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Readers Blog: Target the shame as we reflect on Eating Disorder Awareness Week

I suffer from an eating disorder, Anorexia Nervosa. I don't want to be ashamed of it and hide it because that's what essentially caused it.

I always admired those who could be brave enough to admit and speak freely of their eating disorders.

I struggled with disordered eating and still do quite frankly since childhood. I wouldn't eat my lunch in primary school and eagerly give it away to other kids. My parents even knew about this but sure I was always a picky kid, what harm did it make?

I was always a petite child. And in all honestly and fairness I see the innocence of that mistake but unfortunately that's where my hatred of food began. I couldn't have my foods touching, I didn't want to touch my food with my fingers, I found kids eating around me utterly repulsive and therefore I couldn't eat.

To me eating was a vile act. As I said I was always a small kid so no one not even myself noticed anything wrong with this behaviour. Soon my identity in my life became one of thinness, or well it did in my head at least. I'll always remember the first time I heard the word "Anorexic”.

There had been juvenile rumours among peers that I was anorexic. Initially I was shocked to hear it but I'll never forget the tingling sensation of pride. Yes, pride that I was finally something. The "anorexic one" yet I was something that people seemingly strived to be. I was now, in my head, worth something.

Fast forward to secondary school. I had made good friends, I was finally interested in school for once and things were new and exciting. But there was lingered this realisation in the back of my head, I wasn't happy.

I wasn't happy with my appearance.

Everyone around me seemed so beautiful and naturally stunning whereas I always had to try so hard to look somewhat okay. I felt that everyone in my year was naturally smart and in control whereas I felt like I was drowning in my own self doubt.

I was never okay with my skin. It was never majorly bad but I couldn't handle spots. It irritated me extremely to think how disgusting I was. Whenever I looked in the mirror I saw a bulbous, spotty stranger staring back me and every fibre in me would scream out to fix this so called mess.

I honestly believed I was the most hideous creature on this earth. I felt as though I lived in a body three sizes too big and I was trapped inside a caged of suffocating blubber.

Only now is it that I know that wasn’t the reality of the case but to me it was all that I could think about. I just wanted to crawl up in a ball and hide my self perceived disgusting body.

So in attempt to quell my now obsessive and intrusive thoughts, I decided that not eating sweets was a good idea.

This personal decision made me feel somewhat mature and in control of my otherwise now confusing life. I couldn't bring anything with a sugar content to my lips without guilt burning my stomach and screaming filling my head.

I had such negative self talk that told me that I really didn’t want to be pretty or that I wasn’t trying hard enough. The disorder slowly started to feed off my insecurities. This only made me push myself harder, to prove my worthiness to myself.

I made the fatal mistake of one day stepping on that shiny weighing scales in out bathroom only to see my "achievement". I started to notice the change in my weight and thought perhaps if I lost some more weight I'd be pretty and worth something.

I’d feel proud of myself again and be confident. But this took a strong hold of me. I became obsessive with weighing myself. I would weigh myself up to six times a day and if I couldn’t weigh myself I’d cry and automatically label myself as fat, denying myself food for the rest of the day.

Stepping on that scales dictated how I would feel that day. If I had lost weight I would be somewhat happy but immediately I would want to lose more and if I had gained weight I would be hard on myself causing me to be extremely anxious that I was now huge and was worthless.

I had convinced myself that everyone around saw me a fat child. Those were the two things that I never wanted to be seen as. I wanted to be mature and thin.

My disorder fed me lies that people were laughing at how fat I had gotten or that people only told me I was thin because they felt sorry for me.

An eating disorder is evil. It lies to you. It tells you that it is your best friend and it will help you. I firmly believed that my eating disorder was a friend not an enemy. When things like school or friends became stressful I could comfort myself with not eating. It was a distraction with a sense of “achievement”. I felt like it was my escape from obviously other things I wasn’t dealing with.

It takes up so much space in your head. Its like having so many tabs open on a computer but each and every one of them is concerned with how fat and disgusting you are or feeling guilty for that biscuit you ate.

I couldn’t not think about how fat I felt sitting in a chair when I should have been focusing on geography or how I was going to avoid eating that week. It was non-stop even intruding on my dream at night. A monster hissing in my ear twenty-four seven.

Readers Blog: Target the shame as we reflect on Eating Disorder Awareness Week

It wasn't long before I cut carbohydrates from my diet because of what I learnt in first year Home-Economics.

Then meat and then dairy were forbidden in my imaginary rules for life and then soon I couldn't even drink tea without measuring out exactly how many calories I would allow myself or becoming paranoid that others were trying to fatten me up.

I lived on a steady diet of three calorie gum and water during my junior cert which in hindsight was ridiculous of me but the anxiety was too much for be to bare. I was also causing myself more anxiety by trying to keep all this a secret. I wont lie, it was painful.

There was days where I wanted to scream it at people so they would help but those demons clamped their hands around my mouth until I realised I needed my eating disorder again. It was an abusive relationship between me and my disorder.

Running incorporated it's way into this recipe for disaster. I hate exercise, I always have and I always will but I was willing to do it to lose weight. I would push myself to run longer and faster each time until one day I blacked out in the park and I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. So I stuck to small exercises.

I could only notice peoples body size now and how massive I was in comparison. How I wasn't anything like them. How I wasn't losing weight quick enough. That voice of anorexia only grew stronger and stronger with every demand I gave into.

With every meal I threw away or skipped, with every day I went without food, with every laxative I swallowed eagerly and couldn't even function in my daily life without.

Honestly I never saw anything wrong with this. I thought I was being smart. As far as I was concerned I was’t anorexic, I was just fixing myself.

Soon people started to notice my odd behaviours and that was not okay with me or my disorder. I wanted all my private issues to stay hidden because all though I was still extremely unhappy with my body and I still only saw fat I wanted to become tiny. However the attention I needed it off me ASAP. So I ate around those who were wary and to appease the uproar in my head I'd throw it all up secretly. I lied to those I loved but I thought I had to.

It was a never ending cycle. I never felt thin enough. The number on the scales couldn't fall low enough. I still wasn't enough. Three torturous years of this demon on my back still wasn't happy. It promised me happiness and peace of mind but I never found it. I was now entangled in a toxic web of lies and secrecy.

I trudged on in a private until the end of fourth year and I hadn't eaten a thing in ten days. I was restricted to laying on the couch wrapped in a duvet sipping water and only ever moving to make a laxative tea which I believed to be my holy grail.

It now hurt to walk. My head was spinning. I was vomiting blood. I couldn't think. I was shivering even in the May heat. All I could think was I still wasn't thin enough.

One night I shuffled painfully to the kitchen to make my fourth cup of dieting tea for that day when I was faced with the missing tea. I panicked. My whole world crashed and burned before my very eyes. I was enraged that someone would take my laxatives. I believed it was mine and this diet was my business.

I stared into my mum's eye angrily but I knew it was over. The gig was up, I was not longer in a position to listen to my disorder. I cried and cried and cried that night. I cried because I couldn’t bare the thought of eating or losing my eating disorder but at the same time part of me was relived. I knew I was now safe in my Mum’s care.

But my whole "identity" was shattered. I was now, in my eyes, nothing.

Im now in a much stronger and better place than before. I can speak about my problems a bit more, I still struggle, that’s normal but I know I'm not alone anymore. I know I can't listen to my eating disorder anymore, it is not my friend, it is not the answer.

Things will always be hard but things get so much better and I wish I could tell my younger self that. I wish I could tell her that her firends will support and help her, that her mum loves her, that it is okay to talk about this and that she is much stronger than she believes.

So if you are worried about yourself or anyone you know who may suffer from an eating disorder your starting point can be bodywhys.ie

Stay safe xxxx

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