I turn 35 later this year. I think I’ve ticked a fair few of the stereotypical boxes – husband, career, mortgage. No children yet but we’re working on it. In a lot of ways, my life has gone to (a very happy) plan.
What I didn’t really expect though was to be sitting here, contemplating my late(r) thirties, with a recent diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.
In truth, I’ve had disordered eating habits for many years, but I never thought they were serious enough to warrant any kind of attention. After a while, the cycles of bingeing and restricting become second nature. Using food as a tool to numb myself from whatever is going on around me is so normalised that it is hard to believe that this isn’t how everyone else lives. Throughout the ups and downs of my teenage years, the mess of my twenties and the years of apparent stability in my thirties, food, or lack thereof, has been my companion. You can track my path through life in the heaviness of my footsteps.
That isn’t to say, however, that I didn’t have many years of eating ‘normally’ – whatever that means – and even managed, at times, to have a fairly healthy relationship with food. The seeds were there, though, and I wish I’d taken more notice of them before they had a chance to spread their roots and grow.
My anorexia took hold frighteningly quickly, pretty much overnight and triggered by a perfect storm of messy life events. At first, I thought it would just be a passing phase. I didn’t anticipate that a few months later, I’d just have received an email from my psychiatrist saying that we might have to consider hospital treatment. Deep down, I know that the only reason that the anorexia has become so entrenched is because it is built on foundations that have had many years to solidify.
I see the warning signs in so many people. Friends who announce with glee how much weight they have lost; colleagues who raid the biscuit tin and then spent the rest of the day proclaiming loudly that they regret it; my mother, who is always on the verge of another fad diet. I want to shake all of them and tell them that they don’t want to end up like me, slowly being consumed by this parasite that lives within me.
Reaching out for help is hard but it is worth it. I’ve found a reason to want it – the need to get my weight up and eat properly so we can start IVF – and I cling to that in my darkest hours, which are many. If you’re struggling, and I know that there are far, far more people out there struggling then I could ever imagine, please find your reason or, even better, reasons to seek help and go for it. The kindness and compassion that I’ve met with from everyone that I’ve told about the anorexia has been overwhelming and filled my heart with such strength. There are people that care about you and that will do anything for you. Please let them.