Dealing with an Eating Disorder in Mind

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Michelle*, 26, tells Young Scot about her ongoing experience of living with an eating disorder.

Michelle's Story

In Autumn 2013, I was sitting on a plane, about to fly off on holiday with friends, thinking, “I can never let my life get to the stage where nothing but food and weight matter again.” I finally felt like I was living my life - not just functioning and getting by, as I had been for years before.

I didn’t plan to relapse. I wasn’t 100% cured of my eating disorder, but I was a healthy weight and though I had some odd habits around food, they weren’t ruling my life. I had rubbish days and hated myself sometimes, but I think that’s sadly quite typical for a woman in her early 20s. 

I don’t know the exact moment when things started to go downhill again. I had gotten really into fitness and I actually enjoyed it, it wasn’t the eating disorder making me exercise. Then I got sick, just a kidney infection, and then a few other bouts of illness - a couple of months of bad luck really. I stopped eating as much, because I wasn’t exercising.

I felt my mood change, but that is expected if you stop exercising isn’t it? I got bad stomach pains that just didn’t go away. Without noticing, the amount of food I was eating was getting less, and my thoughts and behaviours were changing. 

Looking back I can see it happening, but at the time I was convinced all was well. My family, friends, doctors, everyone around me were rightly suspicious that the eating disorder was clawing its way back into my life, but I denied it and I believed I was right; even as my clothes got too big for me and my diet became smaller.  I turned down offers of help and I pushed people away. 

I can’t remember when I realised that I was again, in the depths of the eating disorder. I still sometimes don’t believe it. It’s even harder to believe when months on, I’m still waiting on eating disorder treatment. 

Relapse for me is almost harder than being ill the first or even second time, because I feel stupid for succumbing again, after doing so well. I’ve lost another year of my life to it so far. People say things like “you were doing so well, start doing whatever it was that was keeping you well again” and “use the skills you used to get well last time”, which makes me feel even worse. If those things aren’t doable now, then will I ever get well again? And I feel guilty for letting friends, family, doctors and others down. 

I don’t like to end on a negative note, so I had a think about what might have stopped me going so far downhill. Everyone noticed I was ill again before I did. I refused help. I needed people to be forceful, no matter how angry it made me.The anger was a symptom that the eating disorder was making a return. The only way I can think to describe it is like being blind to my own reality. Everyone else had a better grasp on it than I did.

It isn’t anyone’s responsibility to keep me well but I wasn’t, and if I’m honest I am still not, able to keep myself well. I need others to keep me on track - or put me back on the track I fell off.

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*Name and thumbnail image have been changed to protect identity.