My Anorexia recovery blog part 2
Hi y’all. I had planned to break my anorexia recovery blog into two parts, but honestly it has such distinct sections to it that I think it is better in three or four parts. This part will cover ages 13-19, the absolute worst time in my life, when I was first diagnosed with bulimic-type anorexia. Anorexia is characterised by starvation and low body weight, whereas bulimia is characterised by the binge-purging behaviour, and sufferers are usually normal weight. I was anorexic weight and had bulimic behaviour, so I fit into both categories.
I spoke in the first part a bit about my childhood and a couple of events that nudged me closer to becoming anorexic and bulimic. To clarify, there are other events and factors that I am sure were far more influential in ruining my mental health and were far greater risk factors in developing an eating disorder, but I don’t want to go into them. I didn’t randomly stop eating because someone noticed I’d put on weight aged 7 and then didn’t like my school uniform; I felt this was important to clarify to avoid people thinking that people with eating disorders need to just ‘toughen up’.
Anorexia recovery blog: First treatment
So, recovery. The first time I had medical intervention with regards to an eating disorder, or mental health at all, was when I was 14. I’d had a diagnosable eating disorder for around two and a half years by that point, although significant weight loss had only set in within the last year. When I was 13 my teacher called home to express concerns that I wasn’t eating but like most people with an eating disorder I’d become an expert in lying and convincing, and I fobbed everyone off that it was just a silly phase I’d been going through.
I had become painfully thin, although not as thin as I would become around the age of 18, when I was wearing age 11 jeans (I remember being thrilled that I fit into them) and when sitting or laying down for any length of time would become painful because of my protruding bones.
I had also become full-on bulimic, which is unsurprising as when you are starving yourself your body strongly rebels and makes you crave food incessantly. After two or three days of not eating I would crack and gorge on anything I could get my hands on, before spending hours throwing it up. The stress and exhaustion of doing this every night until the early hours of the morning eventually became too much, and I admitted that I needed to see a doctor. (I’ll do another post on what it’s like, being bulimic, because I don’t think most people can imagine the absolute hell that it is.)
Unfortunately, as lovely as the doctor was he didn’t understand the severity of my situation and I was scared to make him. There was talk about changing what I had for lunch, to make it more appealing to eat, and I can’t remember what else. I just remember, after, realising that I was in trouble. It was like telling someone you had a monster in your room and them patting you on the head, walking out and locking you in with it.
I eventually got referred to an eating disorder team, which was useless- I can’t remember what happened during the meetings, but I remember the general gist being “you should probably eat, ‘cos if you don’t we’ll have to section you when you’re thin enough.” I found out the BMI requirements for involuntary hospital admission (getting sectioned), and made absolutely sure that I hovered a fraction of a BMI point above it. I did this for years.
A year later, at 15, depression had become so bad that I was taken to the Priory clinic, where all the celebs go when the party powder gets too strong a grip on them. I had already been put on anti-depressants but I was throwing up so regularly that I’m fairly sure I didn’t absorb them. It certainly didn’t feel as though they were doing anything.
I had one session with a consultant at the Priory, and it was useless. I can’t remember why I didn’t go into a residential unit there- I probably, at that point, wasn’t anorexic ‘enough’ for admission.
I saw counsellors at school, which was a huge waste of everyone’s time, but I got to skip classes for it which is enough reason for any demotivated 16 year old to take. My mock GCSEs were something like U, U D, U, U, E, E, D and A* (for English). I remember thinking it was funny that you could spell ‘DUDE’ with my results, and being relieved that my starving brain hadn’t let me down in the one subject that I loved.
I was freezing, and furry
I got a grip on anorexia on and off throughout sixth form, enough to keep me very thin but not emaciated-looking. I wore huge baggy jumpers because I was embarrassed; not because I thought I was too thin, but because I still thought I was fat. I was also freezing all the time from having so little body fat, and developed tiny white hairs- fuzz, like a baby mouse- in my body’s desperate attempts to keep warm.
People stopped asking me why I wasn’t eating; it was just standard that I didn’t. I got decent A-levels, mainly because half of my time-table was English, which I essentially lived for. I saw another therapist, which gave me something to focus on for each week, but I still refused to commit to get better. I remember thinking that I needed to keep death as an option, because life was not the blast that others made it out to be and so recovering from anorexia seemed like a waste of energy.
More treatment attempts happened, vaguely: I went to a residential place for eating disorders in the middle of nowhere, and got pissed off with the girls who cut their wrists in the middle of the night. The crying and screaming and bandages and panicking was a bit shit; I remember going into the chapel room, putting some classical music on and sitting under a table while everyone else flapped around the blood in the hallway, like a scene from A Clockwork Orange.
The next day I drove with the one other bulimic girl to go shopping in Swansea (we got matching socks and I think about her often) before returning to binge on food in our own rooms. Something most people don’t know is that generally bulimics are rebellious, outgoing and hugely risk-taking whereas classic anorexics are repressed and uptight; it made sense then that the two bulimics at the clinic made fast friends and tried to make our desperate experience as fun as possible.
I was too ill to go to University; instead of having fun at Freshers Week with my friends, I freaked out after I ate a slice of pizza, and took an overdose.
And, things carried on like that for a while. I had more therapy, at the Maudsley, which I hated with a passion. On the way back I’d stop at the drive-thru McDonalds, order a ton of food, and binge on the way home. Every week they’d weigh me, and every week I’d be thinner. I ended up nearly two stone lighter than I am today, and I’m by no means big.
I got into horrendous relationships, moved into a house-share with a guy I was with, drank, kept on slowly destroying myself. I worked a part-time job for one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I was the world’s worst employee. When my friends came over to the house I was living in they opened my food cupboard to find Diet Coke and caffeine pills.
I moved back to my parents’ after the relationship I was in became unbearable, and a couple of weeks later went back to him. Again. But, I started working in an office. I had enough energy to get myself dressed, drive to work, and sit doing computer work all day, 9-5pm. It felt normal, and that felt good.
The slow start of real recovery
And the guy sitting next to me at the group of desks, was a weird guy with curly hair and a gentle manner and who drank green tea. That was Patrick. And that, friends, is where my real recovery started. I guess that’s for part three of my anorexia recovery blog.