‘Thank goodness we’ve caught it early.’
These words truly set the wheels in motion for me. What had previously been an unconscious struggle with food and self image, became a challenge set to me by my doctor, CAMHS and my parents. Without realizing, they had given me a new goal - to be a ‘real anorexic.’
My problems with food can be traced back to when I was a seven year old, petrified of choking on my dinner and dying. My low self esteem can also be traced back to when I befriended a girl in the playground who referred to me as ‘the fat one’ whilst I laughed it off, desperate to be accepted into the circle of playmates. However neither of these things alone can be put down to the sole cause of my issue. We still need a few more unfortunate instances, bad timing, and a final catalyst, to create the perfect breeding ground for my anorexic tendencies.
'This illness had been brewing inside me for most of my life, waiting for the right conditions before showing its ugly face'
This all happened around my fifteenth year, when I ended up in the doctors office, with my mother, and a new diagnosis - Anorexia Nervosa.
Now, I feel that it is important to say here, that nobody had caught anything ‘early.’ This illness had been brewing inside me for most of my life, waiting for the right conditions before showing its ugly face. And that is why, at the age of nineteen I am still fighting the daily urge to restrict my eating, to skip a meal here or hide food there. Its the reason why I still have to be weighed weekly, my entire mental stability balancing on a knifes edge, as the numbers on the scale decide how I am to move forward.
I am in recovery, but recovery is by no means the picturesque walk in the park it is so often portrayed to be. I have struggled with self harm, feeling that if I cannot starve, perhaps slicing my legs and carving words into my flesh with the blade from my broken sharpener, I will attain the relief I had felt with an empty stomach. I take a high dose of antidepressants to prevent this kind of thing from recurring, which in itself has its downsides. But I won't go into that right now.
I must say, that I have had an incredibly fortunate experience with the most amazing doctors and nurses as part of my recovery team. The transition from CAMHS was smooth, with the help of the eating disorders specialist who has helped me since my diagnosis, and without her, I feel that I would not be where I am today.
My parents continue to guide me and have a far more advanced knowledge on the eating disorder spectrum than they thought they ever would. And most importantly, I have discovered a confidence deep within myself which I have tapped into, and this is where my determination to continue stems from.
Sadly, I am aware that not everyone is so fortunate. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and a minority of sufferers actually make it to the point at which I now find myself.
And so, as crucial as it was for the contributing factors to coincide to form the illness, it is just as crucial for the support network to be formulated with the same manner of accuracy.
Because anorexia is not a quick fix, it cannot be ‘caught early’, and to act on the misguided belief that you have, is the most detrimental act of all.
Olivia is a nineteen year old art student living in Hertfordshire, U.K