Three different weights. One eating disorder. One struggle.
The first time
my mum dragged me against my will to the GP to see why I was losing so much
weight, to “knock some sense into me”, I was told that I “probably had an
eating disorder”, but unfortunately I was “not thin enough to receive help”…
“You’re a very
smart girl; it is probably your type A personality that has given you such
willpower,” the doctor said.
Oh! FUN! THANKS!
Hair loss and amenorrhea and still too “fat” to receive
treatment, but hey, at least I’m a clever clogs!
I now realise
how obscene it is that someone should be deemed not sick enough purely by their
numerical make up or their appearance. At the time however, I ruminated on these
words. The very nature of an eating disorder is that you feel worthless. You
aren’t good enough, you are a failure. Now my doctor was telling me that I
wasn’t even good at being anorexic?! I had failed at that too?! Her words
served as an incentive for me to lose even more weight, to run more, to eat
less, not because it would allow me medical help,
but because the thought of being perceived fat was unbearable to me. This only
postponed the treatment I so badly needed, and further exacerbated the problem.
Once I was finally admitted, I was so entangled in my eating disorder that I
was oblivious to even having one. I couldn’t classify which parts were Sarah
and which parts were illness. For my family, the idea of me escaping its
clutches seemed impossible.
No matter which
eating disorder you suffer from, one of the real universal brutalities is that
they deprive us one of the few certainties that we have in a deeply befuddled
world: that our bodies know what we need and our appetites will guide us. Eating
disorders discombobulate our innate hunger cues, until
we barely know what we want, when we want it, or what order we want it in. This
confusion doesn’t magically go away once you recover. The eating disorder
doesn’t just leave and you are suddenly able to self-regulate again. Eating
disorders are annoying and persistent. Like politicians. Or that Tinder guy who
won’t leave you alone. This is how I know that it isn’t really about the food,
or how much a person weighs. A collision of factors is involved. For years my
weight has been up and down. I gained weight…I relapsed…I re-gained weight…another relapse. When I felt most in control,
to others I was out of control, but when it appeared to the world that I was in
control and getting better, this is when I felt most out of control. The
frustration of being passed from pillar to post trying to get help, but once again
I was back to not being sick enough.
Life is never a
linear line, and some years later I am a “healthy weight”.
Today I can use a Garmin and
focus on cadence and pace, not calories burned. Today I can use food to fuel my
body, not for punishment. I wouldn’t undo my experiences. Living with an eating
disorder has taught me about compassion, friendship, tenacity. Which is why I
spam everyone and talk about it all the time! I am qualified to say that
recovery from an eating disorder is achievable. Life is possible. If I can use
my lived experience to help others, then I absolutely will. There is no such
thing as not being thin enough or not being sick enough. Anorexia, bulimia, orthorexia,
binge eating disorder. No two eating disorders are the same. No two paths to
recovery are identical. But the pain endured and the strength needed to battle
the illness is. There are already enough standards and stereotypes in our
society – let’s not enforce these in eating disorders too. Although it seems
hopeless sometimes, there is help there to be had and you deserve it.
Be kind to each
other. Be kind to yourself.
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!
What a year 2020 has been in general for everyone – it was a year no one ever could have imagined, from panic buying, toilet roll shortages, lockdowns and restrictions. Yet for so many, including me, the battle against an eating disorder continued.