Posts Tagged ‘Anorexia Nervosa’

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2011

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I started writing a post about Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

I stopped because I am not sure, yet, what I’d like to say.

That, of all psychiatric disorders, Anorexia Nervosa has the highest premature mortality rate. That the mortality rates for Bulimia and eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS) are equally terrifying.

That part of the complexity of eating disorders lies in the fact that no experience is exactly the same. That there are resonances and similarities, but each person’s experience is unique.

That I am deeply worried by the closures of units that I keep hearing about, especially those that I have known. That I am also scared by the growing number of sufferers and, particularly, of younger – and older – and male sufferers.

That it is as important to focus on awareness of recovery as it is to focus on awareness of being ill.

I don’t know.

All of these – and nothing. A large part of my life has been stolen by an eating disorder and I do not want to give it anymore time –

No. This is not quite true. Part of the taking back is choosing to give it time. It’s just that the time is spent in a different way.

I have had a rough few months. I try and skim over it because it is easier that way. Because there is less room, now, between me and my blog, and it is therefore much harder to hide. Because the time has been golden, too, and it’s hard to reconcile the magic and the struggle. Because even with 18 years of experience and a good whack of intensive treatment, an eating disorder can still ambush, ensnare and baffle. Can re-emerge, when you think you’re on the straight and narrow; or slip in when the routines that you’ve built to keep it out get perturbed –

And so this is my message.

Not that an eating disorder haunts forever – but that it is a difficult battle to win.

That it needs to be talked about for these reasons. Because it is a difficult battle to win and a difficult experience to talk about; and because the complexity of eating disorders means that they are difficult to understand. Because we’re not winning yet and we need to work together. Because recovery is very possible, and it’s important to tell that story as well.

There’s lots of stuff going on this week. beat have released a much needed report on the use of images in the reporting of eating disorders; there’s a busy schedule of online and offline events; Men Get Eating Disorders Too have launched a new membership scheme; we’ve got a cool Facebook page focusing on the positives of recovery –

And I’m using the time to touch base with myself and think a little bit about how I’m going to move things forward in the coming months. How I can make sure that I win my battle, and continue enjoying the amazing things that recovery can bring.

Recovery: Some of the things we talked about…

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I did a recovery vodcast earlier this week. Because my recovery was so internalised and over-analysed, I forget that there are useful things that could be said. This is a recovery dump. It’s some of the things that we talked about that I had only talked to myself about. I don’t know whether they’ll be helpful. I’ve been so aware that my recovery has been different from his recovery – which is different from her recovery – that I’d forgotten the points where experiences collide, and that the more weapons you can rally up, the better.

It is not an easy battle, nor fought on a single front…

So, in no particular order, these are some of the things that we discussed.


Eating Disorders: The Bottom Line

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I have been intellectualising and analysing my eating disorder a lot recently. Scrutinising it under my mental magnifying lens. Looking at it from this angle – and that one. Trying to order the complexity into some semblance of sense.

I have wanted to unpick each sordid secret and expose every unspoken rule. To break down the perceptions. To write myself into recovery. To say the things I shouldn’t say because maybe, together, we can help to make things change…

It is important, I think, to talk about these things.

But it is even more important to remember that eating disorders kill.

It is even more important to remember that eating disorders kill.

I am worried that I have diluted this message. That in the to-ing and fro-ing, I have blurred over this one, crucial point. That in the detail, and the dissection, I have forgotten to re-iterate the terrifying bottom line –

Eating disorders kill.

So, this is a reality check and a reminder. An acknowledgement of the cruel truth about eating disorders – but also, that recovery is possible and that there are people out there who can help.

There are people out there that can help.

It is a message that makes my eyes watery and my stomach, clench –

But it comes, along with the experience and hope of recovery, as the most important thing that I can write.

A Few of the Lies My Eating Disorder Liked Me To Believe

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

My eating disorder was a consummate liar. It had a few lines that always kept me stuck. I tried, (when I was feeling brave enough), to argue the point; but there was always an element of “what if I’m wrong” that made me play along.

It is hard to challenge something when you’re cowering under its threats. These ones stick out.

Anorexia. And Bulimia. And Stalemate.

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

My diagnosis was anorexia bulimia.

I stopped eating. Lost lots of weight. Started throwing up what I did eat. And then added in some hardcore bingeing for good measure.

I am more aware, now, of the different diagnostic criteria, and how they’re all subtyped and divided. I don’t think they were so defined, when I started out, so I mistakenly assumed I was unique…

Or I simply wasn’t prepared to listen.

And so, instead, I seemed to inhabit a lonely kind of middle land, where the one – cancelled the other one – out. I am not anorexic because I binge and purge – and I am not just bulimic, because if you take away the bingeing and purging, there’s certainly no other eating going on under there.

Neither behaviour would admit to the other – and the denial certainly wasn’t challenged by me.

The In-Betweener

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

My sister has just informed me that the little package I didn’t recognise at the bottom of her bag is a tampon.  Things must have changed a bit since 1996, which is the last date that I remember having a period; or maybe I’ve just forgotten. I’m not even sure that we made it to first name terms.

It is embarrassing, at 30, to be informed of what a tampon looks like; and I am beginning to get a bit concerned now, that even though I’m weighing in near normal, they have not made a reappearance. It feels like a kick in the teeth. After I have done so much hard work and changed myself, beyond all recognition, my body still won’t play ball.

Speaking Out

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Despite adamantly believing that I would never speak about my eating disorder and vowing that, if I recovered, I would leave it behind me, I have found myself doing rather a lot of talking in recent months.

Provided with some great opportunities by Professor Janet Treasure, I have spoken to students, professionals, and general bods; and, found it a remarkably rewarding process and a real way of being able to change a few perceptions.

“Good” Food

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

In 1993, I gave up fat for Lent.

In an attempt to be “good” (which I was a little hung up on), and to prove my self discipline (which seemed to be lapsing), and to convince myself, once and for all, that I could stick to my guns; I decided that a period of abstinence was a great way of putting myself on the straight and narrow -

The Aftermath

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Now that the worst is over, it feels, sometimes, like I’m left to pick up the pieces of a life or clearing up after a party that has gone horribly wrong.

In the moments of quiet, when I’m trudging up the stairs to my lonely flat or clutching my stomach in the middle of the night whilst it spasms, backwards and forwards, then I wish that I could reclaim a little of what I have lost –

Maintaining Factors

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I have been asked to talk about the things that kept my eating disorder going for so long. The ‘maintaining factors’, in medical speak.

It is difficult to answer this now, when the reality of so many lost years feels like an open wound, and, if I could go back and violently shake my previous selves, I would.

It is hard not to turn to myself and say, yes, Melissa, what exactly did you think you were gaining from choosing an eating disorder over the things that most people aspire to, like jobs and husbands and families and friends…

Maintaining factor 1: Oblivion

A Phobia of Food-

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

I seem to be a little squeamish about food.

I am yet to work out whether this is a consequence – or a cause; a commonality – or a quirk that’s peculiar to myself.

It goes back to a peanut in a glass of orange juice incident, and is proving quite hard to shrug off –

Black Ice

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Outside, the snow is ankle deep and shot through with black ice.

Twice this morning, I have seen a frail figure, clad in leggings and a thick woolly hat, run past my window.

This is why I am writing this website.

Anorexia does not do holidays and it certainly doesn’t do days off.

This is why the message is so important.

If she falls, she will break.

This is why I’m telling my secrets -

Because the prisoner running up and down the road whilst the rest of the world is wrapped up in warmth or shouting with laughter reminds me of where I’ve come from –

And where too many people seem to be going -

If we don’t change the trend.

No Going Back.

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Flashing lights and ambulance sirens and the mutterings of paramedics and this is the break point. This is the moment when I’m scared that I might have gone too far.

Hospital beds at three in the morning with a wired up heart and an alarm that keeps beeping and this is the life change. This is the instant when I can see what I’m about to lose.

And, in that precariously balanced moment, when I’m not sure which side of the fine line I’ll end up on, and I’m terrified that it will be the wrong one; this is the promise that I make to myself –

No going back.


Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

We are programmed to forget pain.

This is a luxury of human biology but it makes it a little difficult to articulate an experience: the edge is softened with time.

Maybe this is why relapse happens (we forget how bad it really was); or why it’s so difficult to understand and empathise with the eating disorder experience.

Even I find it difficult to identify with my ill self now that I am a little stronger.


Friday, September 11th, 2009

I’m not sure that I’ll be able to have children.

You might not care at 14; but it hurts at 29.

The signs aren’t looking good; so, whilst the rest of my peers are busy reproducing, I’m still waiting for my body to get used to being healthy.

After 17 years, it’s taking a while.

Children didn’t enter my eating disorder dominated head very often; but now I’m getting back in touch with the world, I wish I’d explored the concept a little. It’s only with maturity that I understand that it’sone of the most important things a person can ever do –

I’m kind of hoping that I haven’t destroyed that option.

Please learn from my mistakes.

Fixated with Food?

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

It doesn’t take a genius or the horrors of Belsen to illustrate the connection between anorexia and food fixation –

There’s nothing like a touch of starvation to really focus the mind.

Anorexia gets you hooked on an emotional level – but it’s the physical reaction that will really screw with your head.


Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I’ve managed to cover quite a lot of ground without mentioning anorexia. I’ve sidestepped the key feature. Managed to avoid any serious discussion.

It’s been a bit of a pattern, this whole denial avoidance discomfort thing.

It’s an indication of how incredibly difficult and entangled it all is. It’s an indication of how exhausting and monotonous and ingrained it all becomes.

But there are things that need to be said and bits that I need to work out.

There’s a whole misunderstood epidemic out there that I seem to have got unintentionally caught up in.

And I’m really hoping that what I learnt was part of the reason.


Sunday, June 28th, 2009

Anorexia is not very honest. It tells you things that aren’t true – you eat too much – and makes you tell other people things that aren’t true – I eat enough. Bulimia’s similar although the lies are slightly different. I imagine that other eating disorders operate along the same lines of deception.

It’s not a conscious deceit – it’s all about the illness taking control. If something tells you that black is white enough times, you start to believe it. At the very least, you start to question whether black is white.

Honesty’s hard when your minds being addled. When you’re lying to yourself, lying to others is path of the course. And it makes everything a whole lot easier.

Talking about an eating disorder is humiliating. You do things that you wouldn’t normally do.


The cost of anorexia (physical)

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

My stomach gave way this morning.

It is a strange source of inspiration but I’m taking it as a sign.

I can’t afford to be prudish at a time like this.

It’s all very well viewing the possibility of death as a medical scare tactic; but you never reach the destination immediately – there’s lots of steps along the way. Nature doesn’t take much notice of the it’ll never happen to me approach.

And, whilst Anorexia may start out as an artificial anti-ager, you might as well press fast forward on the aging button: I may have looked like a child but anorexia has transported me straight to geriatricity.

It’s just taken a while to see this.


The Great Size Debate

Friday, June 5th, 2009

Being thin is the telltale sign of anorexia.

Thinness and anorexia. The words have almost become almost synonymous now. Interchangeable descriptors.

I can see where they’re coming from. Starvation is a pretty visual effect. It demands the most attention. It’s a bit of a giveaway.

Being thin was at the heart of my eating disorder and completely irrelevant to it. It was, simultaneously, a desired consequence and an unintended outcome.



Understanding the Appeal…

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

I’ve been trying to get my head around this whole pro-anorexia trend. Wondering whether, in the process of healing, I’ve forgotten what it felt like and lost a little of the empathy that would make understanding possible.

It’s hard to go back there.

When you start to see the damage and have struggled – and struggled – for your freedom, then remembering the attraction is difficult…

But it’s probably important.

If you can understand the appeal then you might be able to offer an alternative.

Unspeakable Things

Monday, June 1st, 2009

At the height of my anorexia, no one asked me whether I was okay. I’m far more approachable with a fractured ankle. It’s been quite a talking point.

The contrast is striking.

People are scared of anorexia. They tiptoe on eggshells around it. People don’t want to say the wrong thing. They don’t want to aggravate it. They don’t want to be implicated in it, maybe.

I completely understand. I didn’t want to talk about it either.

And therein lies the problem: we’re all concurring with it. It’s privileged, permitted to run riot, tacitly prioritied – because no one wants to speak about it. No one knows what to say.

The silence is deafening.

Anorexia is the great big elephant in the room.