Monday, 13 February 2012

I have an eating disorder

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Next Monday, 20th February 2012, is the start of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.

The organisations involved in the week are asking people to break the silence around eating disorders by speaking out about their experiences.

This is a silent issue in our society, seen as something to be ashamed of, much the way depression was ten years ago.  Society thinks we should be able to control our eating, it's just food after all; we're neurotics or we're greedy, it's definitely a weakness of character.

But we can change that, we can break the silence about having an eating disorder and let the world know that:
- it's not our fault we're fat/thin
- its ugly and miserable and lonely
- we pray for a miraculous cure
- we are trying to get under control
- food is an addiction
- diets do not work for us
- we are ashamed
- we need support

So today I open my soul in a way I haven't before.  Here's my story.

I was a tiny baby and was force fed my milk to try to fatten me up, it worked.  But I' sure it also completely destroyed my full mechanism.  I've never felt full, I don't know how that feels.  I go from hungry to sick in one quick movement.  But that's just tge anatomy, what runs an eating disorder is emotions.

I remember sneaking food and eating in secret when I was 3.  It was my brothers christening and I wanted another piece of cake but wasn't allowed.  So I got a piece of cake secretly and ate it under the table behind the table cloth.  I remember that! It was a big event!  It was such a great feeling and such an awful feeling all at once.

From 6 months old and all through my childhood I was overweight.  Not just a little, but significantly overweight.   I was put on diets, like the disgusting egg and grapefruit diet, that one stands out.  I remember feeling starving hungry but being told I'd had my food for the meal.  So I would search for food obsessively, in secret; I was starving and needed to eat. Once this pattern of hunger and bingeing had started I couldn't stop.  There was the excitement of planning food and searching for it, the joy of eating it all.  But then there was the disgust that I couldn't stick to a diet and the feeling of despair at how awful a person I was.  Which meant I needed food to make me feel better.  A vicious circle of emotions and food.

This started when I was at primary school and nothing's changed.  For over 30 years I have been trying to control my food and yet it's been controlling me.  Over that time I've dieted,  lost weight and then become obsessed and stopped eating;  eventually binged again and put on weight and then started all over again.

I have been a size 30 at my biggest.  Believe me when I tell you how hard life is when you're that size.  It's exhausting just trying to walk and you become ever more sedentary.  People make the most awful comments on the street and you get looks of disgust everywhere.   You get depressed and then, guess what, you eat more to try to feel better.

I hit my own personal wall at this size and decided I had to do something about it.  I went on one of the crazy food replacement very low calorie diets and lost loads of weight, easy peasy for someone with an eating disorder, I'd become anorexic.  But I started fainting and as a mum I couldn't do that, I had enough sanity left to stop.

This was when I found Overeaters Anonymous and the twelve step programme for letting God take control.  I've been following the programme with the amazing support of a sponsor for the last 4 years and haven't binged in that time.  I work hard at my programme; praying and writing and seeking help and reminding myself I can't do it alone.  Every now and then I get caught up in a diet and go crazy but I quickly realise I'm still unable to do that.

The trouble is that I still have a lot of weight to loose and without dieting it's an extremely slow path to get rid of it.  Mostly I'm ok with that, but sometimes I'm not and I just wish I could have control over what I eat.  I look at friends who diet and loose weight and I am so jealous; but I know that I'd either start bingeing again or would starve myself.  Not good!

Instead I now exercise regularly, have sensible meals planned and just day by day focus on not overrating or starving.  One day at a time I do it with God's help, I just have to not look at the long term.

This is just some of my story; it's a long and complicated tale in its entirety.  I hope it gives some insight into how I feel as a binge eater and how life with food is for me.  It's not pretty, it's not easy but it's ok one day at a time with God's help and great friends.

You can find your local OA meeting

bEAT has a whole page with lots of information. If you or someone you know is unhealthily controlling their food then please seek help.

If you would like to read other posts I've written on eating disorder then there are:

 "Prime time for eating disorders"


Over National Eating Disorders Awareness Week I am hoping that other bloggers who have eating disorders will share their stories and link up here.  Michelle at Mummy from the Heart has joined me with her post "Are you scared to share"


Michelle Twin Mum said...

Big well done getting it out there. Eery time I read someones story I am sad and then remember I have to rejoice as they now have help. Mich x

Perpetua said...

Such a brave and honest post. Thank you for being willing to use your own story to educate the rest of us about the burden of living with an eating disorder. I do hope the OA plan continues to work for you.

Emma Major said...

Thankyou both, it's been really lifting to be able to write this and share it.

@drgeorgemorley said...

Wow, such a brave, calm, helpful post. Thank you so much for posting, and -gosh- my prayers to our strong God for the step-by-step reality you're living. You are so courageous. I have a different sort of difficulty with food due to a vomiting phobia, but it is so helpful to know that I am not alone as I negotiate my way round each days eating.