There are so many reasons why it is important to speak out about an eating disorder as soon as possible, that I could go on forever. The longer that an eating disorder, such as anorexia, goes untreated, the more severe it becomes. How do I know this? Well, personal experience.
Anorexia and bulimia have plagued my life since the age of fourteen years old, and after the death of my grandmother in 2013 they became dire and dismal. I lost the person I was, and my personality became anorexia itself. There was such a long waiting list for mental health services, and my GP was powerless to help me, as much as she cared and battled on my behalf. I was weighed weekly, prescribed calorie drinks, given anti-depressants and provided with counselling (kindly paid for by my workplace) but this wasn’t enough. I needed intensive care, and there just wasn’t enough funding out there to provide this.
Had I sought help at a younger age, had my family and friends known what signs to look for, then things could have been very different. Perhaps I would have learnt the skills needed to help me cope with traumatic events, and therefore not spiralled out of control. Anorexia is a cruel illness; it makes you think you are in control when really you’re controlled by the illness. The symptoms vary from person to person, and can easily be mistaken for something else depending on what the sufferer reveals.
For myself, I experienced many symptoms such as drastic weight loss and my hair falling out, and I was constantly tired but unable to sleep properly. Colleagues and family recognised that something was happening to me, but they didn’t know what; they just knew that I was no longer the happy, carefree Emma that they were used to. Mealtimes were torturous and even just being around food was difficult for me. It was heart-breaking for my family to watch me succumb to the anorexia and everything that it brought with it, like personality changes and mood swings.
All of this could have been preventable had I sought help sooner. Maybe I wouldn’t have had to go to hospital, or cried myself to sleep every night even though I was an adult in my twenties. If there was more publicity around mental illnesses like anorexia, then maybe so many families would not have to watch loved ones travel to hell at the thought of just eating one simple snack. Anorexia is cunning and deceitful, and it strikes painfully hard, taking away more than one can ever imagine.
I am lucky enough to consider myself in recovery now, a healthy weight and successfully overcoming the thoughts on a daily basis. My medication has been lowered, I work part-time again, and I am happy to be alive and on the way to wellness. My message to you? Don’t wait for help, be honest, and fight like a trooper against your eating disorder!
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!
I want to shed some light on diet culture and what it drove me to do to myself for eight years. I will never get those eight years back, but what I do know is that I will never put myself through all the self-inflicted pain it took in order to look a certain way.