The reality of living with an eating disorder is that you lose so much more than weight. And recovery definitely isn’t all pint parties and pizza’s either – nothing will prepare you for how challenging it is. But it’s so worth it in comparison to the misery that a life dictated by Anorexia brings you.
It’s not a choice. It’s an illness – and an all consuming one at that.
People tell you that recovery will be hard but I underestimated just how much. It’s not a one off decision – you choose it over and over again, each and every morning when you wake up and fight the voice in your head. It’s exhausting and there are so many times when it feels as if it would be a whole lot easier to give up than fight it.
But what recovery does highlight is the true misery of life dictated by an eating disorder. Before experiencing Anorexia for myself, I too thought that it was just about food and that it was a choice – that you simply just don’t eat. But eating disorders are so much more deep rooted than that and are often a form of control for a multitude of underlying issues. It’s not a choice. It’s an illness – and an all consuming one at that.
Thankfully we’ve moved past the time when eating disorders were once wrongly glamorized, but a lot of people are still unaware of the torture that they are to live with. You lose your hair, become socially withdrawn, your entire life is dictated by rules, routines and rituals. It completely consumes you, steals your personality and leaves you a shell of the person that you used to be.
I want to highlight the aspects of living with an eating disorder that people more often that not, unaware of.
If you are suffering from, in recovery, or think that you have a disordered relationship with food then please visit your GP. You can also find advice and resources on the following websites: Beat, Mind and the NHS.
Your Eating Disorder Becomes Your Identity
You become so completely consumed by your eating disorder that you lose all your sense of self. I’ve become a shell of the person that I used to be – I don’t know who I am anymore, or what I enjoy. Being Anorexic has become part of my identity and my purpose in life, so much so that it’s left me scared about the person that I’ll be when all of this is over.
I always thought that thinness equated to happiness, that I would lose weight and all of my problems would be solved – but quite the opposite. I’ve become numb to everything around me. I don’t feel happiness or joy, nor can I remember the last time that I laughed properly. Things that used to bring me happiness simply don’t and I don’t get excited over things.
I lack compassion. I don’t care for anyone or anything but my eating disorder. Things that should evoke emotion simply don’t. There’s a constant feeling of depression. Nothing brings a sense of satisfaction or achievement – at least not in the way that Anorexia does.
Social Life And Loneliness
For me, my eating disorder was majorly triggered and motivated by my lack of friends. Living with Anorexia makes it almost impossible to move on from that, as there’s a desperate longing to be out doing ‘normal’ things coupled with the fact that your eating disorder is holding you back.
With little personality left and no motivation, you become even more withdrawn and isolate yourself further, avoiding any social situations that are offered because they most often contain food – the thing that you fear the most. Alongside that, there’s the fear of judgement, weight gain, ridicule or stepping outside of routine.
Anorexia loves to create rules, routines and rituals. Although I’m at a higher weight than I was a couple of years ago, these aspects are worse than ever. Preparing food becomes a mathematical equation – what combinations to have at each meal, each day or across the week. A compulsion to carry out tasks that part of you knows are your irrational, yet you carry on anyway. You become so stuck in routine and fixated on timings – everything has to be pre-planned far in advance, from the food that you eat to the order of the day and anything deviates away from that causes nothing but stress.
Weight loss might be the main side effect of an eating disorder, but the other physical implications are just as damaging. The hair loss, brittle nails and dry skin. You lose your period, have chest pains and constantly feel weak and dizzy. You lack the physical or mental energy to even hold a conversation. Your hormones are out of control and you can’t sleep properly. Not to mention the digestive problems, the stomach pains that accompany the intense hunger, bloating and being constantly cold.
Work and Education
With little energy, you can’t concentrate on anything which affects your ability to both work and study. Not to mention the fact that physically you feel too drained to do either.
The Stolen Opportunities
The missed nights out, the avoided social events and family gatherings, the detrimental effects on both your education and work life.
Anorexia completely took over my teenage years – yes all of those things can be done later in life too, but it’s a crucial few years of my life that I will never get back. I haven’t gone out and done all of the things that everyone else my age has, and I can’t help but feel that later in life I will be filled with a sense of regret that I gave up so much of my life to Anorexia.
Eating disorders are so selfish that they completely blind you to the amount of hurt that you’re causing to those around you. As your family slowly watch you shrink and kill yourself, you’re unaware of the worry that you cause them. Family meals become impossible. You give little thought to the fact that your behaviors, rules and routines affect those that you live with too.
Being constantly irritable, moody, depressed makes you horrible to be around and difficult to live with. People telling you to ‘recover for your family’ acts as no motivation when you’re so blinded by your illness.
No time for anything else
Your thoughts are completely consumed by food, exercise and body image. You spend hours overthinking and pre-planning food – not to mention the time taken to then prepare and eat it. It becomes impossible to concentrate on anything else, whether it be reading or watching TV.
You can’t even hold a conversation and when you do your mind focuses back on food, rather than what the other person is saying. An excessive amount of your time and energy becomes dedicated to exercise.
Recovery is worth it
There’s no pill, magic cure or quick fix. You might never fully feel ready to recover. And whilst it’s terrifying, it’s no where near as terrifying as the prospect of spending your entire life dictated by an eating disorder.
Anorexia will never be satisfied, it takes and takes and provides you with nothing in return. But a life dictated by an eating disorder doesn’t have to be permanent, you can move past it and you can recover.
This is only my personal experience of living with an eating disorder and not all aspects of this post will apply to everyone. If you are suffering from, in recovery, or think that you have a disordered relationship with food then please seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
Other posts in my Anorexia recovery series:
- Introducing Yas: The Story So Far
- Anorexia Recovery: One Year On
- The Next Chapter
- Anorexia Recovery: Two Years On
- My Vegan Journey
- Anorexia Recovery: How To Deal With Bad Body Image
- Anorexia Recovery: 3 Years On
- Anorexia Recovery: Q&A
- Orthorexia: When Being Healthy Becomes Unhealthy
- Are You Ever Ready To Recover?