I can’t say that I’ve ever lived with Anorexia, for one cannot ‘live’ with Anorexia, I have merely survived with the illness.
For someone who has never had an eating disorder, anorexia is an illness which is often very hard to understand. How can a girl who is so noticeably thin believe that she is fat? There is no definite answer to this. Anorexia is an extremely complex mental illness which can present itself differently in different people. However what I can tell you, and what I am sure everyone with anorexia can vouch for, is that eating disorders are about so much more than body image. Whilst body image does play a part in the development of anorexia, the root cause is often a result of negative past experiences. For me, my eating disorder came about due to my dream of becoming a professional runner. As I ate “healthier” (cut entire food groups from my diet), I lost weight and the weight loss helped me to run faster times. This fed into my anorexia and it soon spiralled out of control, landing me on a section 3 in hospital for 6 months.
The easiest way I can describe what my experience with anorexia is like is by using a horror movie analogy. It’s like you’re the main character in a really scary, jumpy horror movie. Everyone’s yelling at the TV, telling you not to go down that route, begging you to turn back, but you can’t. Even though you know it will only end badly, you just feel compelled to keep going. It’s hard because other people are telling you you’re putting yourself in danger, but you carry on regardless because you don’t believe them- you think you’re fine when you’re not.
To put it differently, anorexia is a bit like a bully, constantly criticising you and bringing you down. You will never be able to do enough or even be enough for it. Setting goals is pointless because when you reach one, the goal will inevitably move and become even harder to achieve. So, whilst an eating disorder can often feel like it’s your best friend, offering you a sense of safety and control, it is in fact your worst bully, constantly bringing you down.
It can feel like you’re being suffocated. Day in and day out your every thought is consumed by food and exercise. You have no space to enjoy anything- any enjoyment you once had from life is gone. You’re constantly at war with yourself, starving your mind and body, all in the pursuit of some unachievable goal.