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Eight things that nobody tells you about anorexia

As there has been a lot of talk about anorexia, particularly in recent times, almost everyone now knows what it is. Or at least they think they know. In theory, anorexia is a very simple disorder that presents a simple solution – just eat! But it’s not that simple. The disorder is incredibly complex and there isn’t a single solution for it. Essentially, no one really knows what’s going on in the mind of someone suffering from anorexia. And, believe me, a lot is going on!

I lived with anorexia for nine years. And until my book, Notice Me, was finally published, I never told anyone what it felt like. Now I want to tell everyone. Particularly the things that are not stated anywhere else. So, with that in mind, the eight things that nobody tells you about anorexia:

You’re preparing various desserts, cooking for family, walk among shopping aisles looking at food... in other words: you’re thinking about food all the time. Your body is starved and longing for food, so it makes sense that you can’t think about anything else. Even during exercise, you’re thinking about what you’ll be able to eat afterwards. And when that moment comes, when you finally allow yourself to eat something, you become frightened of food. Panic wells up inside you, and you’re barely able to eat anything.

Your only goal in life is to be perfect. If someone takes that top spot, you unintentionally start hating them. You can’t stand to be around them, your disgust with yourself only grows, and your belief that you can achieve anything diminishes even more. From that moment you struggle and hurt even more, knowing that you can’t be the best despite your best efforts. Unfair!

If you lose your slim physique, you lose the only thing in life you still have. So you give up all fun, distance yourself from all friends, painfully abstain from all food, losing consciousness with excessive exercise, all to finally become perfect. To finally succeed at something. To finally find your place in this large world. So, for a person with anorexia, gaining weight is almost the same as dying. Or even worse!

You believe that you will suddenly become happy and successful as soon as you lose that one last pound. You’re truly convinced of this. You stupidly believe that one pound less will result in everything once again becoming right and beautiful. But this one pound is never really alone. With each pound lost, you find another that you need to lose, and you find yourself in a never-ending cycle that is so very hard to escape from.

If you were aware of your problem yourself, or if others recognized your problem and tried to help you, anorexia would be much easier to cure. Unfortunately, you’re not aware that you’re missing something, while others don’t feel like dealing with you. Your body has to show, somehow, that it’s suffering, and it does that with anorexia. Until you solve the underlying problem, anorexia will not go away.

Even though you feel lonely, thinking that everyone has abandoned you, and desperately yearning for a hug, you don’t have the time for socializing. In your everyday life, you have only the time for exercise and starvation – people are just an unwanted distraction and are actually getting on your nerves. God forbid that someone would mention how thin you look and that you should eat something!

You hide behind clothes that are too large, seeing in the mirror that none of them fit you anymore. You’re ashamed of being seen as too thin, dreading any comments about your body. And at the same time, at that very moment, in front of the same mirror and wearing the same clothes, you think you’re too fat, ugly, and desperately in need of improving yourself. What a mess! Thoughts swirling in your mind, too many to count, and much too chaotic. You think you’re going to go mad from all of it, and, truth be told, I’m not really sure how you can survive it all!

Truth is, you never see a goal. Once you fall so deep, you realize there is no final goal. There is no longer a specific number of pounds that you want to reach. It’s all just a tunnel that has no light at the end. And there comes a day when you feel like you can’t stop anymore, and everything has slipped from your control. But that day it’s already too late. You grab a hold of anorexia so tightly that you can’t separate yourself from it.

And this is where things become complicated. You want out, but you don’t want to get out. Actually, you don’t know how to, and in a way you don’t really want to. You become torn. And that is why anorexia is not some simple disorder with a simple solution. Anorexia is very complex.

Luckily, I managed to stitch myself back into a single personality, and that personality found the strength with I want out and I’ll fight, and ultimately did so.

Contributed by Špela