I Finally Wanted to Eat. Now I Can’t.
Part 1 of 2 Trigger Warning – mentions of #EatingDisorders behaviours, possible trigger for Emetophobia.
Irony. It’s a fickle thing, and (ironically) it only seems to show up in our lives at the most inconvenient of times.
I have battled an eating disorder actively since I was 11. I’m now 24. I’ve been diagnosed at various stages with #BulimiaNervosa , #AnorexiaNervosa and Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – in short, I have displayed a mishmash of every eating disorder trick and behaviour there is. Seriously – you name it, I’ve done it in an effort to numb myself, hurt myself, lose weight, and altogether disappear. 13 years of restricting, binging, purging,
laxatives, diuretics, exercising, fasting, eating super “healthy”, dehydrating, over-hydrating, eating nothing but chocolate, ordering my salads with dressing on the side or spending hours in the food court cycling between restaurants and the bathrooms. My bank account has taken massive hits, my weight has fluctuated wildly, I’ve legitimately lost count of the number of hospital admissions I’ve had. My health though? That’s been destroyed.
When I was 19 I was diagnosed with POTS – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome – which makes me dizzy, my heart beats too fast when I stand, my blood pressure is too low, I often faint. This chronic illness which affects millions of people worldwide was the first real and permanent hit my health took as a result of my eating disorder. The cardiologist who diagnosed me said “you know, if you hadn’t put so much strain on your heart by vomiting so much, this never would have happened.” I don’t know if it’s entirely true, but considering the time I spent on the cardiac wards in children’s and adult’s hospitals, I know I’ve done permanent damage to my heart. POTS forced me to take a semester off university after the fifth time I fainted trying to tackle the hills on campus. I now live in a state of constant awareness – don’t stand up too quickly, don’t crouch for too long, eat lots of salt, take medication to slow your heart rate, when that looming blackness of a faint comes, get to safety, try to look at your watch before and after you faint so you can see how long you were out for, call the hospital if you hit your head. I am fatigued from my heart constantly thinking I’m running a marathon when I’m sitting at my desk at work, but I’m used to it. I can cope with it.
When I was 23 I had cameras stuck up both ends of me (tell me, during an endoscopy-colonoscopy, do the cameras meet in the middle and say hello?) to try to figure out why my intestinal tract was failing me. I was told I have IBS, we tested for many intolerances and allergies… I had none. And this time I was told I just had to cope with the symptoms of debilitating bloating and diarrhoea every day. Nothing could be done, between starving and purging and abusing laxatives I had, as my doctor so eloquently put it, “fucked my guts”.
But over the next 6 months, something magical happened. I began to wholeheartedly recover from my eating disorder. After 13 years of hell, I was finally eating freely, rarely binging or purging and I genuinely wanted to eat.
By January of 2022, I was better than I had been since my ED began. My weight had finally stabilised and my exhausted body was craving food it wanted and needed in appropriate and health-promoting amounts. It was glorious. Going out to eat wasn’t scary, the scales no longer ruled my every waking moment and (as per my previous article) I was working full time, living on my own, and finally making headway in therapy. It turns out, when your mind isn’t clouded by malnutrition and disordered thinking, you can really tackle your trauma and depression, and get to the roots of why you feel compelled to use maladaptive behaviours like eating disorders or self harm or substance abuse.
Unfortunately, my euphoria at my recovery was short-lived. By the end of January, I was (unintentionally) throwing up almost every solid food I ate, living with endless nausea and stomach pain and was beginning to lose weight rapidly. During February I ended up in hospital twice, desperately dehydrated from days of not being able to keep down food or water or any of my life-giving medication. My kidneys were failing and my inflammation markers and liver enzymes were off the charts because my body had become deficient in everything. I was diagnosed with #Gastroparesis , and not long after my depression had consumed me again, so badly I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for yet another round of electro-convulsive therapy.