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 third 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 and part 2 more recently 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 meant it when I said it ate up me. I mean, I literally lost myself to the nonsense that went on in my head. Nothing else mattered really and that voice became so much stronger than my own that I could no longer distinguish between the two. It isn’t like it gives you a break either. It is an obsession. It drives and determines all that you do and are. It was hard and I don’t pretend otherwise. I would vow to get rid of it, to be normal. During one of these conversations a friend actually said “I can’t imagine that. Without your eating disorder, what are you? Who are you?”
Looking back I am hurt for me, but at the time I was too far gone to care. If my friend had told me I was getting fat I would have been thrown into turmoil, but a comment like this was too deep to cut. However, I was aware of how bad things were and in desperation I did ask for help. It wasn’t forthcoming and I think there was generally quite a lack of understanding, as well as any empathy for those who chose this vain route to travel. We were seen as silly, indulgent and not really sick at all. Thank goodness for Lady Diana, even if the validation she brought was a little too late for me.
In the end, help came from a most unexpected source. Having left university I worked for a while and then went to teaching college. I had hit rock bottom in between, done a lot of soul searching and become addicted to exercise for the second time. I had taken myself apart and thrown myself back together, deciding I was fixed. I wasn’t, of course, but I had a routine which involved eating and exercising in a way which made me feel in control. Control was good. I was back in charge.
I wonder if this is where my need for structure and routine is founded as this was my first real experience of independent adulthood. I knew that I needed something to focus on so that I didn’t have time to think about myself. So I moved in with my boyfriend, who then became my fiance and husband, and chose a career which would always keep me on my toes. Life became about my work and my partner, and he was very needy of me. I was able to eat very little but it felt in hand and I slipped through a period where I felt relatively weightless compared to the previous 10 years.
I would say that I helped myself in the end, but help also came by way of motherhood. Not only did my pregnancy force me to eat a bit more, I am pretty sure that it also kicked my metabolism back to a point where it no longer expected starvation rations. I could eat an actual meal! I also wanted to be healthy for my kids and following pregnancy and childbirth, had a new found respect for my body. There was no way I wanted them to go through what I had experienced and so I tried my very hardest to eat and exist in a way I felt was normal.
Looking back now I see that I was still pretty messed up, but I was no longer ill. I think my eating was still disordered and I accept now that the scars will remain, but I am functioning in a way which allows me to blend in. It is a part of me and likely always will be, but it is not such a very large part. It is no longer eating me; more like I have eaten it and it sits there in the background, under a few layers of regular meals and snacks. Has it shaped who I am? Probably, but I am in good shape mentally and physically despite it. I am able to use my own experience to offer understanding and support to others and that feels like a positive thing.
I don’t feel like I walk in its shadow any longer, more that it is a shadow that shows up when the sun is at the right point to catch it. Healing is such a long process and I wonder really if we reach a point where we say, “It is done! I am fixed!” I am aware that I have said these very words at various points in my life, only to later learn that I still had progress to make. I don’t mind this. To feel that you can heal far beyond your own expectations is refreshing and reminds me how little we actually understand about the ways our minds work.
I am lucky. I recovered and I have not had an eating disorder for a very long time. I no longer really have disordered eating although I do have some disordered thinking and I think that probably will remain, although who knows? I am good at following rules, not just around food, but especially in that area. My decision to follow a plant based diet has been easy to implement and it has been fun to learn about new foods and have a different focus for eating. I have moved away from calorie counting and can no longer list the nutritional values of every single thing I eat with pride.
I still have self-imposed rules about certain foods but am so much more flexible and not as reactive. I feel like I am healthier now than I have been in a long time, mentally and physically and although my shape is not as I would choose it, I am accepting of it in a rational sense, even if I am inconsistent on an emotional level. While I would never want to go back, I do think our experience changes us and that things happen for a reason so I try not to have regrets. It is what it is and I am what I am.
The links to posts 1 and 2 are at the top of the page but if this is a topic which interests you then you might 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