Content Warning. The subject matter of Diary of a Disordered Diet is eating disorders. Please don’t read if you might find the topic of eating issues upsetting.
I actually wrote this quite a while ago after I wrote another post and was trying to raise awareness about eating issues. It is the second post in a short series but I didn’t publish them as it felt that the posts were too negative and not right for this blog. I posted part 1 at the end of August but it felt as if I was trying to gather sympathy which isn’t the case as I feel ok about it all now. That isn’t meant to undermine the seriousness of the topic, but more the fact that time has led me to recover to a point where things are manageable. I was busy last week promoting World Mental Health day and thought maybe I would publish the remaining two posts after all.
I got the grades I needed and left home to go and study. I can’t say I was particularly excited. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go, but it didn’t feel like I thought it was meant to. I felt a bit like an observer. When you have an issue with eating it becomes your focus. That is probably the point because it sort of deflects from everything else. Basically I felt that I was a disappointment. I felt that I was trying to be what others wanted and that I was going to let them all down. I focussed on not eating, or on what I had eaten and that became my reason for everything.
It dictated what I did, where I went, what I thought and what I felt. Ironic that something which was probably about having some control underneath, was actually controlling me, but it is always a thin line with this sort of thing. Although I was leaving home, there were always strings. I required funding from my parents and there were conditions. As a parent I look back at some of these and feel shock but we all vow to get right with out own children, the things we feel our parents did not get right with us.
One of the more understandable conditions was that I achieved a certain weight before they would let me go (well give me the money I needed to go). This was painful but I suppose the fact that I did it meant that part of me wanted to go, or at least that part of me wanted their approval. They said, I had to weigh 8 stone. I didn’t weigh that much even when I left but I had managed at least not to get any smaller. I am 5ft 7 so when I look now 8 stone would have qualified as underweight but there was no internet back then and no BMI that I had ever heard of.
I met a girl called Rachel at freshers’ week (was it called that back then?) and at the end of the first day together she asked how long I’d had issues with food. I told her I didn’t and laughed it off. She challenged me then telling me she knew I was anorexic and listing off her observations from the day we had spent together. I was shocked. I wasn’t anorexic. Was I? I was just thin and didn’t like eating that much. Wasn’t that my story? She told me then her own story and somehow that helped. I cried a bit and admitted for the very first time, that maybe I did have an issue.
We stayed friends on an off for a while but for some reason, we seemed to drift into different groups. Maybe she knew too much, I really don’t know, but the whole leaving home thing was really hard for me. My parents had insisted I went into catered for halls. I get the logic, I couldn’t be trusted, but the food served up each day was so far beyond what I could tolerate in my system that it pushed me over the edge. It was essentially canteen fayre, not well cooked and the sort of stodge that is cheap for students to fill up on. It stodged up my mind and then my resolve.
I shook as I walked along with the tray and took in the slippery shiny sloppy selections sat in the silver troughs, under the lights. I went for the vegetarian option as at least I didn’t have a decision to make but, back at the table, it was so hard to bring the fork to my lips. I don’t know how many days I lasted. I don’t think it was many, before I headed to the shop to try to buy something else. I wanted something healthy but without any cooking facilities, the food baffled me. I looked at the calories and all foods seemed to have more than I felt was fair for what they offered me.
I bought a couple of bits I could eat in my room, a box of All Bran and a loaf of bread, but this became the start of something else. Most of the time I didn’t eat, but when I did, I found it hard to stop. There was a vending machine in the hall and I decided that maybe a treat from there would feel better than eating a piece of bread or having a meal. If I was going to be bad, I may as well be bad with something nice. This was the start of my bingeing. I felt so disgusting from the food on offer, and so guilty about wasting or eating any of the options, that I was in despair.
It was a vicious cycle. Every day I tried to be good, but somehow it just didn’t happen. On these days I would give in and eat, but not just something small, I would eat as much and as many of the things I denied myself the rest of the time, as I could get my hands on or force down. I hated myself for it and I felt ashamed of what I did, but I couldn’t seem to stop. I was angry with myself and with everyone else too. I was angry with my parents for sending me into the situation, although I didn’t dare tell them what I was doing. I felt out of control, and I was.
Second year I moved into a flat with three other girls. One was bulimic, one was pretty overweight, and one was one of those people whose mum isn’t there to make sure they eat properly so they have donuts instead of dinner. It was a relief to get out of the halls and away from the greasy meals, but it was out of the frying pan and into the fire really. We made each other worse, both mentally and emotionally. When you spend all of your time denying yourself, you don’t need to have the seed planted because someone else is ready to give in.
“Anyone fancy some chocolate?” Invariably this would happen at night. During the day we were still full of good intentions, but by the end of the day we were tired and hungry and our bodies were craving sugar. We were also up late working and studying so the evenings were long and empty. We developed a system where one, or two, would go to the shops. We had a rucksack and would walk the length of Great Western Road, in and out the corner shops, filling the bag. We put in orders, but there were always additional things.
Sometimes we would start off eating together, as if we were normal and wanted a snack with a cup of tea, but in the end we would retire to our own spaces, pretending it was over, but for me that would never be the case. I had long ago stopped trying to make myself sick although it was not for the want of trying. I think it was one of those situations where you want something so much that your body and mind conspire not to oblige and so I had taken to using laxatives instead. Of all the things I did, I think this is one that still causes me a lot of shame.
The first time I tried was shortly after my bingeing started. I bought the herbal sort and that was a mistake. I took a couple as it said. Nothing. I look a few more. Still nothing. I took 50 and then the remaining 46 and still no immediate effect. I am not sure what would have happened had I not gone to a different chemist and bought the chemical kind this time. I started off with 6, as by now, I had lost faith and time, the food festering inside me. I wanted some action.
I didn’t have long to wait until I felt my innards rumble and bubble. Yes. 6 was definitely enough and by the time I was doubled over in agony, crying for it to stop, I felt justly punished. Although this happened sometimes, it wasn’t behaviour I wanted to resort to. It was tying as I couldn’t leave the my flat for a couple of days and had to plan around the pills. An eating disorder tends not to work to plan. You have resolve, you lose resolve, you binge, you purge, you starve.
Basically it was miserable and what I ate or didn’t eat, or was going to eat or going to avoid, became my life. Any event with food was an issue. Christmas had me feeling anxious from august and trips home were tricky. Relationships were fraught, not just with my dysfunctional flatmates but with my boyfriend who just didn’t get it. He thought I was mentally ill and tried to make allowances but it was hard on us. My eating dictated my life and so it determined my mood, when I could be touched, when I could do anything really. Essentially it ate up that time of my life, and in the end, it ate up me.
The third and final part to this diary is here: Diary of a disordered diet ~the road to recovery However, if this is a topic which interests you then you might also want to check out the following posts:
- Skeleton in my closet: eating issues undressed is about my journey and the way that I am still affected by my difficult relationship with food and with my own body.
- Healing is an autobiographical account of my experience, but told from a third person perspective as the distance made it easier to write.
- Food: What’s your problem? An eating disorder exposed is an informative piece about eating disorders and what to look out for