Illustration by Kate Towsey for Varsity

Content note: this article contains detailed mention of eating disorders and treatment

It’s difficult to know where to begin explaining something that affected my life so much, but my hope is I will help someone; either to understand, or to show another struggling that it can and will get better.   

There is no definite starting point to my struggles with eating disorders – I remember the first time I felt I wanted to lose weight being at the far too young age of seven. Anorexic thoughts have always been in my mind – they were just waiting to be acted upon.

Until I was 16, I appeared to love life. I had a lot of friends, a lovely family, went to a good school and life never appeared too difficult. I have, however, never been good at making decisions; it’s something that doesn’t seem to come naturally to me as a classic over-thinker. Suddenly, I had to choose my A–Levels; whether to leave my school, coupled with exams and also with a, very 16-year-old, friendship breakup and – BAM – my over-thinking, bad-at-losing mind decided it needed something to control: food.

I spent most of the summer after GCSEs losing weight. I started just to eat less and do more exercise. But that’s not all anorexia is, it’s a growing monster, another personality that seeks to take over your mind. The best way to describe how someone can become so enraptured by disordered thoughts is that they fill a hole in your heart that has recently opened. Over that summer it became like my hobby, my biggest interest, and my best friend.

People began to notice. On GCSE results day I ran up to the office of my favourite teacher. He opened his door with a smile on his face, looked at me, and immediately it fell. I knew they wanted to help me, but anorexia thought otherwise, making it its mission to ignore anything said concerning my new gaunt appearance - these people were trying to take away my new ‘best friend’ that was giving me something that nothing else was.

I ate less and less.

I would set targets for myself, and there was instant punishment (of less food) should these targets not be reached. I got thinner and weaker and anorexia got stronger and sneakier. I was always tired.

Walking up the stairs was hard. I lied constantly. I was moodier, and concentrating was difficult.

After crying, at age 17, when my mother put a piece of toast in front of me, I was forced to visit a GP. After blood tests, weight checks, a blood pressure that had doctors questioning how I was standing, and an MRI scan that caused the nurse to run out of the room because she had never seen a heart rate so low, I was sent immediately to an eating disorder outpatient clinic.

My Dad and I were sat in front of two psychologists and an eating disorder nurse. They said if I didn’t change my ways I wouldn’t see past the end of year 13. I couldn’t play sport, go out with my friends, or go to school. If I continued, anorexia would be all I had left.

So, I had another decision: stay loyal to this toxic friend in anorexia or regain my life. To most, this choice seems entirely obvious, but anorexia is very strong – at that time it was much stronger than me and all I wanted was the anorexia. It seemed the easiest option.

So, I was given a meal plan, which included 2 litres of full fat milk a day. I had check up sessions once a week that were clinical and strict. I resisted, but I was made to eat anything put in front of me. Anorexia is horrible because the thing it made you hate is also your only medicine: food.

I wish I could say that one day it just clicked, and I realised how much I was damaging my mind and body, but it didn’t; instead, it was a tough battle – the hardest in my life. People would tell me that it would get better, but there were points when I really thought it wouldn’t. 

I had to separate anorexia from my own thoughts - it wasn’t me that hated food and myself: it was anorexia, or ‘Alan’ as I came to name it. Throughout year 13 I argued with Alan, I surrendered again to Alan’s commands, but I began to talk about it more openly.

I learnt to like myself again.

It took some time, but I focused on my dreams and being at the school I loved – without which, I wouldn’t be here today. After countless therapy sessions I now know why I allowed Alan into my mind: it felt like winning. Alan essentially tricked me into thinking he was helping.

Anorexia is far from my best friend – it is my worst enemy. I know that Alan will always be there in my mind; it will never really be goodbye, but finally I have learnt to ignore him. It has almost been a year without Alan and let me tell you… it does get better.

If you are affected by any of the content of this article,  B-eat Eating disorders provides useful information and resources, as well as a helpline at 0808 801 0677. The Students' Union Advice Service provides a more comprehensive list of support resources.

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