Tag Archive: Eating Disorders Awareness Week


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.

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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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20170619_150530If you think that being in hospital for five months would have afforded me ample time to write, you’d be right. Difficult then, to explain that although hours at my desk stretched like the Cornish coastline, my mind contracted and contorted like 17:30 on the M25.

Inpatient treatment for Anorexia generally leaves my insides steeped in a fluid sense of agony. Words curdle in my throat, congeal in my head. The process of weigh restoration at once answering the urgent cries of a desperately malnourished body, yet stealing every ounce of my self – styled safety. No half sane person can comprehend the half cocked comfort an Anorexic may take from being able to feel each rib; from seeing the deepened pit where the neck meets the sternum; feeling the valleys and protrusions of the clavicle and the hollow caves of the underarm.

It sounds like lust… Perhaps I am mourning the loss of my terrifyingly tiny body. Perhaps I am merely giving voice to the Anorexic fantasy, trying to confess the dark longings that lie like dogs with one eye open, just waiting for me to pass a full length mirror, or absently rub my recently re-fed arm.

In truth, I left the hospital against medical advice and nowhere near ‘healthy’. BUT, I have come a long way. I am not the death dodging spider that crawled up the hospital steps on March 15th. My heart beats without the frightening bradycardia… My white blood cells are better, I am no longer hypoglycemic (well… not AS much).

My insides are probably pinker…

I can string sentences together more easily. I can THINK enough to tackle some of the twists of a cryptic crossword (note: I say ‘some’!!)

I am grateful to The Priory hospital for their INCREDIBLE support. Their treatment was second to none, the best I’ve had by a long way. I was spoken to with such respect, kindness and, when I needed it most, logic. My views were listened to and the fact that the patient sometimes knows what’s best for them, was actually woven into my treatment plan.

I chose the groups I could manage and left the rest. I managed my own time.

I took comfort in creating.

I stuck it out until I reached the target I had set for myself, even went a little above. Three weeks later, I weigh exactly the same.

Sentimental bit…

My gratitude goes to all those who nursed me, and to Dr Iwona Kolsut, for her wisdom; Dr Lousie Bundock for her striking kindness and ‘normality’ ; Brian G for his immense compassion and the good guy Chris for his humour and humanity. They are all figures that my Anorexia resents but that I (the I that is ME) owe my life to.  Today I received my discharge notes. They make for positive reading. My hope is that I can sustain the light of hope that took such gentle hands and so many tender breaths to fan into a flame.

And as if that wasn’t enough… (More sentimentality…)

Huge thanks also go to those I know who prayed so much for me. My family (who won’t read this), my friends (some might), my beaut of a friend Chloe who so faithfully visited me every week to paint my torn up nails and encourage me with vision,  my incredible friend Valorie (who I’ve never met but who sent me an amazing box of gifts), my church friends, who never fail to love me as I am, those brave and suffering patients who I walked some of the way with, and all the people who I know hold me in thought and love.  I have everything to live for.

I just have to do it.

For once, I am going to exercise some discipline and force my raging, anorexic mind and (consequently) my restless, driven body to be still, while I sit here and type a post on my blog.

It’s something that I have been avoiding for a while, the reason born of a desire for this blog to be one that inspires others with eating disorders, and informs those who seek to understand more about the illness.

I can’t accurately describe my resentment towards the disparity between my healthy, passionate heart and my sad, bony frame. I hate the fact that I am desperate to encourage your suffering friend / sister / self, to offer hope and triumph,  whilst my own body becomes less and less and my own story one of failure. I long to prise the illness away from others yet I am riddled through to my marrow.

It’s disheartening. I always said I could write a comprehensive guide to Anorexia but still die of it.

It sounds as if I am giving in..

Don’t be fooled. I will never truly abandon the fight. I am certain that somewhere, albeit amazing at Hide and Seek, somewhere,  I still hold a small seed of hope.

I’m posting this because despite the horrible discrepancies I write of, my determination to avoid hypocrisy demands that I am honest about my own journey. That means admitting that I can’t find a way out; admitting that whilst I have the passion to educate the uninitiated and to offer hope to the hopeless; I can’t really do that until I have battled and won. It’s no good my standing, almost dead on my feet, whilst I preach recovery and restoration.

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Do as I say, not as I do… The familiar face of Anorexic hypocrisy!

I am in a dangerous place, with a life threatening BMI and the illness is wrecking havoc. The shortage of beds on a national scale mean that I haven’t yet been put into hospital, but this is what my clinician is waiting for. She thinks it’s the only way ahead right now.

Determined to continue the trek, I have temporarily set up camp in the desert (not to be confused with the similarly spelled ‘dessert’ – Delight at irony still as prominent as ever). My arid landscape affords a pathetic diet, my feet are too tired to walk much further and, some of the time, I have my head in the sand. There are occasions though, where I can look around me and take stock of these hostile surroundings, and perhaps accept that I may need to be removed from here until I’m stronger again. There are also occasions where, if I squint at the burning horizon, I imagine a glimpse of water, of greenery.

I’ll let you know whether or not it’s anything more than a mirage.

For now, let’s try to hope

Anorexia: A Lifestyle?

AnorexiaMonday’s Telegraph newspaper marked the beginning of Eating Disorders Awareness week with an article about ED websites: More specifically, ‘Pro Ana’ sites.  (For the uninitiated, these sites are sites set up to encourage those who want to starve themselves. They share tips and tricks about hiding food, fighting hunger, effective purging, dealing with interfering parents / loved ones and often sporting photographs of skeletal bodies to give ‘thinspiration’ to followers).

I skimmed Sarah Rainey’s article , too tired of the topic to want to engage with the politics and the emotion held between the lines of the pro ana blogger, the parent of a (nother) very bright, talented ‘whole life ahead of her’ dead Anorexic and a range of ED specialists and organisations.

One thing however, leapt out at me.

This:

“Anorexia is a lifestyle, not a disease”.  (A quote Rainey takes from a ‘pro ana’ blog).

It’s something I’ve heard many times in various forms and generally from sources who, clearly, have no understanding of the pathological nature of Anorexia. Without wishing to state the obvious, I find the implications of the statement upsetting because it embodies the attitude that somehow, Anorexia is a choice one makes.

For me, this is an absurd idea. However, as I have previously tried to explain (here), I think there are different types of Anorexia and it is possible that, for some people, devoting their time and energy to becoming extraordinarily thin, is a lifestyle choice, in much the same way that a total devotion to anything may lead to radical lifestyle choices. All well and good (excuse the irony), and perhaps in this instance, starvation is a choice… just another way of living. But, can a disease be a lifestyle?

Unfortunately, what the article I read didn’t point out, was that if this is a choice, it can’t be Anorexia or Bulimia or EDNOS. A disease, by its very definition and nature, isn’t a choice… Nobody CHOOSES to suffer with a disease. True, it can appear that way with some mental illness’, but nobody makes a choice to become sick. People don’t choose to die from malnutrition any more than they don’t choose to develop leukaemia. And this is where it all becomes very complex… because CHOICE plays a large part in the distortions that characterise this illness so vividly.

A person suffering with Anorexia, believes that they have CONTROL of their weight and their body. They believe in the choice element. They believe that they are IN CONTROL. In fact, the extreme opposite is true. It is the disease that controls them and the disease which distorts their thinking. The disease ROBS the Anorexic of choice. It STEALS their capacity for logical thought about their weight. It DILUTES the ability to rationalise their fear of weight gain and to recognise that they are no longer in control of their mind.

I understand the Pro-Ana blogger’s statement in the light of those who wish to diet, but “choosing an Anorexic lifestyle” is an oxymoron.

One last point, and perhaps the most important: Luckily, there IS some element of choice.

It is reserved for those who are in the grip of an Eating Disorder (or addiction, I think) and it is this: The sufferer may choose to remain in the half life that it forces on them. They may CHOOSE to give up the fight for wellness. Just as somebody who is diseased with cancer may choose to stop treatment, an Anorexic or Bulimic can CHOOSE not to fight the illness.

RECOVERY or NOT is the choice. A lifestyle of recovery is agony, but a lifestyle led by the choice NOT TO recover, is to submit to the power wielded by this dreadful disease.