In the beginning it’s fine. You are 12 years old, 15 or maybe a little more, you could have been less like I was. Either way, whatever age, it’s fine because it’s early days, the damage only just starting to accumulate but what does it matter? You are young enough to believe that the body has no boundaries, that you can force it and twist it into any shape because that is what you desire. You will not heed it’s warning, or listen to it’s distress, you will feel pain but you will cherish that pain because perhaps you tell yourself that it means that it’s working. There is no understanding that the body will only withstand the cruelty in which you will show it before it fights back, fights you and when that isn’t enough, when it falls in submission, the body breaks. You will not be victorious or even aware that you have achieved whittling your body down to nothing because your body is dying and that refuses to be ignored. It might take a year, it might take 5, hell I’ve been at this for 17 years but eventually you look up, you notice the destruction, it finally hits you how much have lost and sacrificed and only then, despite you thinking thin was worth it, you will realise that that is nothing but bullshit.
Do you think that you’re different? That you can dance this dance and walk away unscathed? I did. I thought I had it worked out, that I had it and it didn’t have me. The heart-breaking truth is though that that is a lie that you tell yourself every day because you already know it has you. Why else would you drag yourself out of your bed every day, pushing and stretching and jumping before you’ve even managed to wipe the sleep from your overtired eyes? Why else would you stand in front of the mirror, crying and prodding and praying for the strength to not break the reflection staring back at you? Why would you lie to the people who loved you, fail in your classes, pass out in the hallways, feel your insides shrivelling up, crawl under blankets and hot water bottles because you can never get warm? You do it because it feels like you don’t have a choice, because you don’t know how to stop, you don’t know how to still the fear the is erupting from every cell in your body, every second of the day other than following the voices which demand that you eat less, work out more and do all that you can to protect your secret.
Still don’t think it applies to you? Still think that you will reach your goal weight and enough will be enough and you can go back to living the life you were living before. You’ll be able to go out again and drink wine, or order pizza for a movie night in. You’ll eat Christmas dinner with your family and have an ice cream just because you feel like it. Do you think the guilt will vanish over night? That you won’t be continuously worried that even one extra raisin might make you regain all the weight you fought so hard to lose? Me too. You won’t. Once Anorexia gets in, when it fills every corner of your mind, it’s not that easy to turn back. You don’t just get to stop. You don’t flirt with death in this way and wake up whole again, unmarked. The goal weight doesn’t exist. The goal weight is not the ending for Anorexia because it moves and then keeps moving till before you know it, the only weight that is acceptable is 0, not size 0, just 0.
Anorexia is not some little diet. It is not a method of losing weight that is sustainable or even liveable. It is a disorder that will kill you given half the chance. It’s not about becoming a better version of yourself; it’s about hating yourself so much that you are willing to burn everything to the ground. It is a creator of pain so deep and so raw, that hell you will begin to imagine will feel like an overcast day in the North of England rather than the fiery landscape it is said to be. Anorexia won’t stop coming at you so you need to be the one to figure out how you will stop it before you can’t anymore, before it’s taken your entire life.
I’m in my late twenties, recovering and relapsing more times than I care to think about anymore. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I don’t wish that I had walked away sooner or that I had gotten help before I reached the 11 year mark. I didn’t though. I always figured I’d wake up one day, snap my fingers and somehow every trace of it would disappear. I thought I was smarter and stronger and I was arrogant enough to believe that I was in control of it all. I told myself I had an Eating Disorder because I wasn’t ready to let go but the moment was, then I could let it go. That moment came and I tried and then I failed. Repeatedly. The 11 year, became the 12th, the 13th and so on until now when I’m at the 17th going into the 18th. I have been stabbed and poked and tubed and hospitalised and measured and weighed more times than any person should in their lives and still, do you want to know what Anorexia whispers to me in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep? “It’s ok, just don’t eat tomorrow, I’m right here, I have you, I know you’re hurting but I’m not going anywhere. You can always count on me” And that voice is right, I can count on it. I can count on it to kill me. There is nothing beautiful or hopeful or aspirational about it.
I hate this illness. I hate this pain that it causes. I hate that it holds me tighter every time I fall. Mostly though I hate that it still claims more people all of the time and knowing that I have no power to stop it. The only person who holds that power is the person who is slipping into its grip. I want to believe that there is always hope when it comes to any Eating Disorder but it’s not always easy and the longer you leave it and live with it; the harder it becomes to ever fully be free again. There is never the right time to get help; there will always be a reason why you shouldn’t, another pound to lose or another goal. Just think about this, it might be fine now, it might not destroy everything – and I mean everything from your body to your mind to your relationships to your future- right this second, but imagine being 30 or 40 or older, trying to have a family but possibly being infertile, or trying to fall in love but too tired to go out, or still crying over a slice of bread or a gram of butter. Imagine your bones so fragile that a slip to the floor can lead to a break, or a heart that is just waiting to fail or a brain that can no longer think the way that it used to. Imagine losing your adolescence, your adulthood and if you’re lucky enough to reach old age, probably that too to saying no, to tears and lies and hiding and finding yourself lost in your reflection day after day, still being too much even though there is nothing left at all.
Don’t go down like that. Do not wait any longer; do not give any more of yourself. Move on. Get help.
I hope your day is kind to you.