Living With Anorexia

by GEM Magazine / Oct 26, 2016 / Comments

Since being thirteen I would often compensate by vomiting surplus, unneeded calories every time I over indulged. I would sit with my head down, tears flowing from my cheeks with a raw throat – exhausted from purging and exhausted from being me. I knew it wasn’t normal, but it didn’t mean I cared.

I recall myself thinking ‘anything feels better than a full stomach’ – the epitome of failure and a lack of control.

I was an introvert, socially awkward, I mumbled. If I disappeared nobody would have noticed. It meant nothing to be me. My only company (myself) hated me.

On the outside I was just a shy girl next door, wilted with bad posture. I went through every school day body checking in windows and the bathroom toilets, occupied with thoughts of loathing my reflection.

Then, at sixteen, I reached the point where scarlet wrists failed to desensitize and nights of crying didn’t do anything to eradicate the pain I felt towards my body, so I stopped eating.

It was thrilling at first, to see my arms getting smaller and to see prominent collar bones. Compulsively tape measuring my legs, thighs, arms, hips, and waist – recording them with pride in the notes section of my phone. I would allow myself less each day, as my exercise routine increased. It was liberating.

But it became all consuming. My mind was infested with thoughts: as I became weaker, it grew stronger.

Yet I didn’t see a reason to quit.

I started having nightmares about food - I’d wake up in a cold sweat, shivering, aching with cramps. I’d weigh myself five times a day in a rigorous, unfaltering regime. It wasn’t just about weight anymore; it was an all-consuming wave that I couldn’t seek refuge from – even in my dreams.

I never saw myself as thin, or in danger. The little I consumed felt normal, and my stomach had finally shrunk to the size of my ego. I fantasied about pastries, biscuits, peanut butter, hot chocolate – all the things I’d denied myself of for months. I kept repeating to myself irrational thoughts: "I don’t need it, I don’t want it, I don’t deserve it."

I vividly remember in the worst moments – when I read Facebook messages my mum sent to friends: ‘You can’t tell she’s anorexic, you know, with her legs,’; when I was so cold even with two jumpers, two hot water bottles and two duvets; and the times when I would silently cry myself to sleep at the size of my thighs, dreading weighing myself in the morning but not being able to resist, not being able to function if I didn’t.

There was nothing poetic about my experience, but I looked upon it with melancholic longing for a long time.

My anorexia spiraled into anxiety and depression, I had no intention of getting better. I was stuck in a limbo of pros and cons of living, eating and going outside. My school friends had moved on to higher education while an achievement for me was eating three meals a day. I felt pathetic and worthless as I failed to function in a society that had moved on without me.

I was a crushed spider, sunken into a corner, painfully alone, afraid.

My mind didn’t change instantly - people sometimes speak of recovery as someone ‘switching on a light’ and a ‘sudden turn of tables’ to want to get better – Well, that didn’t happen to me. My mind was a battlefield of recovery pros and cons; I was so conflicted, it was exhausting. But slowly I began to see there was a life beyond my illness, that it was possible to get better – I just had to try.

As I started regaining control, I realised what I really wanted to do was help others, like me, by studying to become a clinical psychologist.

So, here I am three years later, regaining control.

By Georgina Walters

Georgina is a student who battled an eating disorder for most her adolescent years. Writing is her favourite pastime: ‘To get my thoughts and feelings onto paper helps me take a step back – it’s liberating.’ Georgina intends on studying psychology at university next year, motivated from her past experiences to help others.

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