I am the girl with a list of things wrong with her as long as her name.
Ask anyone who knows me and they will confirm that I am that girl. If I had a pound for every time I heard the phrase, ‘it could only happen to you’, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t be worried about being that girl anymore. From being in the most ridiculous and laughable awkward situations to being diagnosed with, what feels like, more and more medical conditions, there is not a single day where something doesn’t seem to happen to me.
So where to begin? The driving force behind my writing was when I was diagnosed with the biggest medical challenge of my life, which was not physical, and I used writing in a diary to help me cope. After relapsing into old habits not too long ago I decided to begin recording my journey again but this time, not with pen and paper, but online instead.
The thought of writing about such personal details online was quite daunting at first. Trying to remain anonymous seemed the obvious option, but it would be foolish to believe that some people would not be able to work out who that girl is based on what I wish to talk about. Admittedly, perhaps 20 people have a rough idea of what is going on but less than one hand know the full extent. Three are there for me through every battle and for that I will be forever grateful.
I was bullied throughout school regarding my weight and disability; I was born with mild cerebral palsy which was not diagnosed until I was 21 and an accident when I was 6 caused further damage to the side affected by my (undiagnosed) hemiplegia. I suffered from bad psoriasis as a child and combined with a ‘claw hand’ from my accident, the bullying was relentless. A very complicated form of appendicitis at 13. Diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 15 and began to struggle with school due to the amount of time I was missing. I prolapsed discs in my lower back at 16 and at 19 I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis which just so happened to affect my disabled side the most. I then found out my dad had been having an affair since I was 7 and I had a half-brother I knew nothing about.
I had been involved in sport my entire life and it always gave me an outlet to cope with stress but after being told in 2012 that I was ‘too fat’ and an ’embarrassment to elite sport’ I was faced with my biggest medical challenge;
I developed an eating disorder.
I never thought I could be that girl…..that girl with an eating disorder.
That athlete with the eating disorder.
But I was.
I still am.
And it hurts. God does it hurt like hell. To wake up every day feeling broken, staring in the mirror and hating that girl looking back at you. Trying to ignore that demon whispering how fat you are. How ugly and how weak. How shameful the choices you made were. And that voice makes you so self-conscious. And you think the only way you can get rid of that voice is if you lose weight. But it never leaves, and you panic. You believe you have to lose more to become happier.
You become desperate to find that happiness that seems to linger in the horizon yet never gets any closer and that hurts even more.
You convince yourself its only temporary. Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?
God, I was so wrong.
I became, what I can only describe as ‘lost’.
Lost in a vicious cycle I convinced myself I was in control of.
I felt strong if I didn’t eat but with 7 hours of training a day I had to eat eventually. I would eat small salads but this made me feel weak. I hated the fact I had given in to hunger. How could I expect to lose weight if I was eating? And that’s when the purging began. It made me feel a bit more in control, I had gotten rid of some calories. But then I would feel disgusting and weak again, so I would convince myself to skip the next couple of meals to feel strong.
I can’t remember exactly when it all started but I know it happened so quickly and took a hold of me more than I ever realised. I coped silently for 18 months before admitting I needed help. In December 2014 I was ‘signed off’, truly thought I was over everything and I had never been happier. But a series of events triggered my relapse; and this is where I am now.
And, again, it hurts. It makes me ashamed to think of how far I got to just fall back to square one. To have become that girl, that athlete with the eating disorder again. I hate the fact i’m back into old habits. I hate the fact I hate myself. I feel so embarrassed that I have to go back to my therapist. I hate the fact I’m broken yet again.
But there is one big difference this time. It took me 3 months to ask for help, not 18. And I’ve told a few more people. I’m beginning to learn that I shouldn’t be embarrassed, that there is nothing to be ashamed of. My eating disorder is part of who I am, and my two best friends are helping me see that. I’ve learnt that there is no shame in asking for help and support and, in fact, I finally accepted this is not a journey I can make on my own.
I always thought people would judge me for suffering from an eating disorder and I used to refer to myself as ‘damaged goods’. But one unexpected message made me realise that wasn’t the case.
A few weeks ago, when I really felt at rock bottom, a friend contacted me asking if I was alright because he just knew I wasn’t. I tried to avoid the topic but eventually told him I had an eating disorder and had relapsed really badly.
‘I know you and if you’ve beaten it once you can beat it again.’
It really hurt for me to open up to him. I wanted to tell him but I was so scared. I was frightened of telling him but I did…and it helped. People care about you more than you realise and his message helped me find a bit of strength. He was the first person who didn’t react with pity and he was the first to remind me that I had beaten it before. That I wasn’t at rock bottom. That I could beat it again.
Don’t listen to the voice that tells you that, you can’t.
Listen to the people who tell you that, you can.
I feel like it always rains on me but with the right friends I’m learning how to embrace that. Life’s an adventure, and mine just happens to be in the rain at the moment.