I’ve learnt that eating disorders do not discriminate against anyone. It doesn’t matter what age, sex, ethnicity, location or social background you come from, eating disorders will take anyone as their victim.
Living with an eating disorder
It’s hard to even try to express what it’s like to have an eating disorder, but from my experience they rule and destroy your life, turning everything into a constant battle and nightmare. For me it was like an addiction, controlled by rules and conditions and driven by desperation, and a need for perfection.
It’s difficult to find words to express the intense fear, hatred, guilt, sadness and shame you wake up to every single morning. Knowing your day will be consumed by the racing thoughts about food, weight or exercise. It’s a vicious, torturous cycle because even if you conform to these rules it’s never enough for the disorder. You’ve always failed. I use to look at my reflection at the height of my illness and not recognise the emotionless, lost person looking back. How painfully lonely I’d become, even with a room full of loving friends and family who were desperately trying to fathom what was happening to the bright, happy, ambitious girl they once knew. I was constantly envious of other people being able to laugh and smile and live life to the full, and yet here I was no longer living … just merely existing. The disorder had trapped me and gripped me tight; no matter how much I wanted to get my life back, it just seemed impossible to escape.
A person with an eating disorder not only faces the daily challenge of the symptoms, they also face being constantly judged and misunderstood. Eating disorders are not phases and don’t simply appear one day for no reason, as some still believe. Myths, that I believe are fuelled by the media, need to be tackled in order to get rid of the misconceptions. People would often ask me, “are you starving yourself for attention or to look like a celebrity?” like it was my choice. I can honestly say I’d never in a million years put my family and friends through all the pain and distress of watching me (essentially) slowly killing myself, or leave myself with life-long illnesses, for the attention it gained or if it was as simple as being able to “just eat”.
Another huge challenge for all those affected with an eating disorder is access to local support and services. This unfortunately is a nationwide problem and can be frustrating for all those involved. With little funding available for eating disorders, people miss out on essential treatment. In the Highlands and Islands there are no support groups, that I know of, to allow people to meet others in similar situations. Additionally, from my experience, if you need specialised in-patient treatment, you have to move hours away, meaning you lack the family support others have.