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The other stuff

Many people know about anorexia. I couldn’t count how many times people have asked me “So you just don’t eat right?”. Whilst at some points this was true, and I could answer “Yes”, this is not anorexia. Not eating is just a very small part of anorexia – whilst it is the most immediately damaging and most obvious, it is not the sole aspect for any anorexia sufferer. There is more to an eating disorder than eating or not eating. There is more to mental health than scars on wrists, rib cages and twitching.

The thing that many don’t understand is that anorexia isn’t the same for everyone, and whilst the majority of patients share the common effect of negative attitudes towards food, it doesn’t manifest itself in the same ways. There is also a much more complex side to anorexia, the side that stops people recovering once the facts are laid out in front of them, once the dangers and risks are outlined. For me I still don’t understand why it was so difficult to put into perspective what I was doing to myself and I don’t think I ever will. The fear, the repulsion, the voices telling you to stop are – ironically – consuming. Yet, as anorexia becomes a recognized illness more and more, even these factors are better understood and with the help of sufferers, therapists and psychologists are able to grasp exactly how to help those who need it.

But there is another part, the part that really isn’t understood, and as time goes on, I begin to realise might never be understood. This is the side that makes no sense even in the eyes of experts and sufferers themselves. Because let’s be honest, even if the reasons behind starving yourself don’t make sense to anyone else and in the real world they are completely irrational, to a sufferer, in their dysmorphic world, it makes total sense. But there is another part in the puzzle that is anorexia, one that doesn’t fit properly. This side is responsible for our rituals, our strange obsessions and habits. The ones that have nothing to do with food and exercise. The demons that plague us and take away all our time. Without mentioning any specifics, I hope you have an understanding of what I’m talking about. There is no plan or structured challenge that can get rid of these; it is down to you and your willpower. I can’t offer any advice or guidance, but just know that, in your most sane moments, no matter how weird you think what you’re doing is, I promise someone else is having that thought as well. At least 725,000 people in the UK to be precise, and know that every one of those people has to face their demons head on, in every aspect of their eating disorder.

These obsessions are just that, obsessions. They aren’t a binding contract, nothing will happen if they stop. You’re not weak if you let one go. I promise. I know it’s hard, I know it seems pointless. Why get rid of this thing when I should be focusing on getting my attitude to food straightened out? Whilst that seems reasonable, and rational, that’s anorexia talking again. Remember that these thigs are important to it, NOT YOU. There is no prize for any of these rituals, habits or obsessions. I can guarantee you, if you look deep inside yourself, you can’t even remember why you do them. Can you imagine any of your friends or family members doing what you do? No? Well, that probably means that it’s not you who wants it, it’s the anorexia.

Anorexia is a murderer, killing the flare and spirit you used to have. Killing the old you, the one that everyone knew and loved. This doesn’t mean that no one loves the ‘new’ you. But given the choice, we all know which one they would choose. You now, controlled by something else, or you before, FUN, LOVING, CARING, SPIRITED, ENTHUSIASTIC, SPORTY, ADVENTUROUS, COURAGEOUS, AMBITIOUS and all the other things you were, still are (but more on the inside) and will be. Just let go of the thing that drags you down. Bring smiles to people by being you – don’t make them search for something to smile about.

Contributed by Alice