Eating: a basic human requirement to stay alive. For some, it’s a passion; some are fussy eaters who cringe at the thought of mushrooms or blue cheese. It can be social, it can be romantic; but for some of us, it’s the one thing that occupies the full capacity of our minds, living rent free in our brains 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. I can’t remember exactly when my relationship with food became toxic but, once it did, it was like a snow ball rolling down a hill, getting larger and larger and faster and faster. Every so often, you feel like you’ve got it in control and that you’ve hacked away and made it small again. But then something in life will distract you and the snow ball will start rolling again.
I had always thought eating disorders were skinny adolescent girls who were in control of their body. Not adults who are a healthy weight, with a house, a good job, great family and friends. Suffering with an eating disorder feels like the most humiliating thing in the world. A binge: it’s like a trance or a ritual; you can feel it in your bones before it’s going to happen. You feel so disgusting after a binge, with a puffy face and the gut wrenching regret feeling when you’re throwing your empty wrappers in the bin before anyone sees. It’s so hard to get out of the binge because you know how you’re going to feel afterwards. The food isn’t even like food: you don’t enjoy it, it doesn’t taste nice, it’s like bleach trying to scrub out all the anxiety and sadness you feel inside. Once you’ve stopped and you have to pick up the pieces, you would do anything to get the food out of your body. It’s such a dark place. It’s really lonely. I’m a really open person but I kept this a secret for about two years before I told anyone.
I wish I could say I have made a full recovery but I haven’t. I’m still managing it, hacking away at that snow ball. For me, I’ve found counselling absolutely helps and talking to your friends and family about it helps. Know your triggers. I avoid alcohol as much as I can, get decent sleep and when I feel self-critical, I have a shower and watch something funny on the TV.
When you find someone who feels the same as you, it’s such a feeling of relief that you’re not the only one. That’s the reason I’ve written this: you’re not alone. You’re not disgusting. You’re just like me. We’ve got this.
Do you have experience of binge eating disorder, or of caring for someone who does? Beat is working to address the harmful misconceptions around this serious mental illness and the need for timely, good-quality treatment. We're asking people to share their experiences to help inform this campaign. Find out how you can get involved here.