Monday 12 November 2018

The first time I thought I was fat I was six years old. An older boy ran over to me on the playground and said "That jumper makes you look fat." Growing up I had issues with my digestive system meaning that when I ate I found it difficult to keep my food down. By the age of seven I learnt that I could make myself sick. It didn't start with me doing it to lose weight. I used to do it whilst at school so they would send me home thinking I was poorly. At age ten I developed an eating disorder. I had seen a documentary on the television about girls in an eating disorder treatment clinic and with that I realised I could use purging as a way to lose weight and gain control. Around this time I lost my grandad and I was finding it difficult to cope with the anxious feelings so by making my stomach empty it felt like these feelings were more settled.
I moved to high school and I hated it. I was extremely anxious and quiet and people picked up on this and felt the need to call me names because of it. The name calling just made me more anxious which then fed into my eating disorder. I was wearing a school uniform that was way too big for me because I wanted to hide. I was going home every night and locking myself in my bedroom to throw up because I believed I was what they were calling me. I was turning up to school having not eaten anything with two full bottles of water as I convinced myself the water would fill me up and my stomach wouldn't grumble during class. By dinner time I was throwing my lunches away and if I did have anything to eat I would ask to go to the toilet during class so I could purge it. When I got home I would make an excuse to eat my tea in my room, and then I would cut my food up to hide in trinket boxes till I could get rid of it without my parents noticing. This went on through all of my years at school and settled a little bit when I moved to a college away from all the people that I went to school with. I moved away to university and for the first few months I was very happy enjoying being with my new friends and we spent so much time together that I didn't get the opportunity to overthink about my weight. I was eating takeaways with my flat mates and as I wasn’t a very good cook I was living on frozen food and when I would visit home it hit me that I had put on weight. I was mad at myself that I had let it happen.

When I got back to my uni accommodation I would make excuses to leave the kitchen after meals by saying I was going for a shower or to phone my mum and during that time I would purge as much as I could. I was using alcohol to try and block everything out but it was only making me more depressed.
In my second year of Uni it was my friends birthday and we had a flat party. I drank way too much and got upset so locked myself in my bedroom and had an anxiety attack. I phoned my mum and she asked what was wrong and why I was so upset and I can't even really remember how it happened but the secret I had been trying to hide for the past ten years just felt out of my mouth. They now knew I had an eating disorder. This is where my recovery journey began.

My mum came to pick me up from university to take me home. She phoned the doctors and made an emergency appointment with my GP.
I have never been as nervous in my life as I was sat in that waiting room. My heart was racing. My mind was telling me the doctor wouldn't believe me because I wasn't skinny enough and that I was an idiot for telling people. She called my name and as soon as I got into the room I burst into tears. I couldn't even say what was wrong. My mum was in the room with me so she helped to word it. I was asked a number of questions and told to get on the weighing scales which I refused to do till my mum burst into tears. Seeing how much it was hurting her made me do as I was told. After this appointment I was referred to the eating disorder treatment clinic as urgent.

I had to go back to uni for meetings with my lecturers who gave me time off to figure things out with the hospital and I decided that I didn't want to defer a year because I wanted to be able to graduate with all of my friends. The next few weeks consisted of me going to the treatment clinic for assessments and to meet with my case manager. I was having to go to the doctors weekly for ECG tests and blood tests.
I would be lying if I said that thing got better as soon as I started to receive treatment because it was the opposite. It got a lot worse before it got better. My eating disorder was mad at me for telling people because now everyone was observing me to make sure I couldn't use its behaviours. It kept telling me I was an idiot and that I was going to get fat now and it was all my fault.

I was offered group therapy to start with. This made me very anxious. I was convinced I was going to be the fattest one in the group. So for the weeks leading up to it I was barely eating anything and anything I did consume was purged straight away. I lost a lot of weight and fell even deeper into my eating disorder and depression. I was angry and would take this anger out on people closest to me which included family and my housemates at uni. I wanted to be on my own all the time so started to hide away in my room sleeping the days away because if I was sleeping, I wasn't hungry.
The day of my first group therapy I walked into the reception expecting to be the biggest one there however the ladies were of all different ages and sizes and I realised my thoughts about it had been irrational.

The next two years consisted of me having therapy at my eating disorder treatment clinic and I also had to go to the doctors for tests every two weeks. When I first started treatment, I was reluctant to put my full effort into recovery because I thought that I would gain loads of weight but one day something just clicked in my head and I knew this wasn't the life I wanted to live anymore. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and not put myself down. I wanted to make my family proud.
I had various therapies which included:
• CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
• Group therapy
• Nutritional lessons
• EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing)
I was also on anti-depressants for a while but I personally did not like how they made me feel and felt that therapy was helping me more at that time.

Therapy helped me LOADS. I learnt a lot about myself and how my eating disorder started. I was taught many techniques to try change my eating disorders thinking process. I learnt to open up about my feelings and to tell people when I was struggling. I learnt that when a negative thought came into my mind, I should question if it was a fact or an opinion of my eating disorder. I was taught breathing techniques to try and calm myself down when my anxious feelings occurred.
Some techniques I used that I found helpful would be to journal. I know journaling doesn't work for everyone but for me it gave me something to do as a distraction when my mind was racing to eating disorder thoughts. I felt at ease if I wrote about how I was feeling, as those thoughts were no longer going around in my head because I had got it out on paper.
I would doodle after meals as a way to stop myself from going to the bathroom. I would just sit and draw Disney characters and colour them in to try focus my mind on something other than my thoughts. I think for me the most important techniques I learnt that helped me through recovery would be to differentiate your own thoughts from those of your eating disorder. If a negative thought of yourself comes into your head it is important to acknowledge that it is not you saying that it is the disordered part of your thoughts because doing this make it so much easier to shut that thought down. For example, if I'm out for a meal with friends I might get the thought of "You've ordered too much food. People are going to think you're greedy." I visualise these type of thoughts as "my eating disorder voice" and because I'm so determined to not fall back into those behaviours it makes it easier for me to ignore the thought.
I was discharged from the eating disorder service just over two years ago and I am in such a better place. I am very lucky to have a great support system as my family and best friends have stood by me through it all and still help me on my bad days now. A months after I was discharged, I went on holiday with a friend and met someone who I opened up to about my eating disorder and he listened and didn't run away like I expected. He became my boyfriend and he has supported me and made my recovery without the hospital so much easier to deal with.
Choosing recovery was the best thing I have ever done and all the hard work you have to put into it is so worth it. If you are reading this and have/are struggling with some of the things I have discussed please tell somebody. I have a blog with various posts about my recovery journey and eating disorders which you may find useful. I haven't written on it for quite a while but am hoping to start again in the near future. I also have an Instagram account for my blog which you can contact me on if you need any advice:
Instagram: @mybiteback

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