A guest post by our friend, who wanted to share her story on the first World Eating Disorders Action Day, but she would like to remain anonymous.
:: Warning, if you are feeling like you need help please call life line 13 11 14 ::
On the outside, I seem to have a fairly good life. I have so many amazing and loving friends, I have a lovely little unit, I have my own small business, I manage to travel a bit and explore the world. I also have an eating disorder. This eating disorder has been a part of my life for 21 years. Sometimes it plays a leading part in my life, other times it’s just an ‘extra’. But the last nine months have been hell. It’s been the star performer, the stage hog. For those who have also suffered from an eating disorder, you would know that living with it is an absolute nightmare.
Rewind 21 years and I’m a 14 year old Adelady, stumbling through adolescence. I was your typical over-achiever: high grades, good at sport, well liked, class clown. But I still didn’t feel like I was enough – especially “pretty” enough. Being told constantly how good looking your brothers are but at least you got the brains didn’t help. A voice told me, ”Maybe if you lose weight, it will be easier, you’ll be prettier. You’ll fit in.”
And so, I lost over 20kg, I had a BMI of 10 (you’re usually dead with a BMI below 12), I spent a year in and out of multiple hospitals. The worst thing was the voice in my head, constantly telling me I was a failure, that I wasn’t good enough. That voice has never gone away – there are times when it’s only a whisper and there are times when it’s screaming at me. I spent the next few years in therapy and bouncing in and out of hospital with relapses. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
In this time, being the over-achiever that I am, I managed to complete a uni degree, start another one and with the help of antidepressants and a good psychiatrist I was generally able to start to get on with living a life and create a awesome business which I loved. This lasted for a good 8 years.
Then, 2015 rolls around — my eating disorder has been dormant for 8 years, so I decided I wanted to change anti-depressants as I didn’t like the side-effects.
A whole heap of new medications had come on the market in recent years, with fewer side-effects and I was keen to try one. Due to a rather large medication bungle, during the medication change over, by my GP, I spiralled into a dark depression and I turned to the only coping mechanism I know – anorexia.
Again, I lost 20kg in 15 weeks, became medically unstable and was unable to access decent care. It got to the point that I died and had to be resuscitated. I’ve been in hospital for about four months. The voice of “failure” in my head was and still is loud, “You’ve stuffed your life up again and this time, you’ve ruined your business.” I’ve hurt my beautiful friends and family — again.
When you have an eating disorder, it controls what you eat, how you eat, who you eat in front of, how much exercise you do and for me, it certainly wouldn’t let me have an intimate relationship. I couldn’t have a partner seeing how fat I was/felt, nor did I want them to see the real me and how much of a failure at life I am.
I’m tired of fighting this beast, I’ve been doing it for 21 years and I’m exhausted.
Eating disorders aren’t a vanity tool or attention seeking behaviour. They are a serious mental health condition with the highest rate of mortality than any other psychiatric illness. There is a huge lack of resources in SA for their treatment. Six beds in total are allocated at Flinders Medical Centre for people over the age of 16, suffering from an eating disorder. I’m currently trying to undertake an intensive outpatient program. I feel like I’m in no-mans land. The best summation of how I’m feeling is a quote from Marya Hornbacher:
“This is the very boring part of eating disorders, the aftermath. When you eat and hate that you eat. And yet of course you must eat. You don’t really entertain the notion of going back. You, with some startling new level of clarity, realise that going back would be far worse than simply being as you are. This is obvious to anyone without an eating disorder. This is not always obvious to you”
I have to live – to travel, to run my own business, to have fun with friends and for me to be able to do that, I need to, and have started to regain weight, gain energy and start living again. Please don’t tell me how much “better” or “healthier” I’m looking now that I’ve regained some weight though. Don’t focus on my weight or the way I look, focus on the positive things you’d compliment any friend or colleague on – ie “Great to see you back at work, good to have your sense of humour back.”
So on the first World Eating Disorders Action Day, think about your attitude towards people with Eating Disorders, whether it be Anorexia, Bulimia, Orthorexia or Binge Eating Disorder. We are not being ill for ‘attention’ or to ‘look hot’ we’re suffering because we don’t think we’re worth it and we need help.