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Touching the Stars: My Experience of ASC and Anorexia

I’ve been living with anorexia for around two and a half years. Before that, I had anxiety and depression, and the anxiety has continued to this day. And before that, I had ASC. Autism Spectrum Condition.

Most people know it as Asperger’s Syndrome, but that’s not the proper diagnosis anymore. Autism is now seen as a spectrum, rather than lots of separate conditions, so that’s the diagnosis I was given. I won’t refer to Asperger’s Syndrome here, except in the quote shown below.

“Different research suggests that around 16% (Wentz et al., 1999) or as high as 28% (Gillberg et al., 1996) of adolescents with AN have signs of Asperger Syndrome or a full diagnosis.” (Spectrum Women: Walking to the Beat of Autism (edited by Barb Cook and Dr Michelle Garnett))

This is the reason why I’m talking about autism on a website dedicated to helping those with eating disorders – I know I’m not alone. If I’m not alone, that means that there are others out there who feel like me.

If that’s true, then I will do my bit to help. I won’t stand by and not talk about it, which is why I’m writing this blog post. I can’t tell you how to make things better, because I’m no expert, and I’m still finding things difficult. I just hope my experiences will help someone. I really hope so.

This is my main message to anyone reading this: there is always hope.

There are quite a few shared traits between those with anorexia and those with autism, such as inflexible thinking patterns, anxiety, perfectionism, social isolation and low self-esteem.

However, there is another way of putting it – sometimes I don’t feel able to reach for the stars. I think I’m too small, and they’re too far away. However much I try, they always seem out of my grasp. Whatever I do, it’s never good enough. I feel like a failure.

Sometimes, I don’t even feel human. When I was twelve, and my anxiety and depression really kicked off, I felt so isolated. I was alone, even in a room full of people. It was like I was in an old fashioned diving suit, and everyone else was on the outside. If I’m not feeling too good, it can still feel like that.

When anorexia came along, it exploited that. Every negative thought I had ever had about myself. Every loss, every drop of anger and sadness and fear. It turned them into weapons, and used them against me.

It still does.

I am going through hell, and my parents are going through hell. There were times when I was convinced that I had to die, that it was the only option we had left. There were times when I didn’t think I was going to be alive the next day, and I doubted that I would reach my sixteenth birthday.

But here we are, and we’re still going. I celebrated my sixteenth birthday last year, and I’m getting used to a wider range of foods. I’m learning more and more about the way I want to live my life, thanks to lots of Doctor Who. I’ve even returned to school part-time, after being stuck at home for ages, which I am so happy about.

Although I have referred to the not-so-good bits of my ASC, I think it’s also been pretty amazing. Whilst I see it as a social disability, I would never give it away.

Yes, it can make things really difficult sometimes. Yes, I wish it would come with an off switch. But I wouldn’t be me without it, and I wouldn’t see the universe in the way I’m beginning to: with interest, with fascination, with wonder.

There’s still a long way to go, but I have hope. If you have ever been without it, then you know how precious it is.

I never thought I would get to this point. To me, it was impossible. Not just recovery, but actually beginning to live my life. For so long, my heart had adjusted to the dark. I’d gotten used to it, but I couldn't even imagine things getting better, getting brighter.

That place was a place where I could never touch the stars. But now, I don’t need to. Because even when I can’t see them, or they feel too far away, I know they’re there.

The stars aren’t out of my reach. The stars are all around me. They always were, and they always will be.

If you are like me, if you can identify with this post in any way, then remember this: you are impossible, and you can achieve the impossible.

The stars are there. I promise. I really, really do.

Contributed by Harriet