorder is a web you become deeply tangled in and it binds you in place with one monotonous thought cycle. It’s vicious, brutal and will tear down anything in its path.

Want to pursue your dreams? Forget about it. Want to travel, meet friends or go out and socialise? Forget that too.

Eventually purchasing clothes becomes something you avoid to protect your thin body from prying eyes. Your mind will be taken over by a ruthless parasite. Welcome to a cold, dark world where love doesn’t exist, fun is superficial and connection to self and others is dead. You live here alone as a hostage to your mind.

Everything you can do when you are healthy becomes obsolete with this disorder because your day to day life revolves around food. Whether it’s going out for coffee, lunch or dinner, to a friend’s place or even to work, having an eating disorder means you have to plan ahead and be meticulous in protecting your secret from the outside world. In the beginning, it’s not too bad. You learn to manage it but eventually this monster inside you grows into something that no words can explain and it manages you.

Slowly you shut down to the world and your light begins to dim. You lose any sense of joy. You find temporary happiness, sometimes through drinking and partying, which I found was the only time I didn’t feel what I was going through – but even that is short lived.

Eventually, your body is so weak that running your daily errands depletes you so significantly that you must regularly take rests and nap.

I remember I stopped attending university lectures because it was too cold. Despite the layers I wore, I couldn’t warm myself, so I just stopped going. Plus, I found it so exhausting walking through the grounds, up and down stairs and back again. If I did go, I’d have to come home and have a little sleep. The body begins to operate in ways that are going to consume less energy and keep vital organs functioning.

My increased need to nap supported energy restoration and some degree of healing but the mind fails to run efficiently. There are holes in your reality; your memory is bleak, especially the deeper you go into the illness. You don’t remember what you did that morning, let alone last week. Your mind is vague and you are absent.

Taking a shower was mostly done with my eyes closed. Sometimes I would sit down because it was too tiring to stand. And half the time I couldn’t remember if I took a shower or not? Sometimes I’d figure it out but other times, I had no recollection of the event whatsoever.

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You can forget sleeping well for many reasons; hunger pangs, body aches, anxiety, an overactive mind and stress to name a few. At night, I began grinding my teeth and I wasn’t able to sleep with my legs together nor on top of one another because my knee, ankle and shin bones would painfully dig into each other. In the more critical stages of the illness, I had crazy nightmares. Ones about losing my teeth or consuming masses of food and waking up completely uncertain if it was a dream or not, to the point where I’d panic until my mind worked out I hadn’t eaten a thing.

Laying or sitting down on concrete had to be done with complete care or avoided because your spine protrudes and there’s hardly any cushioning on your butt. Let’s not forget the pain of misjudging a doorway, which on any regular day can be painful. But when you’ve got no padding on most of your body and limited muscle, whatever you bump into tends to cause bruising virtually immediately.

On top of that, your eyesight worsens, you feel down, depressed and are only ever thinking about food, your body and weight. There is very limited space in the mind for anything (or anyone) outside of this illness. Your thoughts are vicious and antagonising. They loudly whisper abuse around your appearance, tell you how terrible a person you are, how much a failure you’ve become and that nobody cares about you. Bulimia screams at you to eat food and bring it up back.

If you resist, the thoughts just get louder and more intense. Anorexia holds a knife to your throat the moment you entertain the idea of food. You’d better get back on that treadmill and keep your mouth shut. At times, you feel like you’re going crazy.

It was due to the abusive mind chatter that I started to believe that maybe it would be better for everyone if I died and then I wouldn’t be such a burden (and then I’d be free from this madness).

Any sense of humour that you may have is also swallowed up by your egoic mind. You contract and shrink mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically each day.

You can follow Monica on Instagram and Facebook.

You can pre-order a copy of The Storm Under My Skin, here

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website, here.

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