I am blown away by the responses I received about this project! It just shows how important it is for us to communicate and share experiences, you never know who it might help or relate to.
Here are the first few stories I have received from some inspirational ED Warriors. Please note that I have tried best I can to go through to avoid triggers but some may have gone unnoticed. So I will just mention now that it might be triggering for some people.
Our first story was submitted by my good friend and fellow powerlifter, Rachael. I totally understand what she means about the EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified) as I too was diagnosed with this in between the Anorexia and Bulimic stage. This is one of the things I want to raise awareness for, the eating disorders that aren’t always recognisable from the outside. ED’s consume the mind.
“Ah the eating disorder. I’m one of those who doesn’t fall into any of the categories, so I have the “not otherwise specified” label. The joys of having something so complicated, no one knows what to do with you.
I first started thinking I was fat aged 7 or 8 and obsessed about having a flat stomach. Through my teens and preteens it was all I wanted. My ED didn’t really take off until around age 17 however, when I noticed that going to the gym and skipping meals made me lose a lot of weight. All through school I used to comfort eat due to daily torment by my bullies. I also self harmed, took drugs and drank heavily. Starting the gym said goodbye to those behaviours but turned into a new one entirely.
After comfort eating I started to make myself sick as I know I couldn’t eat that amount of food and be skinny. Binges occurred every two or three weeks. After a lot of guilt, I decided to cut out all junk food and started a low carb diet and stopped binging. I lost a tonne of weight, and started to feel “skinny”. All that got me loads of attention, I loved having people compliment me, and it drove me to eat less and exercise more.
A few hard life changing events happened. My parents sold their house, we had nowhere to live and we moved temporarily into my grandparents, only a couple of weeks before uni. One night I was getting ready for work at a bar when my Grandad collapsed, I overheard my uncle on the phone calling 999.
As a lifeguard at the time, I ran down the stairs and grabbed the phone off my uncle, before running out the back to give me Grandad CPR telling the operator “I’m trained, I know what to do”. I gave him CPR for 15 mins while I waited for the ambulance to arrived. It felt like hours. When the crew arrived I collapsed in tears into my Mum’s arms while the team resuscitated him. He left the house alive in the back of an ambulance but died a few hours later in hospital of further multiple heart attacks.
The weeks that followed, I went off to uni but barely ate anything. I didn’t want to be there, I hated halls and I felt so alone. My weight continued to plummet and I left halls and moved back home to a rented place. What I would have given for people who cared to be around me at that time!
My disease continued to spiral through that Winter, and it reached a bleak point in January 2008.
I remember lying in bed till 4pm in the afternoon, hating myself, hating everything I was.
The turning point for me was making an attempt on my own life. Lucky for me, the Doctor allowed me to go home that day with a GP referral and a liver that was still healthy and functioning.
I got better on my own with the help of cognitive behavioural therapy. I also went vegetarian and then vegan, which allowed me to realise I needed to eat to fuel my body.
I recently relapsed with binging and purging when trying to lose weight to obtain a GymShark physique, and pursue bodybuilding, but I was able to quickly recognise my behaviours and reverse my diet. I am now training for a Powerlifting meet, and focussing on getting strong.
I never suffered the same way with my ED as others and I never looked ill, but I was still ill nonetheless. I want to put my story out there to let people know it’s ok to seek help. CBT and mindfulness are helpful tools for keeping me in recovery. My ED will never leave me, but this way I can manage it and stay healthy. You can get better and allow yourself to feel good about yourself again.
Hope this helps,
Rachael xxx ”
The next piece really touches my heart. I can feel the pain that was trapped inside her. You are ALWAYS worthy of help. This one is from Linda.
Not sick enough.
Remembering the first time I was called fat, remembering by whom. At the age of eight (or was it even earlier than that?) hating my body, hating what houses me, my physical contact with the world.
Skipping meals, loving the feeling of hunger. Feeling the hollow of my stomach, intoxicating control. Asking my friends ‘do I look fat’ looking at my reflection in the window, criticising the slight soft bulge of my stomach, the stomach of a developing 13-year-old.
Not sick enough.
Because I never got to that ‘too skinny’ stage, something went ‘wrong’. Unhappily in love, scared of living and of myself, filling the void with food. The guilt. Wishing I had that old self-control, thinking ‘only one last time and then I’ll start afresh tomorrow’. Being curvy and hating the curves that I had so long longed for.
Not sick enough.
We learn about anorexia and bulimia in school, I look up symptoms online and desperately wish I had those diseases, why are there not more of them, something that applies to me? Knowing that the way I obsess is not healthy, how the self-hatred and consistent punishing of my will to eat is taking up all of my time and energy. But I am not thin enough, I am failing at this eating disorder business, I am abnormal yet too normal.
Not sick enough.
Coming back home for Christmas from university, the look on my mother’s face. I am too large now, I do not feel comfortable but I can also not stop indulging in food to numb the pain. Trying and briefly succeeding to at least fake self-love, wearing a tight-fitting dress to a ball and posting a picture with #bodyposi. A couple of months later, the doctor telling me to go on a radical diet to lose weight.
Not sick enough.
When I restrict and punish, and shed part of my body, when I receive compliments and do feel better in my body but I hate food I hate eating I hate living. Good girl syndrome. The binges, the compensating fasting and exercise, the accidental skipping lunch. Eating an entire bag of fatty cookies, looking at the calories, not being able to make myself vomit and again failing at being sick enough. Until one day I have had enough. I tell them I am sick, I tell them I will not continue living this way. I announce to myself, to the voice of ED in my head that I am sick enough. And furthermore: I WILL RECOVER.
Food becomes fuel. It is something I take pleasure in eating, I nourish my body, I push myself in a new way, I love my body for what it can do for me. I eat plants, I lift weights, I dance and laugh and live. I have too much fun, I overindulge, I feel bad. I restrict, I try to purge. But I come back, I keep coming back on track because I know that I am sick, but also that I can get better.
You too are sick enough. You do not need to be overweight, underweight, young, old, female, male. Your experience is valid. That is what I have had to teach myself. I do not need a specific diagnosis to know this, medical professionals are reluctant to give me one, ‘it would be bulimia if only you were vomiting’ one of them says. I feel like a failure for a second again until I know that my experience is valid. I know that this hatred for my body is not acceptable. I see it all around me, the pain and self-hatred from such an early age, the fear of eating, fear of our hunger, physical and emotional. It is so difficult to be living in this society. You do not need to look a certain way.
You are sick enough, all you have to do is decide that you have had enough. And once you do, help will be there for you.
The next one is from Jenny. She has set up an Instagram to offer support and guidance which I recommend checking out!
My eating disorder started from an early age, this has been on and off ever since.
Don’t get me wrong, I have munched on the occasional pizza in the past couple of years, but most people see eating disorders as being a very vague mental health problem.
Many say anorexic people just don’t want to eat and that is where they are completely wrong.
Firstly, it must be covered that there are more to eating disorders than anorexia, there is also bulimia and binge eating.
People who suffer with eating disorders do not necessarily never eat, or over eat.
For me, I would only consume food regarded by myself as “safe.”
This would be a diet of plain boiled pasta, vegetable soup and cereal bars.
One day, I wish for my eating disorder to completely disappear…Although it still haunts me every now and again.
When I’m feeling happy, I even treat my body to a small amount of chocolate.
But on bad days I don’t want to eat a thing.
Eating disorders are controlling, they ruin lives and take lives, but with enough understanding and consideration people WILL recover.
My Instagram is @eatingdisorderguidance.
The next volume of stories and experiences will be up tomorrow! Thank you so much to everyone who has contributed and I really hope that it shows people that they aren’t suffering alone. These beautiful souls have been so brave and inspiring to share their past, so again thank you! You DESERVE help, love and nourishment. Don’t be scared to reach out.
Peace and love,