Catching an Eating Disorder

I don’t think it’s something that just begins. It’s a demon that chose to manifest.

For me, I never really had a ‘normal’ relationship with food. Ever. As a child, I was an extremely picky eater. If someone made me a sandwich, I’d be frightened to eat it. The unknown of what was really in it. Were their hands dirty? Did they put butter in it? I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy a sandwich. I remember crying down the phone to my mother asking her to pick me up from a friends because I had to eat dinner with them. I remember fearing school trips with catering and being filled with such anxiety as I knew I had no control over what they would try and feed me. I hated having to be polite around food. It made me uncomfortable. It made me not want to be away from home too long. It’s not too indifferent now but this is my memory of primary school. I don’t know why these fears stemmed at such a young age but they did and they were very apparent. Even now I carry these irrational fears with me.

I was a slim child but as I hit my teenage years, the weight began to pile on. I was never in the morbidly obese category, however I was overweight. I never felt picked on because of my size and in that way I’m very fortunate. But I did always just know and feel that I was the unattractive one. I was around sixteen years old when I became fed up of being the ‘fat friend.’ I began calorie counting, exercising, weighing myself… The weight began to pour off. For approximately the first six months, I lost weight in a natural and healthy way but people don’t warn those of us with broken minds what a dangerous territory this is to enter.

So I guess it ‘really’ started out with a bag of crisps. A large bag of Thai Sweet Chilli Sensations. My intentions were simply to have a few but as I put them down, I could feel the remainder of the bag staring at me. It sounds stupid that a piece of food can mentally haunt you- but that’s what my life had become and I had no control over it. As I felt the emptiness of the crisp packet, that’s when panic sunk in. Why did I do that? Why am I so fat? Why am I so disgusting?

I ran to the bathroom. Locked the door. Hung my head over the toilet seat. I tried ramming my fingers down my throat to undo the damage, to undo the guilt, to rid the disgust. It didn’t come up as naturally as I’d assumed. I had to be violent with myself thrusting the fingers further back till I gagged. The amount of sick coming back up was disappointing. I could not get rid of the guilt.

I told my mother I just felt sick, I put on my running gear and left the house. I ran and I ran and I ran. Still no. The guilt was still there. I could still feel that disgusting full feeling that I longed to undo. Back to the bathroom again. Fingers down throat. A little more sick. But still, my stomach didn’t feel anywhere near as empty as I longed for. I down some water. I head back out to run again. Run and run and run. I sob to myself. Why am I so fat? I promise I’ll be better tomorrow…

The first few months were sadistically pleasant. I’d discovered this new exciting way to fall off my restricted diet plan and pick myself back up again without putting on the pounds. I had control. When the house was empty, I could overeat and throw it right back up again and no-one would bat an eyelid. It almost felt good. But it soon spiralled. I can remember getting ready to meet a friend and screaming at myself in the mirror while violently picking at all the fat on my body; sobbing in floods of tears. Why was I so fat? Why was I so ugly? At this point, my old clothes were sagging off my body. I could fit another person in my favourite shorts. The mirror never showed me this. The mirror always lied to me. I could always just see fat in places it shouldn’t be. Fat arms, fat legs, fat stomach. I could never win against the mirror.

I finished at sixth form and went to study a music course at college. Basically a torture chamber. I’d bring in one peeled carrot and a handful of raw nuts just to look normal and pretend I ate. Others around me would tuck into my favourite foods. Pizza, chocolate, chips… I could feel myself starving inside. I religiously exercised every morning and evening so I ‘earned’ the right to eat anything at all. Classes involved obsessive thoughts of what I was going to binge on later and when and how I was going to get rid of it. I’d buy food on the way home and rush to shower straight afterwards. The running taps covered the sound of my violent purges. I could no longer keep a meal down. I could no longer keep anything down. No matter what it was.

So where did it begin? I’m not entirely sure. I can’t decide if there really was a pinnacle point or if I’d always had a broken relationship with food much like the broken relationships I’d had with people. My relationship with food was the only one I had control over in a childhood of instability. Do I believe you can change this? Yes. I’m three years into a rocky and beautiful recovery. A world where flowers bloom in vivid colours and artists sculpt the trees. A world where the mirror can be forgiving and kind. The occasional grey, misty sky that causes rain from your eyes but soon passes as the moon orbits the sun. Recovery is beautifully exhausting.