Walking with Ana

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Hello, Blooms!

Long time no post? Ouch, not what I had intended. However, recent circumstances and health issues have interfered with my ability to write; but I’m here now my lovelies, and I’m happy to share my work with you, as always.

This post regards eating disorders, and thus comes with trigger warnings. Please take caution reading the content below, and if you feel you could be disturbed do consider refraining from reading further.

With that being said…let’s get started.

Meeting Ana

Firstly, before we begin in full – in order for you to fully understand the reasons behind my Anorexia, I need to quickly explain what happened previously…

In January 2015, at age 14 – I developed acute appendicitis, which was misdiagnosed. Inevitably, I suffered from a perforated appendix, and as a result, had to have emergency surgery.

 

Of course, I am so eternally grateful and thankful that I overcame that illness and chapter of my life, however, due to the nature of my health at that time, I suffered from complications, which meant I lost a lot of weight very quickly, my diet was poor, I was drip-fed being that I was nil-by-mouth, and I required a stomach drain.

Although after I was able to start eating solid food over the next few months, and have some of my favourite meals (albeit infrequently), I felt relieved; as I’m sure you can imagine being nil-by-mouth is a highly dehumanising thing to endure and adapt to.

Yet it was unnerving, my attitude towards food changed  – no longer did I look at food as a source of energy and something to fully enjoy, but I feared food as I no longer wanted to endure further digestion complications; it wasn’t a risk I wished to take.

6 MONTHS LATER

It was August. Mum and I were visiting Corbridge; a quaint little stone-built village full of character, history, and chocolate box houses. It was a place I found great comfort in at the time, being so close to nature, being able to explore alongside my best friend. It was tranquil and soothing. We neared an ice cream parlour – however, I now understand that I have a dairy allergy and lactose intolerance, so with this knowledge, I would never eat anything containing dairy. Although, this was unbeknownst to be at the time, and I’m sure you can imagine what happened later that day after I took a bite of my ice cream.

Foods which I enjoyed, and ate knowing that they would help me gain the weight I needed to be able to fully recover, and realising they were causing me physical pain and discomfort, made me feel like gaining the weight wasn’t working, it made me believe that I could probably stay the same weight and cut out all of the ‘unhealthy’ foods which I had previously considered perfectly fine in moderation, and still recover. After all, there were loads of people I could name who was of a similar build to me, and they were fine (as far as I was aware).

 

So my decision was made, and a mental plan was constructed in my mind – to cut out foods I considered as unhealthy because of their nutritional information (ie. calorie content) – and begin to restrict my diet and control what I was eating. During this time in my life, I was clearly desperate to gain a sense of control over my mental and physical state; and sadly as many people do, I controlled my diet.

However, as those who have been exposed to the realities of an eating disorder may know, the disorder itself strips control from you entirely. You aren’t able to make fully coherent and justified decisions about what you should eat when you’re listening to disordered thoughts. However, many people don’t realise that their thoughts are disordered until they receive appropriate help and support. For me, as I shall mention later on, I received support for my eating disorder a couple of years later, although my condition quickly deteriorated over the following few months. I was once again on the brink of a life-changing admission to the paediatric ward.

 

Hospitalisation

During the few months which followed, I had become obsessive about what I was eating, and compulsively restricted, checked nutritional information and googled calorie contents, and weight loss techniques in efforts to reduce the anxiety which arose from my obsession around ‘diet control’ (oh the irony).

Still…it wasn’t enough, and until I reached a point of realisation and determination to heal, it never felt enough. Now I completely and utterly understand that it wasn’t my weight which bothered me, but the inability to resolve and break free from the obsessive thoughts I experienced, and the more I acted upon them, the greater the control they appeared to have on me.

Pounds were dropping daily, then it ran into half a stone, then one, then two. I started to feel like I wasn’t seeing a significant enough change although the scales said otherwise; the scales which I would repeatedly weigh myself on regardless of the time of day – even though I knew the accurate number wouldn’t be shown. The mirror showed one thing, the number on the scales said something else, and it seemed to confirm what those around me were saying.

That I was desperately underweight.

I could see and recognise the worry and concern in their tones, the emotions they withheld to protect my feelings; which were fragile, erratic, and irrational. However, given the circumstances, understandably so. I knew myself I wasn’t doing well, I had an anxiety disorder at the time, and depression caused by PTSD; which was diagnosed just a few months ago. The trauma caused me to unravel, it was concealed and detected by none; in particularly myself.

And unravel I did. Before I knew it the power was stripped, prying eyes and accusatory voices were once again upon me, me – the girl feeling frightened, lonely, angry, and in denial.

 

Playing with fire

1 YEAR LATER

 

After a tumultuous year, I had overcome many an obstacle and still achieved a few milestones in my recovery journey – despite the fact I still restricted and suffered from disordered thoughts. But why? Well for a start I hadn’t received any counselling or true guided care and support from a mental health professional regarding my eating disorder; at the time I believed I was fine…I could always decide to put weight on if necessary(!) There was sometimes the odd pang or flash of concern flitting across my mind…that it never went away, that it would always be like this. That I would never ‘look good enough’.

However, that was then – a lot of change was yet to be made at this point; however I was on the cusp of a new chapter in my life, college. I was to study a subject I felt passionately about, felt confident with, and which would change the course of my future. Furthermore, I was able to socialise more, my confidence increased, my social anxiety became more manageable, I met new people – a fair few I still talk to, to this day. Nevertheless, college certainly threw many a challenge my way, and at the time my mental state and outlook, in general, was not in a stable place, and it oftentimes left me feeling exposed, vulnerable, and inferior.

Sadly, a lot of young females resort to diet plans, and weight-loss groups to lose weight; to look good. Detox teas, juice cleanses, fat binders, waist trainers, appetite suppressants, weight loss shakes. You name it, I was exposed to it. Which goes for many young people, and not just women. However, our class was overwhelmingly made up of females, which meant that these behaviours and attitudes were more likely to be present. Now as I’m sure you can understand, as someone who has experienced E.D’s and body dysmorphia – I know why they feel compelled to do this. I’m also sure you understand that it had a negative impact on my food choices. After all, the calorie contents of food I was beginning to re-embrace were scrutinised in front of me.

Over the passing year and a half, this behaviour became less frequent, as due to personal circumstances I was less exposed to those who indulged this behaviour. My body and dietary choices were no longer questioned by others, however, I continued to question myself.

 

Helping Ana

The second year of college, it was finally here. A new class, with new people – the majority of which I considered friends. I started a relationship, I sought counselling through college, and my confidence and social life continued to blossom.

I was so thankful to have reached this point in which I was excited to go to college because we were doing a practical experiment in the science labs, or because I got to see my friends and maybe even go into town for a coffee with them on my lunch break. New topics, new lessons, new routine, and new challenges.

 

A few months later

“It happened again, here came the onslaught of self-loathing, anger, anxiety, and panic. It had happened again, even though I told myself, no I PROMISED myself that it wouldn’t. What if my parents found out, what if it doesn’t work? Oh my god, that’s even worse…”

Another evening I had felt the overwhelming sense of fear regarding the food I had just consumed. Food which I enjoyed, the food which I had chosen and guiltily looked forward to. The food which I repeatedly tried to expel from my body; it happened again.

For many months this cycle continued, not every day – but at least once a week I would self-induce vomit, or at least try to. Only two people knew about this at the time, my then partner, and my counsellor. Thankfully my counsellor was supportive and realised that this was a serious issue.

All of my fear surrounding talking openly about my eating disorder, and have it acknowledged and taken seriously, not as burdensome by those who knew; not as a chore but because they wanted to.

Helping Me

Sitting in a chair in a therapy office, surrounded by hand-made art, mismatched furniture; a soft glow emanating within the room. Once again another session complete, another opportunity to relieve the pressures of the week, learn new skills, hear the voice of someone who knows that I’ll recover; and doesn’t expect remission by a certain date. A weight has once again being lifted off of my shoulders after a busy day at college, and depending upon my stage of recovery and considering that nobody’s journey is linear, I would feel a different degree of relief or comfort.

Talking therapy, DBT, book recommendations, and professional guidance all in one – it was the true open door which I never knew I needed, and without opening up and allowing myself to seek help in all areas; persisting through the pain, conflictions, fear, and self-doubts.

I felt able to embrace recovery, feeling confident I was going to reach a place in the future in which I could reflect upon my recovery journey, and smile; with pride, with grace. At the time I felt neither pride nor grace, but today is a different story.

As I have said before, recovery is not linear – it lacks flow, it can oftentimes feel monotonous or never-ending. But the truth is, recovery is something you can learn to reinforce through little everyday behaviours, affirmations, actions, and goals. Things we learn to perceive as routine and standard; despite the setbacks and obstacles that can be in your way. It does get better, and if anything beneficial is to come of this blog post to anyone out there, feeling frustrated or disheartened by the lack of progress, new challenges – or even apprehensive about reaching out for help; I want you to know it gets better with time.

You are worthy of that time.

You are worthy of recovery.

You are capable of recovery.

You are deserving of recovery.

 

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