I had intended blogging about something else today but a recent Twitter thread, #anorexia101, has caught my eye over the last couple of days. Two women who are struggling with Anorexia right now got together and came up with a list of 101 things no one tells you about what is, frankly, a devastating illness. These 101 things have been consolidated into the blog post Anorexia 101 and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I’m one of these complex MH cases, that no one can diagnose definitively. Officially, I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Depression, with numerous traits of a couple of other conditions. But a couple of years ago I developed Anorexia secondary to all of this. I’m not going to go into the finer details of how this happened, because I’ve blogged previously on the subject. You can read these posts here, and here.
However, I do want to say that I believe Anorexia to be a hugely misunderstood illness. Because, no matter how it begins, when it has you in its grip it won’t let go. To touch on a few of the points detailed in the above post:
You cannot stop thinking about food. All day, every day…you just want to eat. You can be watching TV and someone might be eating something – immediately you zone in on the food and wish it was you eating it. But the ED ‘voice’ in your head simply won’t allow it.
In terms of the physical effects/indignities, Anorexia 101 mentions that a bath is impossible due to the discomfort brought about by a lack of body fat. I just wanted to add that I couldn’t get into the bath. I didn’t have the energy to lift my legs over the side, and instead had to use my parents’ walk-in shower. On a similar note, you have to manoeuvre yourself around the house while clinging on to various pieces of furniture, or walls, because muscle weakness won’t allow you to move and balance at the same time. I remember (probably inappropriately) laughing at my Dietician when she asked if I’d been exercising in my room. I couldn’t put my clothes on without gasping for breath…how on Earth would I be exercising? Unless she thought I had an Oxygen tank in my bedroom. Oh, and its true, EVERYTHING hurts.
I don’t want to ramble on too much because its all laid out much more concisely in Anorexia 101. The purpose of this post is to let people know that recovery IS POSSIBLE. You just have to be at the right place, or in the right frame of mind. With me, it was almost like a switch being flicked inside my head…as quickly as that. I decided I was going to do this, comply with meal plans, drink the build-up drinks prescribed to me, regain some weight. And the ironic thing? Once you start to eat, nourish your body, you can think more clearly, realise that your eating has in fact been extremely disordered, chaotic and you gain momentum quickly. You begin to look forward to the weekly challenges put to you by professionals – have a pudding one evening, go out for coffee and a scone.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trivialising this in the slightest. Recovery from Anorexia is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There were nights where my hands shook so much that my Dad had to fork the food into my mouth while I sobbed my way through pureed meals. I remember my Mum holding a glass of juice to my mouth with a straw, because I couldn’t lift the glass on my own. But I was so very determined.
So I hail @mentlabattle and @Justdreamingof for so candidly revealing the horror and indignity that go alongside Anorexia. Too many people think its a disease for people who want to look like the airbrushed models of glossy magazines. In some cases, that may be how it starts but, God, it certainly doesn’t finish like that. It is a cruel, vile disease that takes away careers, relationships, quality of life, life itself. But, to everyone suffering, please have faith, believe that you are meant to survive, you have a purpose, a reason for being, like a Goddaughter to whom you still have so much to teach…just wait for the flick of that switch, I promise it will come.