It took over my life; but I fought back. My battle with anorexia.

by Rachel S
(New Zealand)

I can't remember exactly when my story begins. I remember being very young; about 6 or 7 and vowing to never get fat. I remember stepping on to the scales when I was eight just to find I was suddenly in the 30kgs zone. I remember being horrified and not eating dessert that night. But most important of all I remember the first time I had stomach fat to pinch.

I was always a skinny girl. Growing up I didn't notice it that much but once I reached high school...boy everything changed. I was suddenly admired for being skinny. That was my identifier; the skinny chick. I was new at an all girls school and had only a few friends. I was fine for a year or two; would eat like a good girl and have a chocolate bar without a second thought. But more and more often people would say "you're so lucky to be skinny" or "I wish I was skinny like you" which would immediately be followed up by the question "you're not anorexic are you?". At the time I wasn't. I was fine. Then I started to think about it. Was I only becoming popular because I was thin? All the popular girls were tiny. They ate salad for lunch and were always drinking water; one of them was younger than me and on a diet. I admired these girls and soon I began to admire how they looked. I reached a point in my adolescence where I couldn't eat whatever I wanted anymore. I started to gain weight. And I didn't like it.

I don't consciously remember cutting out meals or changing my diet but I do remember two things quite clearly. One I would spend hours looking at my body in the mirror. I would stand there looking at myself and finding every single flaw. Every single bit of fat. And two I remember responding differently when someone asked if I was anorexic. Sure my answer to their face was exactly the same "No! Of course not!" accompanied by a slightly nervous laugh, but the thoughts in my head were completely different. I remember thinking 'am I? How would I know? What does it even mean to be? Do I want to be?', all common questions to run through my mind. I didn't really make any actions on this until I met this girl. Let's call her Anne. 

Anne was in my class and we were 'kind of' friends. Then one fateful social studies lesson we become partners. It started with a blunt question from Anne "Have you ever cut yourself? Like on purpose." which I foolishly answered honestly. Yes, I had and it was something I still battled. Anne and I become close friends in the sense that we knew each others secrets. We booked counseling sessions together and once I beat my depression I thought our friendship would slowly fade away. Oh how wrong I was.

Anne came to me one day and told me that she had binged and purged the night before. I had no idea what to do except what I had done last time. I told her my secret. I had an issue with the way my body looked and didn't like it one bit. Anne and I embarked on this journey to become skinny together, not knowing how difficult it would be to come out the other end. I developed full fledged anorexia. No one knew except Anne. This girl knew all my deep dark secrets and I knew hers. My other friends didn't like Anne. They disapproved of our friendship but they never stopped it. I don't blame them but sometimes I wonder how it would of worked out if they had. Would I not be typing this because I would have nothing to say? Never have developed an eating disorder?

I grew sicker and sicker and thinner and thinner. I think my Mom suspected something; she told me of her own battle with bulimia when she was in her twenties. I did my research and found that it was possible to have a genetic predisposition to mental diseases such as anorexia nervosa. I worry if I ever have children what their lives might be like. Ironically children is exactly what made me snap. You know the point where you are so far gone you don't think you could ever come back but something changes. Something makes you want to beat this. To recover.

By this stage I had been battling anorexia for two years. I had a thinspo blog, knew how to hide the fact I wasn't eating and kept detailed records of what food went into my body every single day. The day I destroyed these records is the day I became committed to my recovery. After these years of keeping my secret I barely discussed it with Anne anymore. She had become someone who treated an eating disorder like an accessory and the way she discussed her purging, weight and self harm made me sick. She would tell anyone who would listen and continue even when they didn't want to listen anymore. For a while I thought it was a desperate cry for help until the day she threatened me with my own secrets. I vividly remember Anne snidely informing me that she could ruin me just because I wouldn't tell her the answer to a math question. At first I thought she was joking but soon relaized she knew all my secrets and wasnt afraid to use them.  I had to confide in someone new so I told my best friend, Charlotte. Charlotte had battled body image issues for a little while but was recovered by the time I told her of my anorexia. She was fully supportive but became so worried I didn't want to discuss it with her in fear of burdening her. I kept it bottled up inside and took it out on myself. I was down to under 500 calories a day and intensive workouts each night until I passed out. 

However Anne's split personality came in to play a few months later. I received a text from her late one night that basically said that she was worried about me, wanted me to get help and could see how sick I was. I shared this with Charlotte who also urged me to get help. I didn't think it was the right time so made a pact with Anne to get help together after we finished our school exams. That never happened. 

I like to think that I overcame my self harming on my own. I battled it every night for a long time until I no longer felt the urge.  Because of this I wanted to believe I could beat anorexia on my own as well. So far I have succeeded with this but every day is still hard and I often find myself counting calories or skipping a meal out of habit. My decision to try and overcome anorexia didn't happen overnight; it happened over a few days. 

I was babysitting two lovely little girls and had to feed them dinner. The eldest who was five noticed I had eaten less than her and called me out on it. A five year old was eating more than me. This little girl wanted me to eat more. So I did. I ate one more chicken nugget and put her to bed. The next day I was spending with my cousins who were one and three at the time. I had always been aware of the risks of anorexia and the possible infertility it could lead to later in my life. This day my cousins were being particularly cute as I played outside with them while the adults ate lunch inside. Upon noticing I hadn't eaten my aunty brought out a piece of pizza to me. She asked me how I was doing and if everything was okay. To this day I can't figure out if she was purely referring to me looking after her kids or something more but it was these moments that made me want to eat again. To be normal and to be healthy. I didn't want to poison children with my problems and ultimately one day I wanted children of my own.

It took me a long time to get any better. I stopped recording what I was eating but continued to weigh myself before and after every meal. Slowly I stopped this and after many long nights thinking about being normal and healthy whilst battling the demon telling me I wanted to be skinny and that my friends only liked me because I was skinny and that no one likes fat people and that if I ate that I'd get stomach flab, I recovered. Well not really but I did recover to the point that I destroyed my old records and stopped compulsively weighing myself. Anne and I grew apart and I haven't discussed eating disorders with her in over six months. I'm moving on.

Today I'm at a point in my journey of recovery that I want to share my story. I don't want pity or sympathy I just want anyone else out there to know that they are not alone. Recovery has been the hardest thing I've ever done. To look in the mirror and just smile is a struggle every day. To just enjoy a meal is a battle every day. But it's all worth it. Charlotte moved cities whilst I was still battling my anorexia but the day that I called her and told her that I was recovering was one if the best moments of my life. She was so happy for me and at that moment I relaised that I was happy for me too. It can be hard to look at other girls and not worry that they are skinnier than me; in fact it is hard all the time, but it's something I'm learning to do. I  am proud to say that for four months I have not recorded what I eat or obsessed over how I look. 

I am recovering and it is the bet thing I could of ever hoped for. I only hope that every single other person manages to recover in whatever way works for them. The day that I feel normal and don't worry at all about food is one I look forward to and for anyone battling their own eating disorder it should be one you look forward to as well. Good luck with your journey through recovery and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about mine.

Comments for It took over my life; but I fought back. My battle with anorexia.

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How Very Courageous!
by: Friend, USA

RachelS - thank you for sharing this with us - God bless you! May I ask how old you are now? Your narrative is written as if you are wise beyond your years (presuming you are a teen?)

Hopefully people are now seeing you for who you are, rather than just the outside facade you present to the world. You are fortunate to have such a strong friendship with Charlotte, who has stood by you despite moving States. As for the other person who you embarked on this fateful journey with, my advice is keep away! Surround yourself with happy, healthy people, embrace the love from your family & friends, and share! One day you may be strong enough to share with your Mom what she shared with you. I know in my teens I didn't like to acknowledge my feelings for my Mom, but she stood by me through a very similar scenario to you. Mom's love us unconditionally - we just have to love them back!

Keep us posted on your journey - even if it's just to look back on and see the progress you have made. To overcome self harm AND Anorexia makes you a very special person. I am sure you can do whatever you set your mind to - in both your personal life & career. The lessons we learn in life mould us into the adult we become - with your strength and tenacity you can do anything!

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