The disease I have been struggling with over the previous two years is called Anorexia Nervosa. Although it is commonly thought of as a mind set, it is in fact actually a disease. It is something I cannot just switch off and return to a healthy life, despite wishing I could.
My fears about publishing this story were that people wouldn’t understand my intention of informing people of the disease’s brutality and would think I was trying to receive attention or make the illness seem desirable. I will tell you now – it is not glamorous. Sufferers of Anorexia will post photos and the like to deceive you into seeing what they want you to: they don’t show the tears, the stress or the arguments with your loved ones that are spurred by the disease.
What you are about to read is my personal encounter with the illness and I would like to point out that it is not this way for everyone, that each victim may deal with the situation differently.
At fourteen, the beginning of year nine, I was at my lowest weight – I was a mess. I would come home from school each day freezing cold (the hair all over my body had grown considerably in the hope of keeping me ‘warm’), often crying, absolutely exhausted, and starving (though I would never admit this). It took me over a year from the beginning of my battle to admit that I had a problem. I didn’t want to be ‘that girl’.
At my physical lowest, I saw myself as healthy but on the chubbier side. Looking back, I am bewildered at how I could have possibly thought this. All I really wanted was somebody to talk to about this stuff but I was terrified of the reaction I would get. I had lost a lot of my friends because I just didn’t have the head space (or the energy) to pay attention or keep a conversation going for longer than a couple of minutes. A common misconception about Anorexia is that people start to notice you more and you become more popular. This is the biggest myth I think there is regarding the disorder. Honestly, I did get a lot more attention, but it wasn’t popularity. It was concern, concern that I looked as though my heart would fail any minute, and I would be rushed to hospital. This is the reality.
Due to the trauma I put my body through, all stimulated by intentional starvation, I began to develop tendencies seen in people experiencing OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). It is thought that anorexics have to be ‘skinny’. False. I have been at a healthy weight for more than six months and it is still a battle for me to eat each meal. The healthy me is so thankful to say that sometimes I eat because I want to, because I feel like it, because I’m hungry! But much of the time the anorexic part of me tells me ‘if you eat that you’ll put on weight and be fat.’ So I want to make it known it is a fact that 15 – 25% of patients that have regained weight within six months of an onset of treatment relapse, most within two years. Relapse is common, more common than I wish it was. So yes, I am at a healthy weight but I still experience OCD tendencies on a daily basis and have this anorexic bully in my head telling me not to eat. I may have also have stunted my growth through starving for so long so may never be taller than my sister! What I am trying to make clear is that the tribulations of Anorexia don’t just disappear over night. Once you do, hopefully, reach a time where you can maintain a healthy weight it will take a while for your body to catch up. It was months until the hair on my body thinned back to a normal volume, until the hair on my head wasn’t straw thin and until I was exhausted at the end of a big day and could actually sleep.
I hope that sharing my story has given you an insight into my experience with Anorexia Nervosa. This disease is ruthless, it really is a bully in your head. The statistics for the prevalence of eating disorders in young people, both male and female, is climbing. I would like to make any difference I can, however minor. If anybody reading this wants to message me with questions or would just like someone to vent to, whatever disease they are struggling with, I will do my very best to help, including those who aren’t sure if they are sick (I wasn’t sure until I was professionally diagnosed). In the early stages of my recovery I messaged a girl who had gone through it and recovered and she has been so supportive, I am forever grateful! Although it took me a long time to build up the courage, I felt a huge sense of relief from venting to someone who could relate. I am not saying that this remedy will help everyone but please don’t feel hesitant – I am never too busy to talk! If you feel willing to talk to me, please express this interest with a member of the team at BodyMatters (email here) and they will get in touch with me!
Suzannah (Anorexia Warrior Woman)