Long and emotional post which starts to explain why travelling, enjoying food and being the size and shape that I am now is such a big deal for me. I’ll apologise now for the length and if this is a little too intense, but I feel it’s really important to understand what an eating disorder is like to discourage any of you reading this to ever hesitate helping by asking somebody you think might be struggling with something, or even discourage you from hiding away of you are struggling yourself.
Mental health is important. Eating Disorders are deadly and really will take you without you knowing it’s happened and keep you right there under its black wing as long as you allow it to hold you there. There is enough space for you in this world, no matter who you are. You do deserve to be here and you are loved. If you ever struggle to believe that, remember this. I love you. No matter who you are, where you’re from or how bad you think you are as a person because of what’s going on in your head, I love you. Mental illness doesn’t define you and you are so much more than what that darkness tells you that you are.
“We think that you’re very sick and need to come and stay here for a while, we’ll call your work and let them know you won’t be going in this afternoon, who would you like to contact to take you to the hospital? You’ll need to spend some time there before you come to us”.
The moment my world came crashing down. After years of disliking myself and months of hiding in my bedroom smoking weed everyday, taking whatever made me feel better and going as many days in a row without food as I could, I finally hit rock bottom. After 6 sessions with a councillor I connected with through my works Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), a lot of disbelief that there was even anything wrong, and a huge chip on my shoulder anytime Clive would even mention that I might need help, it was confirmed that I had Anorexia Nervosa, was dying and would need to immediately leave my home, my job and my friends behind for a long period of time if Iwas going to survive even the next few days.
My world collapsed inward a little further later that day whilst sitting in a hospital bed and realizing that there was no leaving, no walking away and going back to what I’d found comfort in for a long time, no staying the same or holding onto what I truly felt comfortable with. Rock bottom has many levels when you’re mentally unwell and the knowledge that this was just the beginning of the discovery of each level was too much. I started to self harm that evening and continued until I left the hospital 7 days later. I needed my body to hurt as much as my mind was hurting and being in a place of recovery, my own fingernails were all I had for comfort.
I had to eat, and there was absolutely no escaping it.
There was one night a few weeks earlier where I was day dreaming in the shower and a My Love by Blackmill started to play and in that moment I could see my own funeral. I’d never felt such peace. True peace and as the calm of understanding washed over me, I understood what I wanted more than anything. I wanted that day to come and for everything I felt to be over. For the time I was allowed my phone in the hospital, I listened to the song over and over again and prayed to whoever was listening for my dream to come true, for me to be able to reach my goal weight of 0kg and be allowed the ‘peace’ I felt I deserved.
Calling my parents and telling them not to freak out but I’m in the hospital for re-feeding because of an eating disorder and have no idea what do do was one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever done. In no way are you letting yourself or anybody else down if you are sick and need help, but at the age of 24 I felt like telling them that I was confused and being told by Doctors and nurses that I might be dying I had truly let myself fall apart and my parents were the last people I ever wanted to know.
Looking back, I’m so grateful to my friends for encouraging me to talk to my Mum and Dad because it was ultimately my beautiful father who kept me away from being taken in under the mental health act. The Dr wasn’t sure if they would keep me because of my physical or mental health and being somebody who goes hard or goes home, I wasn’t going to let my own mind be the reason I was sectioned and force fed into recovery.
My blood sugar was so low I was almost in a coma. My heart rate was so low whilst awake that it was close to failing during the night. I had hypothermia. My blood pressure was unbelievably low. I was so under weight my body was shutting down at the same time as it was eating itself to keep my vital organs working. I made a decision. Recover or die.
The next week was a special kind of hell. There were tears and tantrums. There was a fear so strong that I wished I’d been allowed to go home and keep on not eating until the terrorist that is anorexia got what she truly wanted, no more me. I’m so grateful for the help and care I received but at the same time, if you’re struggling and have the option to recover at home, take it with both hands and use that opportunity. I can’t even begin to explain how lonely and frightening it is to be watched 24/7 and knowing that it’s comply or be taken in without any of my own freedom and need a court case to get it back, or feed through a tube.
Moving into full time care was necessary, I see that now. I couldn’t have done it on my own. The first person I talked to was a frail looking young lady who advised “We’re sick and food is the medicine”. I’ll never forget that quote or the beautiful soul who said it because she was so wise and correct for somebody who was equally as sick. I wonder if she knows she actually shared a piece of a rather profound quote:
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food – Hippocrates
Live-in care is no picnic (excuse the pun). You have to ask for the toilet to be unlocked anytime you have to yoohoo, every meal is eaten with a bunch of people you don’t know and supervised to make sure you eat everything on your plate, you get 2 choices each day and you have to finish it all. You eat 6 times per day which, after eating once to zero times per day and not every day, is a nightmare.
After a few weeks of sitting, eating and trying to be positive, I was broken more than I was when I arrived. I was more suicidal than I was the day I found happiness in the thought of my own death and the only thing that was going to stop the feeling was to either run away and let the illness keep at me until I was gone or to beat it and make my parents proud. Do or die right?
I gave the illness a name, ‘Nicole’, to separate it from myself and to make it easier to remind myself that that wasn’t me, that it wasn’t my identity or something that I had to be. I felt crazy at the time but reading old journals back, it really was something separate from myself that was driving the need to starve.
10 long weeks of care were just the beginning of a fight that took a couple of years to really beat. As much as I wanted there to be, there was no quick fix for the thing in my mind telling me that being thin was the only thing I had to offer this world. People called me brave. People called me strong but I felt like neither of these things. For a long time after finding a healthy weight and going about my life I still felt like a failure. There was still that nagging voice/feeling/terror in my mind telling me that I had failed at the one thing I was good at; being thin, not eating, losing weight and feeling powerful when I accomplished any of these things.
The notion that really set in stone that I need to shake it before Nicole broke me again was the fact that even though I felt like I’d failed at what was meant for me by trying to recover, at the time it was happening it wasn’t good enough either. Everyday, no matter how hard I worked, no matter what I didn’t eat, no matter what I tried, it wasn’t enough for Nicole. Even at my lowest weight I was too fat, too hungry, not working hard enough and still a failure in her eyes.
I’d say it took a good couple of years to really learn to love the way my body looks naturally. I still have bad days and there was a period of time this and last year where all I wanted to was to look like anybody else because of depression and being compared to other women by a partner not meant for me but, overall I’d say I’ve been anorexia free for about 2 and a half to 3 years and am even proud to say that I don’t want it. I don’t want that short lived feeling of power from skipping a meal or another KG lost to ever return. The personal power I feel from gaining confidence through understanding that this is who I am and what I look like is so much more than anything I could have ever dreamed of.
I don’t need to be thin. I don’t need to miss a meal to feel like I achieved something. I don’t even need to change the shape of my body at the gym (I was gymming sporadically because the feeling of picking something up something heavy and putting it down, beating my PB on the treadmill and knowing that I was becoming stronger with every visit was what I imagine crack feels like for those people who are that way inclined). I think this is why I love yoga so much and prefer it now more than any other form of peace seeking. It doesn’t change my shape, it doesn’t grow anything physically apart from strength, it doesn’t require a certain waist size or for my butt to be noticeably bigger (which seems to have been the godforsaken white girl trend of 2017). I just have to be myself, on my mat and in the present moment, and that my dears is all that’s required for a happy life; to live in the present moment as the most pure and unique version of you that you are.
With all sincerity and tears running down my face as I type this, I wish you all the best and offer you a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen and a hand to hold should you need it for any reason. You are not alone, whatever your struggle may be. Mental health is no joke and self love is something which takes time and constant attention. If you ever feel like you aren’t meant to be here, like you have no friends, like you don’t matter or like you don’t know what to do, contact me. I won’t pretend to know how you feel or act as though I know how to fix it for you because I don’t, but I am here to listen and guide you through your struggle and remind you that if the flakiest person of all time can knuckle down and fix the biggest and most devastating thing to have ever happened to to me, you can too. You can do anything you dream of, you can be whoever you wish to be, you can live your dream and you are perfect, as you are.
Life is limitless if you take yours into your own hands and cherish it like the priceless gem that it is. Be you, un-apologetically you and shine brighter than you ever thought you even could and share that light with the beautiful people in this world who need your light. I love you. Have a wonderful day, wherever and who ever you are.