When did standing on the scales to monitor my weight become so important?
When did restricting my food intake become a ‘thing’?
When did I start to spend endless lengths of time scrutinising my look in the mirror?
And exercise … far out … I am exhausted!
When did sensibility of mind become replaced with this barely-there desire to control every aspect of my life?
You know, I am so tired, I simply do not recall …
This is how an eating disorder can creep into your life; one day thriving, next, barely there. Sadly, once we acknowledge there is something amiss, the toll of an eating disorder has already begun its destruction.
Within the depths of our being lies the answers as to why an eating disorder has insidiously been allowed to grow and envelope the body. A body that just yesterday flourished, yet, is now in the grip of a long shadow, where the shades of your story have taken hold.
From the moment of conception we connect with the world we are to join on the day of our birth. Events felt from the warmth of the womb we inhabit are already imprinting their messages upon us. Our tiny brain registers each, digests each, and implants the learning – learnings that will determine and shape our character, our individuality, our health status.
Our births herald a new existence, where direct contact with others and events experienced adds to the learning; the implanting. Where events hold trauma unresolved the opportunity to create a shift within your mental health status is a possibility.
This was my story. Arriving blue-eyed and blonde, ready to explore this thing called life, I was met with the greatest of teachers – abuse. Damning in its infliction, controlling in its nature, unaware of the consequences, I took on board all that the abuse taught me. My character, my filter for life, how I connected, how I related, the choices I made, became a concoction of the messages implanted in a brain not knowing any different.
The perfectionist evolved. The high achieving standards were mandatory. Looking over the shoulder to avoid criticism, and exclusion became a way of life. Striving for friendships turned others away. Loneliness joined me in the schoolyard. I won every athletic event I entered – yet inclusion did not walk through the door.
Searching for the resolution I concluded it was me, I was the issue. With self-esteem in the bin, I made the only choice available – get into acceptable shape! Within a short time the thriving athlete, the vocalist, the creative talent, discovered that not only did she lose her much enjoyed abilities, but she also did not gain the acceptance sought. However, the dominating belief that I was to blame, found me devise new behaviours for the purpose of acceptance.
Nine years from the inception of this way of life left me wanting. It was getting me nowhere. Instead, the barely-there existence took on a new look. Mental health declining due to the thoughts I carried as to how life apparently works plus the deprivation of nutrition, meant a whole range of conditions joined me – chronic fatigue, migraines, depersonalisation, OCD, and suicidal depression.
This life of illusion finally took its toll – with the eating disorder ravaging my body, I was forced to reach out.
Psychiatrists, naturopaths, nutritional intervention, allergy treatment, hypnotherapy – you name it – I was on a pathway to nowhere; again! Kind souls suggested ideas. I researched – what the heck was wrong?
At last, the words anorexia nervosa entered my world. Weight restoration was difficult. Bullying was the therapy used. Gradually I relented once I could let go of the idea that this look I had created years ago was not the answer to my loneliness. The return of my health was the carrot at the end of the stick.
Alas, health did not turn up. The associated illnesses had put their claws in and they were not ready to leave.
More years of suffering. More years of searching. Lining up pills to escape the misery was joined by nightly walks with ‘suicidal depression’ – unwelcome encounters known only to me. OCD drove me spare. Migraines were a two-day sentence of agony up against the wall. Anxiety decided to add to the collection.
Debilitated and just wanting it all to end – the decision made at 15 to allow anorexia nervosa to become my life, was now acknowledged as the biggest downfall – leading me into a dark tunnel filled with endless sadness.
Then, seemingly from a place orchestrated overnight by ‘the powers to be’, I met a wonderful female psychologist who practiced Reality Therapy underpinned by Choice Theory. The light turned on. The time had arrived where that long shadow was to find its Waterloo! The shadow, enveloping me was filled with events that had shaded the colour of my life with black.
I was guided to explore my story, my thoughts, my behaviours, physical symptoms, and emotions. I examined my beliefs, my values, needs, and wants. Most importantly, I reflected upon the relationships I had encountered throughout my life; particularly those pivotal in the early days of my childhood.
The shades became my companions, advisers, teachers. Lined with the impact of abuse, each had left its mark. In time, the shades of abuse educated me about life, about acceptance, about how life really works. The shadow, held together by untruths, had cast itself over me as a direct result of how I had interpreted the messages taught through events characterised by all that childhood abuse. I also acknowledged the impact of religious control and the culture of a family living in fear and the need to be ‘seen’ within society.
As each event was reframed as to what really occurred, who was at fault, who was to blame, and the understanding the abusers would not be killed should I utter my knowledge – the illnesses collected over many years released their hold. Each illness shared its purpose for being with me, imparting their knowledge, and leaving. Understanding that the fears gained from the family way of life had weighed me down, I assessed the dominating beliefs and values and redirected each to give me peace, and most importantly, me. My needs and wants were addressed and added to my life. The relationships, scrutinised, demonstrated a wealth of connections to the advent of anorexia nervosa.
Recovery walked through the door … I emerged to discover this beautiful person existing within me …
The dark cloud of despair lifted. The toll of an eating disorder and its companions in crime had been destructive, leaving me beyond recognition. And yet, it would be those very illnesses that would ultimately teach me, show me, that life is a wonderful rendition when created through honouring the self. Denial of self had shed a light on all of the ‘why’s’ as to why my body hurt. Acceptance of self removed the black shades, illuminating colour, infusing colour into my soul – giving shadow no option but to unwrap its hold.
I was not to blame, nor was it my fault. The learnings embedded within my brain misled me, pushing me into a life of questioning my existence. My mental health reflected the messaging – what a sad response when there was nothing wrong with me – at all.
Where eating disorders flourish, go within. Dive deep into the fabric of who you have become. Seek the ‘why you have become’. Allow the illness to guide you. For this was always the intended role of the illness – to communicate your truth and open the door to the life designed for you.
Eating disorders and mental illnesses played out in my life based upon the idea that food and weight would deliver the happiness, the peace, the joy I yearned for. In fact, anorexia nervosa and all the attached illnesses were messengers ready to inform and set me free!
In gratitude, I say ‘thanks’ for all I have learned – abuse in particular – the knowledge you gave, in time, saw me triumph over barely- there to thrive once more…