When I was first diagnosed, I told anyone who would listen (which wasn’t many!!) that I wasn’t… “supposed to get an eating disorder…it’s just not…like me?!”
My diagnosis of Anorexia was given almost immediately as I was lucky (?!) enough to be “lobbed” (my words aged 18) into mental health services from the second my parents took me to the GP. Many people fight FOR treatment. From the start..I fought AGAINST it. When I look back now, I realise how lucky I was to access the treatment I did, and so easily be offered the support I had. I was in denial at the time, but SO many don’t get this chance and I can’t even express my frustration at a system mostly based on chance.
Every 62 minutes someone dies as a direct result of an Eating Disorder.
I’d studied Eating Disorders within my Psychology A-Level. I remember so clearly the textbook which described a ‘a girl on a diet’ and pictured an emancipated, young, white female staring vacantly out the window, protruding bones and brittle skin.
From a Psychology textbook position, I WAS supposed to have an Eating Disorder.
I fit ‘The Aesthetic Bill’.
I doubt my GP was surprised when I turned up, my desperate mother saying….
“She’s just stopped eating”.
I was that girl in the textbook through n’ through. Therefore, it wasn’t just NHS food which was offered to me on a plate, my diagnosis was too.
But to me, I WASN’T supposed to have an Eating Disorder. I was a fairly confident child who turned into a vaguely gobby 18-year-old. My diet was primarily beige food, my fluid intake was mainly alcohol. My parents were loving, giving and if we’re gonna talk old fashioned ‘She wants for nuthin’!’.
I was privileged at school. Privileged at home. Trauma? Pain? Hardship? I barely knew the meaning of the words.
I felt comfortable in my body. As I aged that comfort turned to confidence.
I sat happily in a bikini. I walked freely into a bar. I ate simply because I wanted to.
Of course, I was a female growing up in the 20/21st century. Barbie had been our childhood BESTIE. Diet culture later became our friend. But the constant diets I’d put myself on were a label and nothing more. I never significantly changed my food intake. It was just what we did as girls. As teenagers. As women. We knew no different, and we wanted no more. Underneath it all, I still liked my body. I still nurtured my mind, and I still LIVED my life.
But cause significant self harm through starvation? No. That wasn’t ‘supposed’ to be me.
On paper…there was no *need* for me to develop an Eating Disorder.
10 years on from my diagnosis and I’m still (and always will be) in recovery from an Eating Disorder which completely changed my life. Caught me un-aware. Made me do things I never thought I would do, say things I never thought I would say, and be someone I never knew I would be.
It’s completely changed me as a person, and changed my whole understanding of WHO suffers and WHY.
There’s so much I want you to know about Eating Disorders. But I really need you to know that none of us are immune. It’s not an illness that just affects ‘others’.
The emancipated girl in the textbook? It could be me. You. Your brother. Your friend. Your sister. Your daughter. Your Grandfather. Your Mother. ANY OF US. ALL OF US.
Eating disorders don’t have a face. They don’t have a name. They don’t have an image. They don’t have an age. They don’t have a preference for whose door they knock on, and they don’t arrive with a list of reasons for their visit.
It’s not about what you look like.
It’s not about what you do on a Saturday afternoon.
It’s not about how many diets you’ve been on.
It’s not about how much or how little you like your body.
It’s not about how much money you have.
It’s not about how good your school is.
It’s not about who your friends are, or how much your family love you.
It’s not about your trauma, your past.
It’s not about your likes, or dislikes.
People used to say to me…
“But why won’t you just eat? You’ve got so much to live for! A job…a safe home…friends…family…an exciting future Leah!?”
Trust me. It didn’t matter. And knowing this made my shame greater.
Remember. Don’t always question…
“But why her?”
Sometimes there is no “why”.
There doesn’t have to be one.
And there may never be one.
It’s not supposed to be any of us.
But it could be all of us.
All my writing is experienced based and I can only speak from my own illness and recovery. Thanks for being here 🙂