Five unusual facts about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise. There is a lot that people don’t know about anorexia. Some will know the more well-known side effects such as hair loss, osteoporosis, and feeling cold. But there is so much that people don’t realise. Anorexia effects every part of someone’s life and body. So here are five unusual facts about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise.
Not only do not many people know about this, but also not many people who suffer from it will talk about it. I am one of those people. I didn’t talk about it because I was embarrassed. But incontinence is a very real fact for a lot of people who suffer from anorexia. For most of my 20’s, I had to go to bed wearing a massive incontinence pad. Every time I went to sleep, I would wet the bed. And I found it quite embarrassing that as a 20-something year old, I was wetting the bed. But this is one of those facts about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise.
When you have anorexia, your muscles weaken. This doesn’t just apply to your more common, visible muscles such as your biceps or your hamstrings, it applies to every single muscle in the body. That includes your pelvic floor muscles – the muscles which control your bladder. Because of the muscle wastage that happens when you suffer from anorexia, it can result in not having the strength to control your bladder. And for some people, the incontinence also happens in relation to bowel movements. Incontinence is a very debilitating reality of living with anorexia. I am pleased to say that the incontinence can recover. I found that gaining weight and strength was key to my incontinence stopping.
An unusual fact about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise is the difficulties with shaving. It seems trivial, and it is really, but it is one of those everyday things that people just don’t realise is impacted by anorexia. For me, shaving my armpits was the most problematic. Your arm pits become like a hollow socket and it is virtually impossible to get a razor in there. If you think about when you crack an egg in half, the half shell is what the armpit becomes like. And it is very difficult trying to shave something that is cupped.
Likewise, shaving your legs when you have anorexia isn’t easy. There are more angles to shave over which for me, always led to cuts. Additionally, when you have anorexia, your skin becomes more sensitive, fragile and thin. So inevitably, it cuts more easily and it takes longer to heal. A pain when it comes to shaving. So you can see, having trouble shaving is one of those facts about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise.
3. Having a bath is painful
Another unusual fact about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise is that having a bath is virtually impossible. It is impossible because it is painful. And It is painful because obviously baths are made of hard material and often when you have anorexia, sitting or lying on hard materials can be so incredibly painful. It hurts your bones. Even lying in bed can be painful and that is with a soft mattress underneath. So sitting in a bath can actually be a very unpleasant experience.
Over the past couple of months I have started having baths again, after not having had a bath for about 20 years. My absence of baths has been in part because I do prefer showers, but as I became very unwell, baths could no longer be an option because of the pain. I did try on the odd occasion but it was agony. But I am pleased to say that with having the odd bath these last few months, they are so much more comfortable. But painful baths is a very real fact for many people living with anorexia.
4. You can’t belly laugh
Strange but true. Belly laughing is a natural body reaction to something very funny. You can’t control it. We have all been in that serious/professional situation when something makes you and your friend laugh but it is not an appropriate time to be laughing. And you really try your best to supress your laughter. It shows that laughing is a natural reaction. A reflex. It is something we can’t control. And when something is really funny, the body’s natural reaction is to belly laugh. Except for many with anorexia, you can’t belly laugh.
This happened to me for many, many years. I didn’t realise it specifically at the time, but then someone questioned me about whether I could belly laugh and I was like “oh my god no I can’t.” It is a very weird sensation not being able to belly laugh. I would find things really funny, and my body would go into that natural reaction of wanting to belly laugh, but I couldn’t actually do it. The muscles in your stomach – your abs, become so weak that you just do not have the muscle strength to do a belly laugh.
For years I didn’t know why I had lost this ability to belly laugh. It was a really horrible feeling – my body desperately trying to laugh like that, but just having a tingling emptiness in my stomach that couldn’t do it. It actually made laughing a really unpleasant experience. To the point where I actually hated it if people made me laugh like that because I couldn’t do it and I couldn’t get the laugh out. It is a bit like having an itch, but not been able to itch it.
Thankfully, with weight gain and increased strength, my belly laughing ability has returned. It is something that I am so appreciative of as well. When I belly laugh now, it is such an incredible experience. To be able to do it, and feel myself doing it, I am just like – this is so good! It is a very true saying – you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I didn’t realise what an incredible thing belly laughing was until I had many years of not being able to do it. But again, it is another unusual fact about anorexia that most people don’t realise.
5. You can’t squeeze
Similar to the not being able to belly laugh, you also can’t squeeze on the toilet. If you don’t like talk of toilet experiences then you might not want to read this one. But not being able to squeeze on the toilet is very debilitating. I would go to the toilet, desperate for a number two, but I could not squeeze. It is such a natural thing to do, to squeeze on the toilet for a number two, but there is just not the strength in the abdomen to do it. And when you couple the inability to squeeze with the constipation that often accompanies anorexia, it makes for horrendous bowel movements and very uncomfortable living.
Again, it is an unusual fact that not many people realise can happen when you have anorexia. That such a natural thing is as squeezing on the toilet can be impossible. But again, I am pleased to say that the ability to squeeze has returned for me with increased weight and strength. And again, it is something I will never take for granted.
The five unusual facts about living with anorexia
So there are my five unusual facts about living with anorexia that most people don’t realise. Obviously not everyone with anorexia will experience these – some will and some won’t. They are all things that I have experienced so I am speaking from my own perspective. But hopefully in sharing these unusual facts about anorexia, it will help raise awareness and understanding of anorexia, and how much it can effect every aspect of your life.