*Long post alert*
Today I finally finished the second assessment for my Final Major Project (FMP) unit – the contextual essay. The essay was essentially a chance for us to justify what we’re doing with our FMP by using supporting material from academic sources and other research. It was loooong, but it’s finally done, which means I can now start focusing on the video, audio, picture and written content for the FMP itself.
I realised that while I’ve been vocal about my struggles with an eating disorder in the past, there are probably a lot of you that don’t really know much about my experience as a whole, so I thought now would be the perfect time to tell you about it. I’m not looking for pity or a pat on the back – I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of the incredible people who have shared their experiences, and to hopefully open up the discussion about eating disorders to normalise it. It’s not something to hide!
But before I do, if there is anyone out there who has struggled with an ED in the past and you would like to share your story with me in some way, please get in touch! My email is on my ‘Contact’ page! If you’re not comfortable with speaking about it on camera, don’t worry! There’s a lot more to the FMP than just the video/documentary! I want to share as many people’s experiences as I can, and show people what eating disorders REALLY are. It’s time to fight the stigma and set the record straight and make sure people know the FACTS not the myths!
And for anyone out there who’s struggling now, please reach out! Whether it’s to me, a friend or a member of your family, or even your GP – I can’t tell you how healing it’s been for me to be able to talk about it over the last year or two… and it helps the people closest to you understand too.
NOTE: If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder or are in recovery, you may find this post triggering.
A lot of you will already know that my family lost my grandfather just before I turned 11, back in 2006. I was quiet, shy and massively lacking in confidence at the time, and was bullied a lot in school, but my grampa’s death was my trigger.
Eating disorders don’t just happen because we think we’re fat or we see a skinny woman in a magazine and want to be like her – it’s not something we choose or can control. EDs are a mental illness, and are generally triggered by emotional or traumatic events, or stem from a series of existing issues and problems. Although everyone’s experience is different, and I will never claim to be an expert!
When my grampa died, it hit me hard. I had absolutely NO idea how to deal with it, and felt that I had to be strong and almost that I didn’t have a right to fall apart because my mother, auntie and uncles, and my nan had just lost one of the most important people in their lives. How could my loss compare to theirs?
I totally lost my appetite and eventually realised that I had no control over my life – but one thing I had total control over was food. A huge part of EDs is a sense of needing to control things – it’s an obsession and an addiction. And so, anorexia took hold. But I had no idea that I was ill. I didn’t recognise the signs of the eating disorder in myself, but I was totally aware that what I was doing was not right. I became very secretive and defensive, and did my best to hide that I wasn’t eating properly.
Anorexia, in some ways, was my best friend and my biggest bully throughout my teenage years. That voice in the back of my head constantly told me I wasn’t good enough, I was worthless, I was ugly. I was in a very dark place and also suffered from depression for some time. At my worst, when I was around 15, I also self-harmed for a very short period in an attempt to feel something. The illness had made me totally numb. While the harm wasn’t severe – barely breaking the skin – it was a wake-up call for me, and showed me that I needed to help myself.
I had realised I had a ‘problem’ when I was around 13 or 14, but recovery wasn’t as simple as deciding I was going to get better. I relapsed a few times along the way, largely down to awful relationships where I allowed myself to be treated like shit because I thought that’s what I deserved, and an incredibly unhealthy obsession with exercise.
It wasn’t until I was around 17 or 18 that I admitted to myself that I had been suffering from anorexia, and looking back, I don’t think I was able to class myself as fully recovered until the end of my first year in university (2015).
Anorexia will always be a part of me – it’s a mental illness and something which affects the way your brain functions. It doesn’t just disappear, but it’s something you learn to recover from and overpower. I still have days where the voice tells me my thighs look fat or my bum is covered in cellulite. But the difference is, now I think ‘ya know what? So what if it is?’ I’m finally in a position where I’m gradually gaining weight and maintaining a healthy weight, and I’m bloody happy about it! I’m happy with the way I look, and have people around me who are supportive and allow me to forget about the crap from the past and have made me realise that I am not defined by my eating disorder.