I can remember as far back as being twelve years old when my body dysmorphia began to come to life. I recall a hot day on the beach of 2002 with my best friend and my first boyfriend where I covered up the tops of my legs, wearing shorts in the sea while everyone else was perfectly happy in a bikini; even my friend who was much curvier than me.
I was a tiny little thing, there wasn’t an inch of fat on me and yet that was all I saw, I began to war with my body. Little did I know then how extreme my issues would become and that I would be sat here now, at the age of twenty-five, energyless from having not eaten in two days, and- further- that two days without food is nothing to me.
There is a gap in time of two years where I cannot remember how I felt or what my habits were, but what I do remember is being fourteen, going on the pill and gaining weight. I only gained a little but it felt like the end of the world. And so I went on a diet. I cut out all the nice things: Chocolate, biscuits, cake, ice cream, things like chips and ‘junk food,’ and pretty much anything remotely unhealthy. And that’s where the restricting really started. This was also the age at which I started drinking heavily, smoking pot, self-harming and when I went on my first lot of anti-depressants and sleeping pills. The thought of my potential fourteen year old child going on such heavy medication at such a young age horrifies me, but I suppose my parents didn’t know what to do with me.
Another gap in time, and then at sixteen I was a ‘full-blown’ anorexic. Dieting turned into starving and I became obsessed with calories. Not so long ago I found all the notebooks I kept in which I would detail every calorie I consumed, even down to a stick of gum. I found piles and piles of them and I felt so sorry for that young girl that felt the need to keep them day in and day out.
I lost an alarming amount of weight and became terribly ill. At one stage I was unable to even get out of bed; I felt like I had the flu all the time and I didn’t even have the energy to go to school. Soon, my teeth started falling out. I spent my days in bed making scrapbooks of ‘thinspiration’ and whoring over recipe books, daydreaming about eating the food and feeling a sense of ultimate power that I was able to resist it all.
My friends would come over and I would cook them a huge meal of everything I would have loved to eat while I either settled for one raw carrot or simply a cup of tea as my dinner.
After around a year of full-on starving myself (I even once didn’t eat for two weeks), I turned to bingeing and purging. At seventeen I was diagnosed with bulimia.
I don’t know what the transition was or why, but I started giving into the things I had been dying to eat for a whole year. It started when I got a job in my local library. I was allowed two tea breaks per shift and they would always have a great selection of biscuits in the staff room. I would go to work so hungry, use so much energy that I didn’t even have and then go upstairs and secretly binge on biscuits, followed by making myself sick.
But it isn’t always easy to get everything up, more often than not you’d only achieve half, and even then there were times when you didn’t get the opportunity to purge until much later and so most of the calories had already been absorbed. And so I gained weight.
Looking back now, I wasn’t at all fat. In fact I remained skinny, just not as skinny as before. Still, I hated myself more than ever and began to hide away indoors, away from the social world and I started drinking alone instead of going to the parties all my friends went to. I became a heavy cannabis smoker and used ketamine on a regular basis, both in hope of hiding from my thoughts and to lose more weight.
Next I discovered the wonders of laxatives. I would binge, make myself as sick as I could and sometimes take as much as an entire packet of dulco-lax.
By the time I reached eighteen I was a stick again. My drink and drug habit had increased by a hundred fold and I virtually lost interest in food, which of course delighted me. I spent sixth-form days in my house with two friends who fed me weed instead of food by the bucket load and I began to drink to change the way I felt as opposed to having fun. I spent my weekends with my first proper boyfriend being incredibly active and so losing weight that way as well.
I discovered the meaning of ‘net calories’ and followed that path. I would consume no more than two hundred calories a day- each day- and burn off five hundred and so my intake would then be in minus. This I had learned from pro-anorexia forums which I visited daily to compare myself to skeletal girls’ pictures and gather tips and tricks and look for inspirational quotes. This came with some difficulty because I shared a computer with my dad and so I had to do it quickly and in secret. Having and maintaining an eating disorder involves a lot of secrecy.
I was still underweight but I refused to believe it.
I left sixth-form college later than most as a result of both my ongoing eating disorder and mental health issues and didn’t leave for university until I was nineteen.
I didn’t go back to binging after that, I just continued to starve myself and remained miserable. I would say that year- 2009- was the year I officially made the transition into alcoholism. I drank day and night. In the winter I would never see daylight as I would drink into the early hours (alone in my room) and get up at 4pm. I missed almost all my lectures, I rarely socialised and cared only for alcohol and weight loss. At the time I was in a relationship with a man who would hit me, drag me around the room by my hair, throw drinks in my face and spit on me, but I thought I deserved it. He got me into hard drugs- ecstasy, coke, amphetamines, skunk, you name it- but thank god not heroine, even though he was smoking it when I wasn’t around.
And so, of course, since my priorities lay elsewhere I didn’t care for food.
Just before I turned twenty I liberated myself. I met a much older man who seemed to care deeply for me and I started to turn my life around. I loved him and- for once in my life- I could see that he didn’t care about my weight, and I actually believed him. Through him, I found AA and I gained a little confidence in myself. I ate- normally- for quite a long period of time and I gained a fair amount of weight, but I didn’t feel the need to do anything about it. It was nothing short of a miracle, but the miracle didn’t last.
After a year our relationship became turbulent. As with all of my boyfriends, he couldn’t handle my mental illness (which around that time was finally diagnosed as bipolar). He would break up with me and want me back a few days or weeks later and I gradually lost my newfound confidence.
I turned to anorexia again and relapsed on alcohol multiple times. I had already tried to take my own life a few times at this stage, but this time I went for a new method: I slit my wrists. I couldn’t live with myself a day longer. I drank two bottles of wine, researched on the internet how to do it properly and used my razorblades to try and end the pain once and for all. But I failed.
Suffice to say, our relationship didn’t last much longer. I was really in a bad way, mentally, and he couldn’t take it any longer.
When I got together with my next boyfriend- directly after my previous relationship ended- I was still buried in my eating disorder as well as all of my other problems. I was a mess, but once again a loving partner was able to help me to turn things around.
I gained weight, but I was in love and I felt happy and secure. He was overweight at the time and this made me feel like I didn’t have such a high standard to live up to.
Somewhere down the line things turned nasty. Again. Instead of undereating I started overeating and we mirrored one another’s habits. We’d spend most nights in watching films and eating an entire cheesecake each. But when we decided, together, in the summer of 2012 to lose all the weight I took it to an extreme and fell back into my love affair with anorexia. This time I would get into minus calories by working out alone in my room, and I wouldn’t settle until I’d rid my body of every crumb.
I was very unhappy with him, in the end, we argued a lot and he was very jealous of every man I came into contact with. But, in the end, he was right to be jealous.
I cannot recall what my eating pattern was like towards the end, but what I do know is that- when I met someone else- I was so obsessed with him that I thought I needed to be perfect and- at least in my mind- perfect means super skinny. I wanted to impress him in order to keep him.
My issues with food went on and on (and on) until the point that- a year into our relationship- he, too, had had enough. The man I thought was the love of my life broke up with me last summer and I completely lost my mind.
We continued to see each other, sexually, until last September when I got together with someone else- my current boyfriend- at a festival.
I felt so secure with Jules that I went into remission for almost a whole year. He has not one shallow bone in his body and- up until recently- showed me a lot of love and made me feel like I was worth something. I had manic episodes and he didn’t run away, unlike all my previous partners. We were open and honest with each other and I felt like I could finally settle down.
In February of this year, my grandma passed away. She was more like a parent to me than anything else and I was so shocked by her death. We had fallen out over something stupid right before she died and hadn’t spoken since Christmas Day, and so I got it into my head that she had died hating me. My family entered into a battle over the will and I fell out very badly with my aunt.
Around the same time I became very ill. For three months they told me I had bowel cancer which completely freaked me out and made me very depressed (thankfully later tests showed that it wasn’t the case). I was bedridden for months on end and so turned to food for comfort, for the first time, instead of starving myself. I went on a new medication which piled weight on me but I managed to shut out the voices for quite some time.
Lately I feel I have lost all purpose in my life. My relationship is a mess and I cannot find anything in this world that makes me happy. I could not be more miserable in my current living circumstances and I have no way of escaping my predicament without a large sum of money and I am living off of sickness benefits.
Three months ago, after that long period in remission, the anorexic voice returned in full force. If I’m honest, it never really went away, I was still bullied every time I ate and I was still completely disgusted by my body, but I had been strong enough to fight it and get on with my life, or what was left of it.
I clearly went back to my old ways in order to try and gain some control, while everything around me fell apart.
I have become sick of life, sick of my daily existence and I hate myself. I hate everything about myself. I starve to hide from my feelings, I starve so that I feel less lonely, I starve so that I can bare to look at myself, I starve to fit into nicer clothes and- most of all- I starve to punish myself for the terrible person that I think I am.
Really, I have no evidence to suggest that I am in any way a bad person, but, for me, not being underweight is a good enough reason to feel bad.
This particular episode has been going on for a long time, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon. But I am tired. I am so tired of life and I want to starve to extremes and hurt myself in so many ways, and I want to drink more than ever. For now I can only take comfort in hunger; nothing else.
Having an eating disorder ruins your life, from the outside-in, it takes everything you know and love away from you.
I wish I could tell you that there is a way back- a way out- but when you have been in this deep for thirteen long years it is hard to say that it will ever leave you alone.