The brutal reality behind battling Anorexia…
I never really figured out how I landed in that hospital with clumps of hair falling out of my scalp and my vital organs shutting down. Somewhere between cutting calories and losing friends something triggered in my brain, a tiny switch with the words “ANOREXIA” printed in bold. It started off simply enough- if my body was “better,” I would be happier. At fifteen, formulated the perfect fitness plan filled with superfoods and cardio that would make me glow from the inside out. I would lose that non-existent stomach fat that was so annoying and finally have the thigh gap of my dreams!
This is no fitspiration story though- don’t worry. Nobody told me the “perfect body” was impossible. That it was something I would never look in the mirror and see. It didn’t take long before my mum and dad caught on and went into red-alert parenting mode. I was plucked straight out of my “healthy lifestyle” and placed into what seemed like a doctor’s appointment every other day. Unbenounced to everyone around me- doctors, parents, friends, even myself- I had become a master manipulator. I could lie myself out of any situation without even a nervous blink. I lied about what I was and wasn’t eating. I hid food in my pants and under my bed. And most importantly, I told myself that I was completely and utterly fine.
Despite my tight medical schedule, I kept losing weight, fast. And like any good slippery slope, I began losing everything else with it. Friends, motivation, grades, relationships, hobbies- my eating disorder booted them all out the window. My next appointment, I went to hospital.
It honestly felt just like that. Out of the blue. Without warning. How could my family do this to me? How could all those people I had so convincingly been lying to, do this to me? Maybe hospital didn’t come around that quickly. Maybe it took a couple of months. But by this time, my body was so malnourished that big, gaping holes were left in my memory. My brain kept skipping, stopping and replaying like a scratched rental DVD.
Though there’s one thing I can’t seem to forget- how horrifying inpatient treatment was. Hospital was a stark white, single bed, scratchy-matress prison. It was, finally, when I came to the realisation: I was sick. And it appeared that I couldn’t fix it alone.
On a particularly sad night, after a dinner of vanilla-flavoured calorie supplements and boiled chicken, an unfamiliar man came to my room and told me I was going home. Instead of residential treatment, my parents decided to take me home and do the work themselves. They wanted to feed me until I was healthy again.
A simple plan in theory- not so simple when carried out. I was an alien-looking, broken shell of myself and it wasn’t ever going to be an overnight recovery. My parents had to watch me eat. Every meal. The manipulative, pathological lying was taken away and stripped down to the truth. I kicked and screamed and bit, I pulled hair and smashed plates and ran away from all of my problems- figuratively and literally. When anorexia is so deeply engrained inside your brain, every horrific thing that happens is an out-of-body experience. I felt like I was looking on, watching myself lose it over a bowl of porridge or a muesli bar. In my quest for control, I felt like I had lost it completely.
After five months of re-feeding, things finally began to come back into focus. With every bit of weight I gained, I gained a little bit of sanity back, too. Food. That’s all it took for me to find a new normal. As a family we agreed it was unlikely things would ever really be the same. But we grew into our weird new home dynamic and upon agreement, called it “the new normal.” To truly be better, to feel like myself again, it took a little longer. I struggled with what I had put everyone through, with blaming myself for the fact that my mum had to take time off work and my dad never got to see his friends. Eventually I learnt that an eating disorder is nobody’s fault. It’s nobody’s choice. It just happens.
Two years later, our “new normal” is just normal. I love chocolate and watching netflix in bed. I graduated high school last year and got accepted into the course of my dreams. My parents are okay with me moving away and only ask if I’ve eaten lunch every other day. It turns out my little sister is an insanely talented artist. And I wrote all of this without crying or blaming myself. Because nothing tastes better than healthy feels.
Illustration: Esme Lonsdale
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