Updated: Dec 24, 2019
When I was 15, my mum left. It was devastating and Dad subtly made it clear that she was a bad person, that he had done nothing wrong and that we obviously didn’t mean all that much to her in the first place. He worked full time, and did stuff around the house for us, but he was never actually there for us emotionally.
We struggled my two sisters and me. We fought with each other, we fought with the devastation of family break up and we fought with ourselves.
My dad told me to go visit my mum and told me, in no uncertain terms that I would blame myself if I couldn’t convince mum to come home. But when I saw mum, she was happy, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen her smile. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ask her to come home. I told Dad I couldn’t ask her. He told me not to blame myself. I felt sick to my stomach and I couldn’t eat a thing. I lost my appetite for about a week and then when I was hungry, I chose not to eat.
I couldn’t control the world around me, but I could control what I ate. I became obsessed with the bathroom scales. Not just weighing myself daily, but multiple times in a day. I decided that everything in my world would be ok again, once I reach the weight I plucked out of the air. I didn’t care about being skinny, I just had a focus. This I could control.
My blind-spot came when my bathroom scales arrived. I had a flashback of a moment 21 years ago, when I had the scales in my bedroom. It was 6 months after that trip to see my mum. I was eating roughly just one apple a day and lots and lots of black coffee. I was tired, weak and mentally ill. But, if only I weighed 7 stone. If I weighed 7 stone, I would be happy. Everything would be ok. My emotional memory kicked in and I burst into tears.
That was a memory I had buried for the best part of two decades and here it was back again and waving at me. I was crying out of sadness for my 15-year-old self, but I was also crying with happiness because I knew that this was necessary. I knew I had to remember it all. Every crummy memory of the emotional abuse I suffered and witnessed.
I weighed myself, I was over 14 stone. I’m 5 foot 4 inches – so 14 stone is quite big, but I was ok with that. It was what it was.
When I had reached 7 stone, the day I did I celebrated with a big plate of oven baked chips. It had been the main thing I had thought about when I was starving myself and so it felt like a good thing to celebrate with.
It opened the flood gates to eating disorder number 2. I went from anorexia to binge eating disorder within the space of 3 days. Once I started overeating, I couldn’t make myself stop. It’s like I went from starving my feelings to eating them. I ballooned and this was the start of a 20-year rollercoaster of weight loss/gain. By the time I was 16, I was scrambling to keep it under control. I was very sporty at school which in a way was good, because it kept the tide at bay on my weight gain because I was at least burning calories as well as trying to eat them all. When I left school and started college the sports pretty much came to a grinding holt. I had somehow managed to get a grip hold on my binge eating by starving myself again. I couldn’t seem to eat in moderation, so in my mentally ill mind I thought the sensible solution was to just not eat at all. I yoyo’d between starving and binging for about a year. I then discovered laxatives. In walked eating disorder number 3.
It was during this binge purge cycle that I started losing sleep, at first, I was just getting an hour or two a night, until eventually I wasn’t sleeping at all. I was going out in the middle of the night for a run, or a brisk walk in a desperate plea to lose the weight I had been slowly gaining until I reached a point where I couldn’t cope with it anymore.
I contemplated suicide, I thought I could take a lot of pills and just quietly slip away. I phoned the Samaritans instead. After which I told my dad I was struggling, and I needed some help. He told me I was fine, that all I needed to do was cheer up and ‘be happy’. He then persisted to lecture about how depression and eating disorders don’t exist.
I started chasing laxatives with booze from his drink’s cupboard not long after this.
My first and only real craving for a bottle of wine came at the end of the weekend that started with me receiving the bathroom scales. I had spent it on my own, yes, I had been to the shops, and taken flash to the park, the woods and the beach and yes, I had gone for a run. However, the added weight of my memories meant none of this was enough of a distraction. I was sat there on my own, twiddling my thumbs. I didn’t feel lonely though. I just felt a bit sort of itchy. Like an old scab, that had been ripped off. This it turned out was what stopped me, not the fact that I would have to tell people I had failed, but I would have to live with myself.
I found a photo of me at 18, it was a little bit heart breaking to see how ill I looked back then. I would give anything to be able to go back in time, meet my 18 year old self, give her a hug and tell her to hang in there, it’s going to be ok.