Eating disorders | Talking about mental health – Episode 11

Eating disorders | Talking about mental health – Episode 11


When I first started talking about my eating
disorder to people everything was choppy and nonsensical and wouldn’t even, I couldn’t
even form sentences about it. It just sounded so trivial and it would never express exactly
how I felt so I felt like I shouldn’t be expressing at all.
I think you can go for so long without talking that you lose the words.
For me my eating problems and then my eating disorder developed alongside other mental
health problems, which all sort of spiralled out of control when I was 17 and in my final
year of sixth form. Stopped eating and starting running maybe three or four hours a day because
I didn’t have a job, and really lost a lot of weight and found a lot of control in it,
but it was making me very, very unhappy. But at dinnertime my mum was really concerned
that I had lost so much weight, so made these big dinners for me to eat, and I wanted her
to feel like I was better and I wanted to feel that I was well, so I’d eat them and
then start purging them afterwards. And I got a job in a coffee shop, which I loved,
and got happier and felt more comfortable about eating, but couldn’t get out of the
habit of purging after I was eating, and that kind of spiralled into patterns of binging
and purging that carried on. I mean, you talked about family being a trigger.
Yes. But a big trigger for me is any emotional
reaction to anything positive or negative. I really struggle to manage that. It overwhelms
me, and a way to get back in control of myself and almost focus attention on something other
than this horrible churning gut of feeling is to engage in binging and purging.
I had a restrictive eating disorder for a while, and then I…
Sorry, I’ve never heard that, restrictive eating disorder.
I call it a restrictive eating disorder as opposed to anorexia because I just, I don’t…
It’s like the anorexic mind that I have is that I wasn’t thin enough to be anorexic.
Yes, no, like, I completely agree with you. Like, that’s a really good point. Did you
feel that you weren’t ever anorexic enough to…?
Yes, I thought I was never good enough, full stop, so therefore I wasn’t thin enough.
Whatever I did was never good enough, and with pressure for sixth form and for GCSE.
All the work that I did wasn’t good enough, getting an A star wasn’t good enough.
That’s how my brain works. Whenever I speak to my friends who are suffering
and they’re always like, I’m challenging in this, I’m challenging that, it always
made me feel a bit like a fake because I never really had that.
That’s something that everyone says. Like, this is why I didn’t go to therapy so long
because nobody, like, you hear stories about anorexics, like, you were never anorexic enough.
I couldn’t, I tried, but I could never go, like, days without eating.
Yes. It would always be like, you know what have
you had? Well I’ve had… I don’t want to be trivial, so I don’t want to go into it.
I always used to have kind of restrictive things, kind of in-between you. It’s amazing,
nobody else is talking about that. It’s different for everyone. Each individual
disorder is kind of tailor-made for them, in a way.
Yes. When I was at college once, I had a bar of
chocolate and a girl came up to me and said, aren’t you supposed to be anorexic?
Oh. I was like, are you kidding?
When you do enter recovery, it’s like going completely against what has been your norm
for so long, and that is so difficult, and you’re processing all these new emotions
all over again, everything that your eating disorder has numbed in the past will resurface.
And then you do have the ability to feel again. Yes.
Yes. Do you?
And that’s scary. Yes. For the longest time I couldn’t feel strongly about anything,
so subjects I’d feel passionate about I couldn’t engage with because I’d be like,
yes, I don’t really have an opinion. And something that’s helped me, like, with recovery
is I’ve got my opinions back. I believe in things again, I’ve got opinions, I can
speak again. Which, I know, sounds stupid but…
No. No, no, no. One of my friends described it
as, your personality becomes diluted. Yes.
That’s a good way of saying it. And that’s, that’s… I thought that was
great. I was like, spot on. Yes, it does dilute you, I know exactly what you mean, like I
was completely just, didn’t care, was like, whatever, about everything. And that’s one
of the reasons why I changed, though. That’s one of the reasons why I was like, I need
myself back. I felt like, not only had I lost weight, but I’d lost who I was. I didn’t
know who I was anymore and I felt completely without identity as well as being like, my
identity is having an eating disorder. And I think the thing I had to accept in stopping
binging and purging was that, the issue was trying to restrict, because that would trigger
it. If I thought it was good, I thought restricting was me getting better from binging and purging.
So, about six months ago, I started really a concerted effort towards recovering and,
with the occasional lapse, I’ve been mostly success, well not successful, but it’s dominated
much less of my life and I eat a lot more actually now.
Amazing. I get my primary support online; I blog.
Connecting with so many people with eating disorders and similar problems, and that’s
how I’ve really learned to be more assertive, be more confident in myself. Seeing people
from horrible states get to wonderful states, it’s just so inspiring. Being part of blogging
communities has been amazing for me. I spent quite a lot of time online when I
was trying to recover but wasn’t recovering. I was still underweight and stuff like that.
If you support people and say you don’t have to be like that this and you are worth
changing, then you get that back, and I think that is probably, the majority of the support
came from online. But then, you know, I have a few people in my life who have said, I’ve
been through what you’ve been through, not exactly the same thing but I can talk to you
anytime, and it’s lovely to have people understand exactly how you feel or a tiny
bit how you feel. Try and find stuff online. Everyone just talks
about recovery really glibly, like you just wake up one Tuesday. I’ve never read anyone
that said they’re scared to give it up. I am sort of deluding myself that I am in
recovery, because the truth of the matter is, I don’t want to get rid of this but
I want to get rid of the depression. Yes, I think the most important thing is when
you’re going through recovery is, no one tells you how absolutely dire it will be at
the beginning and how every bit of your body will be like, no no no no no, and pushing
through it will make your depression a million times worse. So I think when you do enter
recovery, getting support is so important. And that doesn’t necessarily mean through
a therapist; it means you can get it from friends, family, online, doctors: anything
that helps.