“We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.”
Happy Eating Disorders Awareness week! (I’m not entirely sure this is a situation to be granted such a jolly greeting, but I’m going with a positive spin). I’m aiming to write a couple of pieces this week, as well as to do something bloody fantastic and celebratory of our progress with my gorgeous girl Phebe, but, I wanted to start off the week with a little clarification. First off, it’s awareness week and in the spirit of things I want to encourage people to talk about eating disorders. I am a firm believer that part of the reason I was able to get so sick was because no one really knew what to do and thus there were a lot of hushed and concerned whispers. By talking about anorexia and the effect it’s had on my life I feel more powerful, by recognizing and documenting my changes I feel more able to fight and by starting conversations with others about the reality of eating disorders I feel as if I could help. For these reasons, I want to say ASK THE QUESTIONS, APPROACH THAT PERSON YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT because eating disorders are serious, they take lives, a fact which I’ve become all too aware of recently. I feel something that perhaps prevents people from seeking help or even admitting they have an issue is the stigma that an eating disorder holds. I still have a lot of people who I know felt that I starved myself for attention, or that it was due to vanity. Although these assumptions make me angry, I’ve learned to understand that it’s more important to straighten these misconceptions out, as until people realize that eating disorders are not a choice, they will not be given the gravitas they need. Occurrences of eating disorders are on the up and we all need to use opportunities like Eating Disorder Awareness week to combat this surge of devastation.
One of the main misconceptions I’ve encountered was the idea that I decided to be anorexic because I wanted to look good. I wish this were a joke. In reality though, we live in a society where I was asked on more than one occasion whether I’d ever considered modeling/told my body was perfect for it. This was when I can honestly say I was wandering around Chelsea in a haze of starvation fuelled confusion. I was emaciated and my eyes looked empty. I was freezing. I looked haggered and exhausted. My mind was tormented by a daemon so loud that I felt at points that not living would be easier. I can safely say that this was not something I chose due to vanity, there was no beauty in my body or mind. I had one nurse ask me, after being admitted to hospital through accident and emergency whether I “wanted to be like a model?” This was someone who worked in a hospital, a trained professional and she believed this was a choice I made due to vanity. Now, although I laugh over these incidents now, I have to stop and regard them for the serious effect such beliefs have. If people belittle eating disorders to such an extent, make them seem like a ‘silly girls choice’, then how the hell are people meant to feel safe asking for help? The truth is, I’ve not met one person struggling with an eating disorder who loved themselves truly. I did not put myself through the pain of anorexia, through not being able to sleep comfortably because my bones protruded painfully, through hurting so many I love, through missing out on many nights out,,through all the shit anorexia threw at me because I wanted to look good. If anything, it was the opposite. Anorexia served the purpose for me of communicating just how awful I felt, when I was unable to articulate this properly. It made me ugly and I didn’t mind, because I felt ugly. It allowed me to take a break from a life I felt unable to handle, to lie down and surrender to all the pressures. I did not believe I was worthy of food. I did not believe I was good enough for anything really. Anorexia does not happen to the arrogant or the vain. I may have been very good at slapping on my smile and saying I was great, superwoman, that I could get up before school, gym, run, eat nothing, go again, barely sleep, repeat the process day after day. Turns out I’m pretty good at bullshitting (useful for an actor perhaps…) I want you to consider whether someone denying themselves food and water is the sign of someone in love with themselves, or whether, in reality, the denial of basic sustenance is likely to be a sign of the total opposite? It is not ‘natural’ for human’s to slowly commit suicide, but that is what eating disorders are. I would love to not be the idiot who’s preoccupied after ordering a coffee, checking that they DEFINITELY are using skimmed milk to make it. I would love not to be the one unable to attend social events where the food overwhelms. I would do anything to grasp back some of what and who I’ve lost to anorexia, but I can’t. Anorexia stole so much from me and still does. Trivializing it and considering it to be my choice, or me being ‘silly’ makes this all the worse. So please, it being eating disorder awareness week and all, take the time to talk about the issues. Eating Disorders kill more than any other mental illness, they turn someone who was once vivacious and full of life into someone no one would ever recognize. I fight thoughts constantly that I need to lose weight, that I shouldn’t be eating that, that I’m not good enough, that I NEED to exercise more, that I shouldn’t really even sit down. I am in a place where I have the strength and support to fight these blows. Many do not. Should we really be laughing about them?
A couple of weeks ago I was exhausted from battling my head and was honestly in a place where I felt I was disgusting, greedy, weak and worthless. It felt as if anorexia was climbing on top of me again. At this point, I found some photos of me from my first hospital admission. They were taken to remind me of how horrific anorexia is, for moments just like the one I was experiencing. I never look at them, but I knew I needed to. I can honestly say that although my frail state was shocking and upsetting, what really frightened both me, Sam and Thea (whom I shared my feelings and the images with), was the hollow look in my eyes. I look empty and so sad, as well as the fact that this was not even the worst of it. I cannot understand how I was still going. For months prior to this I’d been working to convince everyone around me that I was “absolutely fine” I’d even convinced myself of this. I felt I should be fine. I was lucky. I was living in my lovely family home in West London, I’d graduated from my high achieving all girls school, people told me I was beautiful, I had a wonderful boyfriend, I had incredible friends. I suspect it was part of what I call the ‘Wisteria Lane’ complex that led me to anorexia. Everything must look perfect and pristine from the outside. No one can know that actually things aren’t great. Just because SOME aspects of my life were bloody amazing, just because I was very lucky in MANY aspects, doesn’t mean that things were ok. I made myself numb to cope with being unable to cope with the harder aspects of life and to communicate that things weren’t ok. If we want to start combating Eating disorders, we have to start feeling less ashamed of struggling, to be able to say if we’re sad, to remove the stigma of vanity, silly girls and an extreme diet that surrounds eating disorders. I’ve included below some of the writing I did whilst in hospital and the photos that were taken during my first admission. Sharing these is painful and something I am only doing to try and make people consider…is this really something anyone would portray as beautiful? Is the girl on the left something I’d aspire to? How can I still have moments where I think I need to be like that? How can I still be anxious that peoples opinions of these photos will not be "Holy crap, you looked horrific and so so unwell", but instead "You really should lose some weight you greedy thing, where's your self control?" Or think i'm vain. I can see that it was hideous, but it served a purpose. I need those who think anorexia was a choice I made, that eating disorders are trivial, that we are just hysterical fools to consider how bad someone must feel to do this to themselves and reconsider their perception of Eating disorders. Talk about it, use Eating Disorder awareness week to discuss these issues. I am more than willing to answer any questions via comment on here or email:
Happy Monday xxx
The sudden comprehension that you are not in control. You are its ship, once strong and fearless and headed for new and beautiful lands, now delicate and beaten. No more voyages for you my friend. The captain has driven you through too many dangerous seas for such a fragile vessel. Keep going and together you will be sunk. Dilapidated.
There is no glamour once you are here. You are a we. One of a pair. Controlled by another. She befriends you slyly, like any good friend makes you feel you can trust her, makes you feel safe. Then convinces you she can make things better. You believe your beautiful heroine. Feeding off the pain of starvation she thrives, while you empty. Hollow. ‘Organs, muscles and bones’ the nice doctor says, ‘that’s all that’s left’. By this stage it’s too late for me. I have been snared. She is feasting on the heart that was once strong enough to love so many fiercely, the muscles I need to run away and the bones that are my ironic trophy, on display for all to see. I let her gorge as I wither. No choice anymore. That was the first thing she stole when she caught me. Freedom.