If you had told me even a few months ago that there was to be life after anorexia, I wouldn’t have believed you because anorexia was life. Somehow, anorexia had become the captor I’d go to great lengths to protect. It’s taken me a long time to feel ready to share this with you- I have opened up about struggles with my mental health, my suicide attempts, but this felt on a whole new level. It’s been an incredibly emotional journey for me to even begin writing this because I’m so used to viewing anorexia as a part of me. You could say having an eating disorder was like being in a room with walls that only others could see through. I spent four years in this boxy room and during this time I grew comfortable with it. It promised me safety and shelter and happiness and I never questioned it, even when the exact opposite happened. I learnt to love the visitors too- a girl named ana and occasionally, mia too. They told me there was a way out and I didn’t have to feel. That it would be painless and I’d be like a phoenix, rising from the ashes. I just had to shed my skin. Then I would ascend, my crumpled skin left behind; a bony beauty.
I wonder every day why I didn’t retreat when I was still a safe distance away. I guess that’s because there’s no safe distance when the thing in question is a magnet and you’re the metal, hopelessly, desperately attracted. I know enough now to realise that nothing is as black and white as it seems, and I couldn’t have walked away, no matter how far I stood. I like to believe that my eating disorder was caused by a comment from a doctor I once got when I was ten- she told me I was fat, and she was right, but it stung. I felt bad when I was getting weighed. It was a foreign feeling. I was always aware that I was bigger than the other girls, but it never struck me as abnormal. Something in me wasn’t right from the start because I absorbed her words and they became truth.
I learnt a lot during my time in a pro ana community- I only left very recently. What is behind me, however, is still reality for so many others. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder. It may seem like a physical thing or beauty sickness gone wrong, but anorexia is so much more. It gets into your blood and slowly poisons you. It wants you to become it. People who have never experienced this for themselves will never know. It is the cruelest of all cold blooded killers. The funniest thing about anorexia is how deluded it makes you- you start comparing yourself to somebody three times heavier than you and then feel bad for not being the skinniest. It happens. Everybody can see you for what you really are- it’s only you who is so blind to the truth. I remember the 25 kg girls and boys with the sunken eyes and and giving up bodies. The ones who had no life force left in them, just this virus. I’d leave comments telling them they were wrong- they were so tiny and needed help, because they didn’t even look human, let alone like people with stories and hopes and dreams. Even as an anorexic myself, I couldn’t understand how these clearly emaciated people saw fat. This is why it kills you, and also the others around you. They can see, you can’t. They don’t want your eating disorder to consume you, but you don’t even realise you have one. If you do, chances are you want it.
After my first big anorexic episode towards the end of twenty sixteen when I was visiting family in England, I lost a few kilos and it was all downhill from there. I had seen some semblance of control in not eating much and purging what I could. It gave me a rush that I felt I could live off. Once that first seed is planted, all it takes is small triggers and you fall down again. You promise yourself that you’ve got it sorted this time and it won’t turn into something bigger. You know better now or at least you should. Ironically, the more times you relapse, in my experience, the deeper you fall and the less it takes to get you in a sick state. You can be fine one day and the next you’ll wake up and know it’s happening again. Only, this time, the hole you’ve fallen in is deeper than ever and there is no light to be seen. The darkness has swallowed it. The reality is that you have two choices- to recover or not to. You may want to die, if that’s the price of skinny. There is life after anorexia if you believe in it and it is greener. I may not look the same as I did before, but I no longer feel the need to google the calories in air or saliva. Change began for me when I realised I’d suffered enough and warred with myself to the point that I had nothing left to give-or lose. It was time I won, time I fought back for myself.