The reality of anorexia
It’s break time at school and you and your friends are scrolling through Instagram. You are bombarded with stunningly beautiful celebrities. A friend says she’s going on a diet, so your other friends say they are too.
“We can go to the gym together – It’ll be fun,” they all say. So you join them. You feel you could probably do with losing a bit of weight anyway so you are sure a diet and some exercise will be a good thing. At lunch time you and your friends start choosing salads and the healthy options, and after school you all start going to the gym together. It is fun at first, you aren’t really paying too much attention to what you’re doing, you are just trying to fit in.
A few weeks later
You notice that your clothes aren’t as tight. This feels really good. Your friends don’t really follow the “diet” anymore and they can’t be bothered with the gym much either. They comment on how good you look. This also makes you feel great. You decide to continue with the healthy eating and going to the gym. It makes you feel good. After a hard gym session you decide to weigh yourself on the scales in the gym – “just see how much you weigh,” your head tells you.
One month later
The gym sessions have become a fixed routine now and you are also very conscious of what you are eating. You start looking at the back of packets of food; counting numbers. Calories, fat, carbohydrate. The scales at the gym tempt you back – “see if you’ve lost any weight,” your head tells you again. The scales show that your weight has fallen. This feels incredible. As you step off the scales, your head speaks to you again – “Maybe you could try and lose a bit more.” Great idea. You start planning on how you can increase your exercise and also decrease your food intake.
6 weeks later
The weight loss continues. You now weigh yourself on a regular basis at the gym. Every time you stand on the scales and see that the number has gone down, you get a buzz. But once you step off the scales your head starts talking again – “You can’t let it go back up. Try and get a bit lower, see if you can get to X stone.” So you decide to knock a few hundred calories off your daily total. A lot of your time now is spent looking on the internet about calories and how to lose weight.
Two months later
Your friends want to go out for dinner. They are all looking forward to it. You’re not, you are dreading it. As you sit round the table in the restaurant with your friends laughing and chatting, you stare at the menu. Your heart is racing and you are panicking. Your head speaks to you again – “You can’t eat any of this, it is way too calorific and you will gain so much weight. Make an excuse, say you ate earlier.” Your friends order their food and you just ask for a drink, explaining that you ate earlier. Your friends don’t think too much of it. You watch them eat their food, your head speaks to you again – “God how do they eat that? If you ate that you would gain so much weight.”
6 months later
Your alarm goes off early and you know what that means – time to exercise. You wish that you didn’t have to but you don’t have a choice. The tiredness is overwhelming and your body feels weak. Your friends are going out for dinner but they haven’t invited you. They got fed up of you not eating or always making up and excuse not to go. “That’s okay, I’ll just be my own best friend,” you say to yourself. The thoughts have become your own now – it is ‘I’, not ‘you.’ Your head doesn’t talk to you anymore, it is just your own thoughts. You are now fully wrapped up in anorexia.
All your time is spent thinking about calories and exercise that you need in order to lose weight. It is all consuming. All the interests, hobbies, friends, and life that you used to have? All gone. Nothing matters now except losing weight. But you don’t feel happy. Far from it. Weight loss hasn’t brought you the happy and wonderful life you thought it would. You feel trapped. Trapped inside your own head with no way out.
9 months later
You are permanently cold. Cold to the core of your bones and nothing warms you up. It is not just your body that is cold. Your soul is cold. Stone cold…stone dead. You don’t sleep well – your own thoughts and worries keeping you awake every night. But sleeping is the only relief from your own mind, the only relief from this life you have found yourself trapped in. You are desperate to just sleep.
You don’t got to the gym anymore because your body is too weak. Instead, you spend endless hours walking. It is physically painful and you drag yourself out in all sorts of weather. You want to cry and just stop. “I must keep going,” is your response, the desire to lose more weight, fear of weight, and crippling anxiety fuelling every step. You can’t have a bath anymore because sitting hurts your bones. As you brush your hair and it falls out in clumps. You don’t know what is happening to your body. It terrifies you.
You tell lies all the time. To your family, friends, anyone who questions what you are doing, or eating, or how much weight you have lost. People tell you that they are worried about you and it makes you angry. You shout at them and tell them to leave you alone. Then you feel guilty. The guilt is constant whichever way you turn. If you aren’t feeling guilty for your reactions to your loved ones, you are feeling guilty for not doing that extra 10 minutes of exercise, or for eating that extra spoonful of food. Your head is a battlefield. You are at war with yourself.
1/2/3…however many years later
You have osteoporosis which leaves your bones brittle and vulnerable to breaking. Digestive problems, infertility, loss of teeth – there is not one part of your body that isn’t damaged. You might find yourself admitted to hospital. Spending weeks, months, years in eating disorder units. Or, you might not be admitted to hospital and instead have day care and/or community treatment. Or you might not get any professional help at all. Whichever way – inpatient, outpatient or no treatment, life carries on without you.
You might fight the system, fighting with every inch of your being to hold onto your eating disorder. But over time you realise that a life with an eating disorder is not the life you thought it was. In fact, it isn’t a life at all, but an existence. And a bleak one at that. You long for freedom. Freedom to eat what you want, to do what you want, to go on holiday, to join in, to exercise if you want and not because you have to. You wish you had the freedom just to live life. But the reality of anorexia is that you sit on the outskirts of life watching in as everyone else seems to do all the things you wish you could do. The reality of anorexia is that it is a lonely, painful, exhausting, and sad existence. And that’s if anorexia doesn’t kill you in the process.
The Reality of Anorexia
I’m not writing this blog to try and depress people, but I am aware that there has been a lot of glamorising of anorexia and eating disorders on social media, so I felt it was important to show the reality of anorexia as I do not want vulnerable people to fall into it’s clutches. But I also want to say that anyone can recover from an eating disorder. Whatever stage of it that you find yourself at, recovery is always possible. This blog is to show the reality of anorexia at its worst, when it is left to do as it pleases. But everyone has the power to recover from an eating disorder – that is the reality of anorexia recovery.