Category: Dying to be Thin


As something of an ED veteran, I feel somewhat obligated to add something to the enormous swell of posts and articles prompted by Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2018. It’s ironic that the very thing that stops me from writing about Anorexia is the Anorexia itself*… but I’m here now, tucked in a corner of Costa, so I may as well give my tuppence worth on the topic.

Eating disorders must be one of the most complex areas in mental health and it’s for this reason that they are also one of the most misunderstood. Incredibly difficult to treat, they confound and defy loved ones and doctors alike, resulting in horrible recovery stats and mortality rates. The fact that 20% of sufferers die of this illness weighs particularly heavy on me today, as this morning’s Facebook newsfeed informed me that March 1st is the birthday of a lovely young lady I was once in hospital with… Tragically, it’s a birthday that she isn’t here to celebrate.

I’m not sure that people really understand the gravity of this illness, possibly because it’s given quite a lot of coverage which seems to mark it as a teenage phase, and possibly because it has been so closely linked to models and media. Whatever the underlying message, I speak from bitter experience when I say that Anorexia can be fatal.

And not fatal in the casual way that people use the word. Y’know, like, “Ooooh! Don’t buy the Amazon Dot! Starting a conversation with Alexa is fatal..!” Not THAT kind of fatal. I mean the kind of fatal that leaves loved ones reeling, practitioners; gutted and blamed and helpless; figures on charts revealing that 20% of Anorexics will die prematurely because of their condition.

Image result for eating disorders get help

A couple of points for sufferers

1.  Getting help early is absolutely KEY. I know many people who have recovered because they got help quickly and did so when they were young. I get that you’ve probably heard it before, and I know it might feel terribly difficult but seriously, if you think you might be struggling with an Eating Disorder, get help NOW.

I also want you to know that although many people understand their condition, you may be one of those who don’t really believe you’re ill. It’s a tough one and it requires you to be very, very painfully honest with yourself (even if you can’t admit it to anyone else yet). Eating Disorders can be like child abductors. They can wheedle and whine, coax and cajole, smile sweetly… and then, when they’ve got you, they turn. It’s a horrible analogy, but its a horrible illness.

You might hear thoughts telling you that you’re just on a diet; you just need to lose some more; you just need to have some control; it’ll be okay if you get rid of everything you eat…

It may be an increasing set of rules. You can’t have anything unless you’ve been to the gym… Your friends and family are lying to you when they say you’re looking thin… You don’t deserve anything good… Your body is something you’re deeply ashamed of… You must get fitter and faster and achieve more and more and more and eating is the only way you can be successful…

Get help. If this sounds like you, it’s not. It’s the whispering abductor. Please get help.

I’m hoping that you hear the urgency that I’m writing with. Getting help today rather than next month could be the difference between a year battling Anorexia, or a decade. And yes,  it might go against everything you think you want but believe me, there will come a time where you will thank your self for refusing to listen to the manipulating voices in your mind.

2. Anorexia, Bulimia, Binge Eating Disorder, Other Non Specified EDs are not something to be ashamed of.  It’s not your FAULT and you’re not to blame. People who love you might not understand yet, they might be angry and frustrated, but that doesn’t make you wrong. It’s an illness and it needs medical attention. Don’t think that you CHOSE this. It targets its victims and then preys on their minds.

Take some comfort from the fact that what you CAN control are the decisions you can make to help yourself. You can get help, even though it’s a frightening thought. You can be brave enough. You can take tiny steps. You can be gentle with yourself and kind to yourself by allowing someone else to support you. Pick someone who might understand something about it… a kind teacher, pastor, wise friends…

Eating disorders aren’t choices. Recovery options are… or should be so long so long as provisions are there.  (That’s a whole other post!)

Let me know how it goes.

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*If you don’t understand this, I need to explain that Anorexia impacts the mind in a multitude of ways, most of which, you’d never know unless you’ve suffered it. It’s not possible to go into more detail now, but I’ll do a post on it sometime!

https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/support-services

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/screening-tool

 

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The following post is something I already published on a different blog. Call me lazy, but sometimes I’ve simply explained something as well as I can. No point reinventing the wheel, right?

Anorexia is a shapeshifter of an illness, deceptive in more ways than amyone could imagine. Don’t be fooled by the media perspective. Although anorexia makes its victims LOOK the same, the ways in which it infects each person, the periods of infliction and the ways it gets into someone are never the same. 

As some readers may know, I’m in a ten bed specialist unit and each person here carries their very own strain of Anorexia. 

Ive always been a fan of analogy. What follows is the story of how the illness got to me…

A small, blue clad child stands in the grey playground; back turned from her playmates; tiny hands pressed tight against her eyes as she chants numbers in a voice higher than it is loud.

Behind her, a group of dishevelled children move with silent, exaggerated care; the thrill of tension bursting from concentrated rosebud lips and then, delicious stifled screams as the blue child swings round, sudden and bellowing and the clenched stealth and stillness break, pouring a cool, white rush of pure delight over each small figure, even as they fight to keep the tension in their form.

Grandmother’s Footsteps.

The aim of the game was for the players to manage to creep up behind the person who is ‘it’ without being seen to be moving. ‘It’ could turn around at any point and the other players would have to instantly freeze. Those who were still moving when ‘it’ turned around were immediately sent back to the starting line.

Why am I writing about an old playground favourite?

You may well ask.
And quite simply, it is what came to mind when a despairing loved one asked me how on earth it got to this point.
Perhaps Anorexia’s approach is different for an adolescent or college student, perhaps it walks with a different gait, I can’t really speak for others. I can barely even trace its steps towards me. What I do know is that the illness wears many masks and easily poses as the smallest giggling schoolgirl until you turn away, reassured that it isn’t getting any closer.

For a 31 year old woman, Anorexia began as a wonderfully refreshing experience of exercising after giving up smoking. It’s steps were light, triumphant and exciting. Continuing to feel healthy, my body began to tone up and I lost a few pounds.
It doesn’t hurt to cut out a few foods in the name of being healthy, right?
Less bread, less cheese, less meat, less pasta.
Next time I checked behind me, Anorexia was a few steps closer and although a part of me knew it, another part didn’t really believe it would be interested in me. I was too old for that sort of thing. I was too ‘sensible’, too grounded, too self aware.
I turned my back.

No red meat. Only a few mouthfuls of pasta or rice. No bread. No cheese.
I swung round. Anorexia froze. I couldn’t tell if it had moved or not.
No meat. No carbs. No dairy.
Low calorie fish, salad leaves, fruit and water.
And where once I thought 6 stone would never be possible, now I dream of 5 and a half.

And Anorexia is playing. Oh definitely. It’s creeping now and it’s not bothering to freeze and I’m not bothering to turn my back.

Its steps, so quiet and so disguised at the start, are heavy and quite careless.

I can no longeer stop them in their tracks by turning around. I can’t make the fearless freeze.

Now my mind is full of the footprints and although I know tracks can be covered over, I’m not sure how and so the game has become a dance. My shapeshifting partner, both a close friend and a worst enemy, simultaneously giving and stealing life. One moment its steps bring elation, the next, bottomless despair. One day I dance with fluid grace, the next with lead-soled boots.
One thing I do know is that in reality, Anorexia Nervosa is about as much of a game as Russian Roulette. It has a higher incidence of death than any other mental illness and has clamied countless lives over the years.  Treatment is more effective the earlier the illness is caught but getting GPs to to take it seriously can be a problem (though why this is still the case, I don’t know).  You would think that in today’s social climate, any hint of onset of Anorexia, Bulimia or any other ED would be treated as serious enough to warrant immediate intervention. 

This week a young girl I was an inpatient with was cremated. A shockingly stark reminder of Anorexia’s power to take lives. It’s so easy to forget the facts. Eating Disorder charity BEAT are clear that “Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder, from medical complications associated with the illness as well as suicide. Research has found that 20% of anorexia sufferers will die prematurely from their illness”.

Hard to deny the seriousness of this illness. Yet, it is so often misunderstood and misjudged.

Star Fall – for S & C

Same sky, different star

Eighteen years

fly fast

Moon behind the clouds August 2015

Moon behind the clouds
August 2015

Sometimes glimpsed

on clearer nights

your incandescence

burning bright

Other times,  faded,

harder to see,

a thin ship to sail

on the widest of seas

Sometimes the darkness

covered your face

but couldn’t extinguish

the core of your blaze.

Now, I search the sky

ravage constellations

cry

eyes blind, stream like rain

calling to see

your star again

I reach out

tear black canvas

fingers finding

vacant nucleus

this dark hole,

from which your star fell.

And I howl

at the heavens

And the heavens say to me:

Cry not

for those who fall

for stars who drop

don’t land at all

At once caught up

by beams of sun

the point at which

we’re all begun.

Drawn close to heat

and now they shine

with greater brightness

all the time.

Firefly ©2015