The Craziness of an Eating Disorder
How many people can look back through their teenage years and can honestly say they were the best years of your life? Most people do, right? For me, it is a really different story. I don’t remember much, well, I don’t remember much outside of the eating disorder that filled every minute of my life. So much of my time was filled with trying to lose weight, demanding craziness from my body, not eating, over eating, killing myself with exercise – pushing through injuries, putting on 30 kg, losing 25kg. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Unless you have had an eating disorder, I think it’s hard to truly capture with words, how truly F*&ked up it is to live with. In all honesty when I was 14 and I first started experimenting with dieting, bingeing and all the other stuff I experimented with, I had NO IDEA what I was about to embark on. I was diving into a living hell that nothing could have prepared me for.
If someone had warned me, I probably wouldn’t have listened anyway, mostly because I’m so strong willed. I would have thought, there is no way that I won’t be able to control this thing. And for a long time, I honestly thought that I could stop any of my obsessive behaviours at any time I chose. Boy, did I have my head way up my ass. Actually, it wasn’t that my head was up my ass, because when anything appears in the media about recovery, or even in the many books that are on the market, they really over simplify both how horrific it is to live with and also how hard it is to recover.
At the worst of my eating disorder I wanted to end my life. I was seriously depressed and every minute of every day was filled not only with hating my body and my life, but wishing that the earth would open up and swallow me. My strongest memories about the years of my life with an eating disorder was how lonely I felt. I felt so isolated. Now, people that know me may find this hard to believe, because I was very social and I was well known in my community, but NOONE actually got to know me. People only got to see parts of me, but no one ever really got to know me. I was a great listener, I was always there to help others and I very much kept people away from me. I was afraid that if anyone got too close to me, they would see that I was an absolute fraud.
I seriously hated my life, feeling so anxious and so deeply depressed, I had no idea if I could ever get out of it. I can remember with such clarity that I thought that the darkness I was experiencing would be how my life was destined to be forever.
I’m not really sure how, but I managed to get through school and also through university. I was in horrendous pain, I constantly needed the eating
disorder to get through life. Actually when I think about it, the way I got through life was with a LOT of exercise (often 3 fitness classes a night), a lot of food, purging, laxatives and lots more self destructive and risky behaviour. Lots of numbing out, smoking, drinking, partying – basically anything that had people loving my company, but knowing very little about me.
As I write this, I’m only 35 years old and the years I spent with an eating disorder, feel both like a distant memory, but also a horrid nightmare. The secrecy that I needed to maintain to keep the eating disorder going was so time consuming and as I think about it, a tiny knot still churns in my stomach. I remember sneaking off to the bathroom after meals to get rid of my them, running the shower or finding any way to hide the inevitable sounds that come with purging. I remember those moments that I needed to remain in the bathroom, to wash my face and help my blood shot eyes calm down, trying desperately to ensure that no one would work out the hell I was living in.
These years during your teens and 20’s are meant to be fun, outgoing, enjoyable, living life to the fullest. Well, I partied hard, I travelled, I drank, I ate, I did a shitload, but it was about numbing out, not enjoying myself. I struggled significantly when it came to relationships. I could not sustain one beyond 3 months. I compromised myself over and over, because I absolutely hated myself and my aim was constantly to try and lose weight and be what I believed men would be attracted to.
I’m fortunate in the sense that I didn’t have serious permanent health consequences and mostly, that I actually made it though the time when I was utterly depressed and suicidal. All my internal organs are still intact – but my body looks worn and definitely holds the scars of a body that has been abused. My hair is finer than it has ever been and this is something I can’t reverse, but I know that I am one of the fortunate ones. But I can’t get back those 14 years. I have lost so many years to the eating disorder. These mental illnesses that I now know you can recover from, permanently. I have had to actually work through the fact that there was less than adequate treatment available to me and the shittiest thing is, that this is still the case for people suffering. Recovery is not easy, but its made all the more harder by approaches that continue to focus on getting people to follow meal plans and simply challenge their thoughts.
I’m so grateful that the counsellor at my high school went above and beyond her call of duty and her actions kept me alive. This allowed me to fumble my way through my 20’s until I was able to get permanent recovery. How I did that, is a long and complex journey that I will continue to share, but for now, I want to honour that I am one of the fortunate ones, but I am also someone that was not going to take “you just need to manage this eating disorder” as a permanent place for me to reside. No matter how many years you have suffered with an eating disorder, PLEASE don’t give up on your recovery. I know that 14 years is a long time, but it will be so worth it when you are fully recovered.
Whilst running a group one evening in Sydney, Australia, there was 11 women in the room and between us, there was 144 years of some form of eating disorder. That is way too long for so few women to have suffered. This needs to end. Mostly, women need to know that it doesn’t have to end this way for you. I wish that more people spoke about the real shit that happens in eating disorders. I am fortunate that I have been able to recover, beyond symptom relief. I am fortunate that I have emotional and relational recovery. I didn’t just stop the behaviours, I don’t fear foods, I don’t manage food and food and my weight do not control my life. I have been able to have an intimate, authentic, real relationship where we are vulnerable. I have been fortunate to trust myself and my relationship to go on and have children, but I’ve also been able to do this in a way where I am calm, there is no anxiety and I get to enjoy and embrace my child.
For me, the eating disorder was hell on earth, but also my greatest triumph. Eating disorders are not just about food, eating disorders are not just about weight or dieting. True healing from an eating disorder can allow you to have a depth in relationships that few people have. But the shit thing is, that so few people move through the emotional recovery from an eating disorders. There is no magic pill that can make an eating disorder go away, but you CAN learn skills and heal, HONESTLY HEAL from these crippling disorders. So many women lose way more than I have and I find this horrific when eating disorders are actually disorders that can be overcome. We need more women to know that permanent recovery is possible.
I can’t get 14 years back, and I can’t wait until the day when eating disorders are not oversimplified. They are complex disorders and so often misunderstood, even by the professionals that claim to be experts. Society has so much to learn about eating disorders, not only what leads to their manifestation, but also how permanent recovery is truly possible.
Keep an eye out for our new online courses coming up in the next few weeks. There are new online course for eating disorder recovery, binge eating recovery and a Practitioner training.
In the meantime come join us in the Eating Disorder Recovery Hub Membership site. Here you will have access to the most up to date resources for recovery on the planet.