Something inside me was blunt: my eating disorder had separated me from the real world and I was living inside its perpetual bubble. My world was the echo after the firework: there, but only sort of. Not the real thing. Not reality. The muffled goings on of day-to-day life didn’t touch me if I had anorexia to play with. Akin to a drug addict, weight loss was my high. If I didn’t get my fix daily my world would crumble. I wouldn’t be able to leave my room for fear that people could ‘tell’ that I had failed. Anorexia would create looks of disgust and judgement that I now realise didn’t even exist. If I did lose weight the only thing that could possibly worry me was how to lose more by the next day. I felt like I did not have a choice.
If I didn’t lose weight, I would not be a mentally functioning human being. If I did lose weight, I would not be a physically functioning human being. Either way, I was dying. I was a prisoner and I didn’t even know it.
I did not belong in treatment. Despite being a voluntary patient at an eating disorders unit, I could not understand why I was there. Why were the nurses checking my blood pressure? Why did I have to sit down all the time? During my first inpatient admission I worried that the other patients would be angry at me and that the ward staff were laughing at me. I felt that just by being there, I was making a mockery of the illness; that others were clearly very unwell, and I was just pretending. I felt like an imposter and a fraud.
The first day of my second admission, however, was the real kicker. I was here again – nurses, doctors, blood tests, observations, a window in my bedroom door… the care you’d imagine someone who was truly sick would need. And I did. Like a kick in the gut, I realised what I had done. I was killing myself and had to be put into the care of professionals to be stopped. It felt dehumanising and I was humiliated. I was a twenty-something university graduate who couldn’t feed herself.
Behaviours that at one point I thought of as perfectly rational and right now seem so totally beyond anything considered healthy. I never for a second thought that weighing myself up to five times a day wasn’t the right thing to do. I obviously had to weigh myself after a shower just in case the water had been absorbed and I suddenly looked ‘puffy.’ I couldn’t apply moisturiser as I was terrified it would make my skin expand. If my nails weren’t blue I had eaten too much.
Realising and accepting that an eating disorder is even there is one of the biggest steps to take in recovery. Many sufferers don’t even realise that their thoughts and behaviours are symptoms of an illness that claims at least one life every 62 minutes.
Eating disorders have a way of hiding - even from the sufferer. They lurk in the cracks in your mind and gradually spread. For years, I would describe something other than myself in my head. The ‘anorexic voice’ isn’t quite an auditory hallucination, nor is it your own inner dialogue. It’s something in between that whispers and screams and commands and kills. It wasn’t until upon entering an inpatient facility and meeting others with the exact same experience of this voice, that I realised exactly what it was. This thing living on my shoulder was anorexia nervosa. I have anorexia.
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