I wasn't a typical anorexic – the fight to get help
I never considered myself a typical anorexic, because it didn’t start in my teens. It wasn’t until I was 31 that I started restricting in order to cope with my divorce. I’d found out my husband was having an affair and he showed no remorse, no emotion. I was devastated. With two daughters aged two and four, I was determined that the divorce would affect them as little as possible. So I pushed aside my own feelings and focused on them, and I restricted.
Over the next few years I struggled with anorexia and bulimia. I remember being sat by a radiator, with several layers of clothes on and a duvet wrapped around me. It was October half term and my girls were at their dad’s. I was sat thinking how cold and exhausted I was, and how desperate and pathetic I must look. I didn’t want my girls to see me like this.
Although terrified, I saw my GP, who referred me to an Eating Disorder Counsellor for six sessions. I realise now that, although I made all sorts of excuses about why this didn’t work, I wasn’t ready. Feeling downhearted that there was no one out there that could help me, I tried to beat my ED alone. And I thought I was doing fine. That’s what I love/hate about EDs: the denial. Your mind will convince you that everything’s fine even when you’re not hardly eating anything. It’s okay, I’m just not hungry, I would say to myself. But things were far from okay.
When my grandad died, I binged and purged for the first time in ages, and I guess this is more difficult to deny. This binge felt like the flood gates had been opened, I was desperate for food and I again started a cycle between anorexia and bulimia. I was totally out of control. I felt like I was drowning and was desperate to keep my head above water, so I kept kicking. I had allowed myself a tiny amount of food for lunch and for dinner, but every time I tried to eat a little more, the guilt and hateful voices would overwhelm me and I’d binge. After a while, I just had no fight left, so I just stuck with my allowance as it felt much safer.
But family and friends urged me to seek help again, so I saw my GP and was told that I had fought it once and I could do it again. Really? How do you know this? What? Because I was eating? I couldn’t believe I was being turned away and felt so alone. I thought that I had to become even thinner to be taken seriously. I felt like I was at the bottom of the deepest, darkest well with not even a chink of light shining down, and I was convinced that I would be there for the rest of my life.
My friend urged me to see another GP who referred me to an Eating Disorder Specialist and when my appointment came four months later, I was immediately admitted to a Residential Eating Disorder Centre for four months. I was terrified of losing control but I also needed someone else to fight the voices in my head because I wasn’t strong enough, and knowing that I couldn’t binge after eating felt safer.
After I left the Centre I knew I had a choice. To carry on with my recovery or to go back.
Believe me, it wasn’t an easy choice and the voices in my head were still trying to drag me back, but I knew deep down that it didn’t make me happy. It was a very rocky road and took a few years but I can finally say that I’m recovered. Yes, there are days when I get stressed and my appetite fades, but I am aware of what’s happening and I don’t return to old behaviours and patterns.
I found a few techniques helpful during my recovery but the most effective was EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) aka Tapping. It helped me clear the emotions around my divorce and any negative beliefs that I had about myself. There were loads, including “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not attractive”, “I’m inferior”, “I’m not worthy”, “I have no purpose” and “I’m alone”. These were all keeping me trapped in my ED, but I got rid of them and I have no need to restrict/use food, lose weight, exercise, purge, self-harm, etc. any more. I know I am worth far more than the dial on the scales and the size of jeans I wear.
So, is recovery possible? Yes, it can be.
Is it difficult? It’s a tough road that you can take a day, a morning or an hour at a time, but less difficult the earlier you seek help.
How do I know you can recover? I don’t, but if you can admit to yourself that your ED is not making you happy, that you want to try and let go and you’re willing to give it your best shot, then why shouldn’t you recover? You’ve got just as much chance as anyone else.
And just so you’re in no doubt, there is no ‘typical’ anorexia or ED sufferer. No matter who you are or what you weigh, it is your mindset that is important and needs addressing. If you don’t find the right help for you the first time, just keep going. If I can do it, so can you!