Sometimes, I look back at my young, innocent, happy, fit, strong, healthy, beautiful self and I wonder why I ever wanted to be anything else. Now I wish above anything to have this back.
Growing up, health was always a strong focus in my life. As a teen, I was involved in a lot of sport and was always very active. At 17, I had a knee reconstruction, which meant I spent a lot of time sitting on my butt. I inevitably gained a bit of weight and began to focus more and more on ‘health’. It wasn't long until my health obsession had become anything BUT healthy.
I began denying myself of certain food groups and foods that were deemed ‘bad’ or ‘unhealthy’ and it all spiralled from there. I’d set out on a deadly mission to eliminate every ounce of fat from my body. It got to the point where I didn’t care about anything or anyone else. I was misleading those around me and when concerns arose I’d immediately deny anything.
I tried to semi-normalise my intake, especially when around family/friends, and as soon as my recovering knee could handle it (which happened to be too soon) I began running to ‘compensate’ for what I was consuming.
It wasn’t long before exercising for ‘health’ had become obsessive, excessive and UNHEALTHY, and in combination with a very restrictive diet, it had become detrimental to my health.
For years I was unaware of what I was doing and just how unhealthy I’d become. Due to my body going into starvation, my muscles began to waste away. This affected my entire body, including my heart – meaning it was no longer able to pump effectively. I experienced palpitations, chest pain and dangerous irregular cardiac rhythms. My blood pressure was extremely low and would often drop, causing me to faint/black out on a regular basis, and leaving me with constant head spins. On a number of occasions, my blood sugar levels dropped so dangerously low that I became unconscious, and fell into a 'hypoglycaemic coma', needing lifesaving emergency treatment and intensive care stays. My electrolytes were in my boots. My vital signs were severely compromised. It became clear my body was no longer coping. It was not until I was officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, and involuntarily admitted for 'medical rescue', that I began to take things seriously. Doctors had been telling me that my heart could stop any minute just due to me standing up, but I'd been brushing comments such as these off... completely oblivious to the seriousness and gravity of the situation.
Because that's the thing about eating disorders, about anorexia. It's far too easy to disregard your unravelling in the face of your goal. A quick switch of the brain and everything is okay... you're fine. one more kilo. Until it's not okay. Until you're not fine.
I was so sick in the beginning that I was unable to acknowledge or accept that I even had a problem. I was in the depths of my disorder and there was not a logical thought in sight. I was angry, non-compliant, in denial and completely fighting recovery as I didn't even believe I was sick. When malnutrition kicks in, it affects the brain's ability to think clearly. My thinking was incredibly disordered and irrational; therefore, my doctors made the decision for me to be fed involuntarily through a nasogastric tube, to provide immediate lifesaving nutrition. As I got more nutrition on board, I began to think more clearly and logically. I was able to ditch the ng tube and take over the fight – the fight to save my life... to feed myself and fight my illness.
Recovery is not linear. I still struggle. I may not be where I'd like to be yet, but I thank God every day that I'm not where I was. When I was living in the depths of my eating disorder, I thought I'd be better off dead. I was miserable, killing myself slowly, and painfully. Now, every day, no matter what recovery throws at me, I know that I'm now fighting for my life. No matter how hard the battle.
It’s only now that I realise there was nothing wrong with 17-year-old me
OR 14-year-old me
OR 23-year-old me...
Yet for some reason, I was convinced that the problem was that I was fat and that I’d truly be happy if I was ...skinny... whatever that meant.
I may have had solid thighs (which I’ve always been insecure about) but they were STRONG. They allowed me to live a very active lifestyle, and rarely tired. I was HAPPY, HEALTHY and STRONG! NOT fat and ugly!
It's only now that I see I never needed to lose weight, because my weight was never the problem, and because SKINNY DOES NOT EQUAL HAPPINESS.
Ten years on and I am finally grateful for the body I have, for we only get one life and one body to live out that life.
I am on a journey of recovery and I’m slowly learning to accept and appreciate my body for what it is, rather than constantly forcing it to be something that it’s not.
My body deserves all the nourishment, love and care in the world, and so that is what I intend to give it.
Now... to get my body STRONG!
So I can achieve my dreams... which go FAR beyond the desire to be skinny.
I will be ‘Rosie-shaped’...whatever that may be...
You have to learn how to live again and, like with any lessons, you often have to fail to learn the best way or the right way...
In the past I’ve wanted to hide the eating disorders that are part of my history, but I want to shout from the rooftops: I'm proud of how far I had come!
What a year 2020 has been in general for everyone – it was a year no one ever could have imagined, from panic buying, toilet roll shortages, lockdowns and restrictions. Yet for so many, including me, the battle against an eating disorder continued.