18 years ago, I gained an eating disorder and lost an identity.
It wasn’t a great exchange.
But it wasn’t a complete write off.
Writing about an eating disorder is fraught with danger. For me. Firstly, there’s the potential cashing-in-on-a-tragedy charge. Then, there’s the glamourising-an-eating-disorder band wagon. The subject’s a bit tired; the details aren’t pretty – and self-exposure should never be entered into lightly. Most importantly, I have categorically refused to define myself in relation to my eating disorder. Until now.
Ironically, it is at the very stage when I am re-discovering my identity, when I am finally finding Melissa, that the value of writing about my experiences is emerging. That it’s beginning to look like my eating disorder has defined me – but not in the way it meant to. Whilst I have lost more than I care to consider and paid highly for the privilege, I’ve also learnt a lot of things – and this is my attempt to tip the balance back in my favour.
I am a writer through and through: I think and dream and sleep and read the world in words. During my illness, I made sense of things through writing and I understood myself better through other people’s words. In my recovery, I realised that anorexia and bulimia had stolen the experiences, inspiration and ambition that would let me write like other people could write.
This is me turning the tables.
I may not know about relationships and exotic places and having children and all the usual things that people can relate to – but I know a lot about eating disorders, and the experiences and emotions ain’t a million miles away from the things that most people feel at some point.
Isolation: unbearable – but great to get you looking at the world around you. Depression: common as hell – but I’m proof that there’s ways out. Addiction: multiple – and the cause and cure’s are the same. Insecurity: comes in fits and starts.Recovery: unpredictable – but possible -
You get the picture.
But then it might mean that I can help someone from waking up at 29, sleeping-beauty-like, and realise that they’ve slumbered their life away because they made a bad deal -
- or just got a little lost along the way….