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Notes from an Anorexia survivor

by AMANDA DALLIMORE

I am 27 now, but I was first diagnosed with anorexia at 16, after starting a diet at 14. I think I am going to be stuck this way forever, I’ve had it nearly half my life and I can’t remember life without it. Every day since I was 16 has been ruled by food and exercise and weight. It’s my first thought when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to bed.

Every time I get dressed, try on clothes or look in the mirror I am reminded of it and confronted with feelings of not being good enough. For ten freaking years there has been a voice in my head (she sits in the front right of my forehead) bullying me and dictating my every move. I traveled the world trying to escape it but she followed me everywhere I went. I went to the most amazing cities and all I can remember is what I did or didn’t eat.

There were moments where I thought it was going to kill me, and often I just wished it would so I could escape the hell that I was trapped in.  But that would be an easy out and anorexia is too cruel, instead I must suffer with my thoughts and feelings of self-hatred.  I would lie awake at night in pain, from hunger and the cold, praying that when I stood on the scales the next morning they would be down.

I can’t tell you the rush I’d get from seeing that number go down.  It was the same feeling I’d get when I’d feel hungry or dizzy, as this would mean I was winning.  Similarly, when I’d manage to skip a meal or hide my food I’d get a rush, a high, I was in control, I was beating them all.  My competitive nature and desire for perfection only fueled the disease.

I hate what it’s done to me. I hate it so much yet I would never give it up. I can’t. I can’t give up control of my body.  And yes, I see the irony in this as I’m not in control, the illness is – it’s very hard to explain.

I feel such enormous guilt for what it’s done to my family. I

hate what I’ve put them through and what they’ve had to witness. The screaming matches I had with my mum as she tried desperately to make me eat.  She was doing it out of love but all I could see was her trying to destroy me and all my hard work.  I can never take back some of the things I’ve said to them during hysterical moments when it completely took over my mind and body.

Nicole Richie and Mary Kate Olsen were my thinspiration. I had pictures of them from magazines and the internet in the drawer by my bed and each night I’d lie there looking at them, counting calories and going over my exercise and how I would ‘be good’ and not eat the next day.

I feel bad sharing my story because I worry people think, ‘what does she have to be down about?’ From the outside, I have a nice life. I have a lovely family, amazing friends and a good education and career. I grew up in a nice house in a nice suburb and had everything I could’ve wished for. I realise how lucky I am, I honestly do. And the last thing I want is people’s pity. I don’t feel I deserve it. I just don’t want anyone else to have to go through this, or to hate themselves so much.

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I am definitely much better than I was and my weight is at a much healthier level but it still rules my world. If I slip up and eat something bad or miss a gym session I feel like the world is going to end. The feelings of self loathe are intensified. For now, I compromise and remain at a healthy weight and eat healthy foods.  I would like to be thinner, I always will, but I also want to be happy and to have a life so I stay in this limbo land, not sick but not normal, somewhere in-between.

I was doing quite well until last year when it manifested itself into something else altogether. I fell into a deep depression and I couldn’t get out. I ended up in a private psychiatric hospital for six weeks. It took away the life from within me. I lost all joy, passion and feelings of life. I felt like I was drowning.

I had no idea why I was trapped in this hell. I felt so miserable but I also felt so guilty for feeling that way. There were people out there fighting for their lives yet I just wanted mine to be over.  I never understood how someone could actually have the guts to kill themselves. Wouldn’t they be too scared? Until I found myself in that very situation, three times in fact. I was at absolute rock bottom. The pain, the sadness and the desperation inside me were killing me and I couldn’t go on.

My own family didn’t understand and their frustration came across as anger and I felt that they had given up on me. If they didn’t love me then who ever would? I was convinced their lives would be better without me. Mum and Dad and my beautiful younger brother would be sad and shocked initially, but they’d get over it soon enough and they wouldn’t have to deal with me anymore, no more tears, no more drama. I was exhausted, so tired of fighting. Somewhere inside I was still that 16yr old girl just wanting to be thin. Ten years later and I couldn’t do it anymore, the thoughts had gotten the better of me.

I felt like I was walking around in a bubble.  I was numb to the outside world.  There were days when I simply couldn’t face it, I couldn’t get out of bed.  I started missing work, a job that I’d once loved, and I thought they wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t turn up. No one would miss me.  To get to the train to get to work I had to cross a busy street.

Some days I just couldn’t do it.  Sometimes I’d stand there for nearly an hour trying to get the courage to cross the road, and some days I simply couldn’t do it.  You see, I was convinced everyone stopped in their cars were judging me, thinking she’s too fat, too ugly, they were angry with that fat beast for making them stop.

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After a very difficult year, a lot of treatment, support and a ridiculous amount of prescription drugs (which ironically make me lose weight) I am getting better each day. When that voice pops up and gives me a hard time I tell her to f*ck (sorry) the hell off and leave me alone. I hate her so much. I want to be happy, I really do, but I don’t think it will ever leave me alone. I am too scared of giving it up, the thought terrifies me. I’m trying hard though. But it’s really, really hard. Maybe in time she will fade away to a whisper then disappear altogether.  My eating and my exercise still rule my life but I’m learning to relax and be kinder to myself.  There’s even the odd mirror moment where I catch myself smiling at myself.

The medication took some getting used to, both physically and mentally.  I am an organic loving health nut so being comfortable with putting all these drugs in my system was hard.  I had resisted them for so long, I was terrified they would make me relax and start eating and I’d get fat.  I was also scared that I’d lose control of my head and my thoughts.  It wouldn’t be me thinking or feeling things but the drugs.

At first they gave a lot of side effects and it was hard to stick with them, how could something that made you feel so bad be doing any good?  Eventually they eased up and did their thing.  After about a month I remember saying to my psychologist that I just felt really weird.  I’d notice I was giggling at things and feeling odd.  The feeling was happiness, it was just that it was so foreign to me.  My serotonin levels had been depleted for so long and now I was experiencing all sorts of new emotions.­­

I guess the point of all this and sharing my story is that I want it to help people.  Last year I was convinced I was going to be trapped like this forever.  Other people could get better but not me.  I didn’t deserve it.  It was irreversible and it was all I knew.  I’d been this way for too long and there was no hope for me.  My body and my brain resisted all forms of treatment.  I had decided that if I was still stuck this way at 30 that was it, I’d be done.  I’d rather die than live the rest of my life feeling this way.

I don’t know­­­ how or why, but all of a sudden something shifted in my head and I decided to fight for my life.  It’s the hardest bloody thing I’ve ever done and I am giving it everything I have.  At first it was a case of one step forward two steps backwards but now I seem to have gained some momentum and I’m getting healthier every day.

I have a lot of living to make up for. I’m now excited about the future and excited to get out of bed each day. I am so grateful for everything I have. It’s like I’m living for the first time. I feel alive.

If this post brings up any issues for you, please contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673).

Amanda is a 27 year old Perth girl living in Melbourne, in the pursuit of happiness.

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