Tuesday, 21 February 2012
The lovely Emma over at LLM Calling flagged up last week that Eating Disorder Week was about to begin. She wrote a very honest and moving post about her own battle with an eating disorder and it inspired me to write about my own experiences.
When I was about 16 I stopped eating properly. I still can't really accept that it was anorexia, even though I had counselling for it. I can't quite bring myself to say that I had it. I think I wasn't that bad, I was never really under weight, I was never in hopsital, all of which is true, but I did have a real battle with eating for about 10 years and the after effects are still there in the back of mind. Either way, whatever label you do or don't use, I didn't eat properly. I honestly can't tell you what was the trigger, probably being at an all girls school didn't help, probably having a negative self-image didn't help, probably, probably, probably... the bottom line is that it was a control issue. People told me for years it was about control, I read books telling me it was about control but I refused to accept it, I said it was about the way I looked. And of course to a certain extent it was, but underlying it was more. In fact I think although I had counselling in my 20s for it, I would say that I have only accepted that it was about control in recent years.
So... for whatever reason, I stopped eating. Quite quickly actually. Although we were supposed to go to school lunch in the canteen, a few of us started bring in packed lunches, mine got smaller and often did not get eaten. I began counting calories in everything. I would calculate what I had eaten that day in terms of, one piece of bread or 3 crackers, that kind of thing. I was at an age where I retreated into my bedroom once I got in and I began to take my meals to my room, so that I could surrepticiously bin them. Hunger became a friend. If I didn't feel hungry I didn't feel good. And of course the less you eat the less hungry you feel after a while, so that just escalated. This went on for some years until I went travelling. Even now I am not sure what my parents thought or knew. I know my mum asked a close friend of mine at one point whether I was eating, but they never spoke to me about it. I became an expert at hiding things and to be honest I don't think they knew how to speak to me.
At the worst point I had suicidal thoughts. Not enough to make me want to act on them, but I could not see a way out of how I was behaving except in death. I thought those feelings of self-hate would always be with me and I didn't want that. Those who have read earlier posts in this blog about my background, know that I went off the rails at about age 17/18. That just exacerbated things. I already thought I was ugly, unattractive, unintelligent, had nothing going for me. So once drink and drugs were available to me that just fueled the whole thing. It was an escape, my life spiralled out of control. The one thing that got me back on track was getting pregnant at the age of 21, in Australia where I was backpacking. I know that was of God, because I look back and I honestly don't know what would have happened to me if I didn't stop, I was on such a self-destructive path. Getting pregnant changed my life. (not that it was divine intervention, I did have a part to play!)
Of course things were not all smooth from then on but something inside me willed me to eat for the sake of the baby. I did, and for a while I ate almost normally. But after she was born I had put on weight and all those old insecurities came back. Because of my daughter and the desire to get my life back on track it was not as bad as before but still lingering. Eventually a boyfriend (who was a nurse) pretty much sent me to counselling. It was very helpful and enabled me to look at why I might have begun this, what were the underlying issues. Thanks to counselling, whilst I know that those feelings of negative self image will always be with me, I know that it is under control and has been now for about 15 years. It's like something that lurks in the back of my mind, and every now and then, especially if I put on a bit of weight, it rears its head and it is hard not to ignore it, but I know better now and I am better able to handle those feelings. Of course now I also have security in the fact that God made me this way, that he loves me for who I am and that any nagging thoughts of self-deprecation are not from him.
Eating disorders are very real and they can wreck lives. So please this week, spare a thought and a prayer for those who you may know suffering from one. It is not as simple as under eating or over eating, it is a life changing illness and requires help and understanding. 'Beat' has a great website with loads of info if you want to know more: www.b-eat.co.uk/
And on a last note, I have posted this video before but it just speaks to me so much of Gods love for us and his pain when we don't love ourselves as he does. When I saw this for the first time, I recognised myself in the position of the girl and I thank God so much for turning my life around, I thank him so much that he loves me even when I don't like myself very much, that whatever I do he still loves me, and he made me just the way I am.