I’d been named the fussy eater by my mum and I’d been known to lose my appetite whenever I got stressed. I’d gained an incredible appetite whilst pregnant with my first daughter, which then contributed to me becoming overweight and subsequently a yo-yo dieter. But if I went for periods of time without eating, I’d develop a pounding headache and start to feel dizzy and nauseous.
So it was a shock to be diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 32. I wasn’t a teenager, I didn’t see myself as skinny, I was still eating. But my life had become focused on food, restricting, losing weight and staying in control. Why? Because my world had been turned upside down. The life that I knew had just been demolished. And there didn’t seem anything I could do about it.
I’d recently found out that my husband (at that time), the father of our two daughters (aged two and four) had been having an affair. I discovered emails on our computer and when I confronted him, he didn’t appear remorseful. In fact, he appeared indifferent. He left that same day, moving 400 miles away, and I became a single mum. I was so angry that he’d just decided he could just up and leave as though he had no responsibility. I was determined that his moving out wouldn’t affect our girls and I tried so hard to become supermum. By doing this, I was also avoiding the hurt he’d caused me. This was my downfall because this allowed Ana to enter my life. She told me everything would be OK if I just did as she said. And I believed her. I desperately wanted to believe her. Because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t want to be a single mum. I was scared of the responsibility, and of failing. But I was determined I wasn’t giving up. I wasn’t backing down. I was going to do my best to raise my girls even if it killed me. And it nearly did.
Once Ana has taken your soul, she drops the best friend act and shows her true colours. She is manipulative and a bully, like an abusive partner. She doesn’t let up and makes you punish yourself and your body, like you deserve nothing less, like you’re the worst person in the world. And you believe her.
When I was contemplating suicide several times a day, I knew I couldn’t continue like this. Although I genuinely thought it was best for everyone including my girls, and they’d be so much better off without me. But I’m so thankful that the stubborn fighter in me was determined to get out of the torturous place I was in. It was a long road to getting help, but in the end I was admitted to a residential eating disorder centre. The night before I left, my eldest daughter, then nine, said to me: “But Mummy, why can’t you just eat?” If I had not been mostly numb due to the effects of anorexia and antidepressants, this would’ve broken my heart. But I did feel guilty, and I remember contemplating whether I could just try again. Surely I could do this on my own. But I knew that I couldn’t and I needed to say goodbye for four months in order to be a better mum, the mum that I desperately wanted to be for them. Although I felt selfish, I knew I was doing this for the three of us.
Fast forward seven years and I’m now recovered, thanks to a lot of hard work, and I now help other women using the therapy (Emotional Freedom Techniques – EFT) that helped transform my life. I’m now that mum that I always wanted to be.
But for a long time, I felt so guilty at what I’d put them through. Not only had their dad left but then I did too. I also know that they’ve learned from my behaviours and use food emotionally too (although at the moment I’m thankful that it’s only a minor issue).
But how would it help any of us if I continued to carry this with me? I’d just start using unhealthy behaviours to cope and we’d be back in the same cycle again. I’ve learned to deal with the guilt. I know I did my best and that’s all I could ever have done. I’m a much better mum now and far more relaxed. I have a great relationship with my daughters and I’m so proud of them for how they’ve handled life. I hope I’ve taught them:
I read about people’s recovery stories and a common theme is the belief that their eating disorder will always be a part of them. For me, I have eliminated any negative beliefs about myself, and dealt with any painful memories, and I now feel confident, positive and good enough. But I also know that when stress is introduced into my life, using EFT is crucial as it helps me deal with this, and is my healthier coping strategy.
I have the option of doing EFT or going back to old behaviours. But I know which road each one leads to. I can go back to being skinny, but it never made me happy. Recovery is hard but it is worth it. For me and my daughters.
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.