In the space of 3 days, I said goodbye to my 20s and my Masters came to an end. Wow! Two major life events and they hit me one straight after the other. And they are both quite hard to deal with, as they would be for anybody. Ending my Masters has left me with a void – what do I do with myself? For a year and 2 weeks I worked solidly on coursework and assessments and the past 4 months have been all consumed by my dissertation. And now it has all finished. Yes I do still have my internship which keeps me busy but studying gives me a purpose and an aim, something to focus on. But now that focus is gone…and that is when the grip of anorexia gets stronger.
|Me with my dissertation last week|
Being in hospital with anorexia is an escape from reality. You don’t live in the real world – you focus on anorexia and that is it. The misery, disappointment and scariness of real life is avoided. And in a strange way, studying at university has a similar effect. You live in a little bubble where you focus on your studies and you don’t actually have to deal with the real world. But now I do have to deal with the real world, and it terrifies me. So all my head wants to do right now is focus on anorexia. I imagine what it would be like to lose weight and be skinny again. Just to be able to feel that one last time. It’s like a drug…I’m addicted. I crave the feeling of when I stand on the scales and see the numbers go down, I’m desperate to feel my body without flesh. And the added bonus of when I do all this…I escape reality. I’m back in my bubble where I don’t have to deal with the fear of life.
|Me and my 3 closest friends on the course|
Yet, at the same time, I am also well aware that I turned 30 last week. Whilst on the one hand my head tells me I can’t deal with life as a 30 year old and resorting back to anorexia would mean that I didn’t have to face up to that, on the other hand, my head tells me I cannot waste another decade of my life. I can remember clearly when I turned 20. It was during my first hospital admission in St Ann’s. At that time in my life I was completely and utterly possessed by anorexia and I was willing to destroy anyone that got in my way. I referred to anorexia as ‘God’. I was ill, very ill. And it feels that since then, my life has just past me in a flash. I am glad to say that my mindset has changed a lot since then – I try to fight anorexia now rather than be a slave to it. But this past decade has been spent either in hospital or living by the rules of anorexia. and I have gone from being 20 to 30 without much of a life.
I have been out of hospital now for 7 years and I do acknowledge that this is an achievement but for the first 5 of those years, in order for me to manage my anorexia and not succumb to its urges, I had to live a very isolated, reclusive, regimented life. I did go back to complete my degree but as I have said before, I didn’t talk to anyone, I never did anything, I never went out. I had my strict routine of studying, walking and eating set meals at set times with my mum present, and that was my life on repeat year after year. It was better than being in hospital, but it wasn’t a life, it was an existence. It has only really been the past couple of years where things have started to get a bit better, when I have gone out to work and started interacting, making friends, establishing old friendships and not just managing anorexia…but challenging it.
|MSc Applied Exercise Physiology Class of 2018|
In those first 5 years I wasn’t ready for that. I had to manage anorexia before I was ready to challenge it. And those first 5 years did make me realise that I wanted more from life. And life has got a bit better – I see friends occasionally, I can go out for meals, I am far more flexible around eating (and also a bit around exercise) but it’s still not great and anorexia still takes up a hell of a lot of head space. But at this time in my life, when I have just finished my Masters and anorexia and is trying to lure me back…I am determined to fight. I am determined to not let my 30s go the same way as my 20s. I have literally lost over a decade of my life to anorexia and as tempting as it is to start losing weight and get skinny again…I cannot, and I will not let anymore years be lost. It feels like, in the blink of an eye, I have gone from a 19 year old teenager just starting out in life at university, to a 30 year old who has spent the last decade locked up in an anorexic prison cell. Life is terrifying, being 30 is terrifying and I have no idea where life is going or what I am doing. But I do know that I will not go back. The thought of being in this same situation when I am 35 or 40 is even more terrifying. I cannot let life pass me by. I have turned 30 and I have finished my Masters. The end of an era. The start of a new chapter. Chapter 1: “Fighting anorexia”.