The Itchy Jumper
At the age of 18, during the summer I finished my A-levels before university, I developed anorexia nervosa. It happens quite unconsciously: the obsessive exercise, the compulsive calorie counting. It’s a strange place to be, because a voice inside you tells you what you're doing isn’t normal, but for some reason that doesn’t matter anymore, and you keep doing it anyway, letting yourself get worse and worse until you feel simply stuck in a never-ending cycle that seems impossible to break.
For me, the worst impact anorexia had is the effect on my family and friends. My brother and sister could barely look me in the eye, let alone talk to me. My parents battled day in, day out in a pointless attempt to ‘make me better’ when in fact I just wasn’t ready.
The eating disorder, anorexia, it controls you. I found that I was never ready to make the path towards recovery, until you start to realise gradually that this voice inside your head? It’s just not real. The unconscious activities you are doing, the over-exercise, the constant need to restrict your diet… it’s just not worth it anymore. Until that point, as much as you say you want to get better, you never really fully appreciate how hard you need to try.
I promise everybody battling away – every parent, sibling, partner worrying about a loved one now – at some point it will click. The love and support I received from my family convinced me over time that I didn’t need to be like this anymore. In fact, I do and I will have a life. It is a long road, a road I am still on, a road where I still fall down, but now I am prepared to keep getting back up and taking the next step, and you know what? It’s working. You’ve got to have faith in yourself and I have realised, bit by bit, that this is a battle worth fighting. I can see ‘Maisy’ coming back and there is nothing more delightful in the world.
I have named this blog post “the itchy jumper”, because that is honestly what this illness is. My therapist gave me this wonderful analogy when I first started at the eating disorders clinic, but I never appreciated quite what she meant until now.
Before the ‘click’ happened, I was wearing the jumper that was keeping me snug, safe and warm. Now this jumper has started to itch, and I want to get rid of it. The harder I try to take it off, the more and more it scratches at my skin… it’s a battle I keep considering giving up, but I can’t. You know why? The jumper will never stop itching, and in fact the uncomfortableness will get worse and worse over time, and the longer you leave it on, the harder it is to get off. That jumper is anorexia – you must ignore whatever it’s telling you. Whether it’s a conscious voice in your head, or like me, engrained as part of your thoughts. Accept what people are saying, listen to the people that love you, and for goodness sake, get rid of that jumper. Believe in yourself… ‘you are entirely up to you’.