Diary of an eating disorder – how Hayley is rebuilding her life

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy helps Hayley to understand 'why'

Diary of an eating disorder – how Hayley is rebuilding her life

Diary of an eating disorder – how Hayley is rebuilding her life

It all started when I was in primary school. I was bullied being called “fat, bitch, loser” and more. I had a hard time with this because the same boy who assaulted me was also bullying my family. I made some genuine friends and some fake friends. My eating habits were affected by the bullying. The behaviour I developed was that on some days I would eat lunch and on other days I wouldn’t.
Bullying happened throughout high school as well. Food became increasingly the way I coped. This problem became more serious when a girl in my class praised my “not eating behaviour”. I began to get deeper with over-exercising, and fasting was developing as an unhealthy obsession. I remember being mentally unstable at the age of 16. That same year, 2004, I had my formal at the end of the year. Before my formal, I was obsessively over-exercising, starving, and had my first problem with laxatives.

I knew I was different but didn’t understand why

My experience with being diagnosed with Bulimia Nervosa at the age of 15 was difficult to grasp.  In 2005 I was admitted to hospital in the autumn. I was obsessively exercising, over-exercising, bingeing and purging food, taking laxatives that didn’t work and obsessing about the way I looked. When admitted to the hospital I was sent to the emergency department because my potassium was dangerously low. As well, my heart rate was dangerously low. I also had a nightmarish feeding tube with multiple Ensures daily to help regain weight. I was moved to the eating disorders unit of the hospital for four weeks and four days. I had the feeding tube removed after two weeks and this felt like a pen being removed from a nostril. The nurse was very nice and she apologised. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of Autism, and Bulimia Nervosa. I knew that I was different but I didn’t understand how different.
I had to drop Year 11 at school due to being seriously unwell and unstable. My family severely was affected by my body image issues but made sure I went to treatments. The diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa came later.

Bingeing and purging were ways of trying to cope

My bingeing and purging behaviours went on for years until my ex broke up with me in a shopping centre. The way he did it was traumatic and my bingeing and purging behaviours worsened. Bingeing and purging were among the ways that I coped with difficult situations.
So, I have gone through overdosing, drinking, and physically harming myself. I have been diagnosed with an array of mental health disorders including high functioning Autism, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and an intellectual disability.
My psychiatrist prescribes the medications I need and these help me cope with daily life in healthy ways.
I see a psychologist for Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT). DBT is a multi-skilled therapy that covers a range of behaviours. I find DBT very helpful for me in understanding the way my mind works and my behaviours. Marsha Linehan is the inventor of this complex treatment.
I’ve learned that there are three states of mind: the reasonable mind, the wise mind, and the emotional mind.
Creating awareness around these three states of mind helps me to understand and manage my bingeing and purging behaviours.

DBT is helping me to develop healthy coping skills

Gradually, I’ve been able to notice my eating disorder behaviours before they happen and focus on engaging in healthy behaviours instead.
I’ve learnt that eating disorders are always unhealthy. My focus is to develop new thoughts that are rational and emotionally healthy.
Growing up as a people-pleaser, I didn’t say “no” to requests. DBT is helping me to understand my expectations, responsibilities and what I need from relationships. Also, how to create balance, support and change within a relationship in healthy ways instead of binging and purging.
I especially like learning about why eating disorders are unhealthy. For example, learning about the effect of metabolism on eating disorders. I learnt something through my DBT psychologist that has been helpful for me — that eating regularly increases my metabolic rate, whereas going for long periods without food will lower it. The way to improve my metabolic rate is to eat the recommended five to six meals a day. Eating these regular meals daily is making my brain healthier and stronger, and more able to ignore the pull of eating disorder behaviours.
The ‘STOP’ skill is helpful too. This involves:

Stop–what you’re doing
Take a step back–think through
Observe–what you are doing
Proceed Mindfully–don’t react impulsively

This DBT skill helps me to think through my binging and purging behaviours and to cope in a way that is healthy for me.
I am learning to accept my past traumas by mindfully accepting my mental health, my struggles with addiction and my history of self-harming. It is not easy accepting such an extensive, painful history so I practice every.

Why I want to share my story

My experience with life has been hard for a lot of reasons. Many influential, supportive people have helped me through recovery. Recognising the pattern of behaviours in eating disorders has been a must.
I am passionate about the recovery of eating disorders because I have had eating disorders for 27 years. DBT is a long-term treatment that is helping me to understand why I developed anorexia and bulimia nervosa. DBT is tailored to my specific needs and to treat my eating disorders.

You can do this!

After experiencing eating disorders for many years, I am on a long journey of recovery and self-discovery.  I enjoy creative writing and am learning a new part of myself. I have just begun to write about my life experiences with trauma, and this is a big step. My experience when starting recovery work is taking small steps. It is important to seek help because these mental health issues can become life-threatening when left untreated. So, give it your all and for any problems consult with your treatment team. Sometimes medication can help – a psychiatrist will be able to help decide what is best for you. From my heart to yours, try your best in recovery and be mindfully aware that, “You can do this!”

Have you ever been in a large family? I was born into a large family with an even number of brothers and sisters. It was tough growing up in a small household; there were fights between family members and siblings. When I was born, being the third eldest, I was a ‘picky eater’ from day one. I wouldn’t try anything that wasn’t on my taste palate. I was a very ‘hyperactive’ child. I would be on the trampoline for hours, I would walk around on my toes and my parents informed me not to do this among other things.

When I was younger, I enjoyed doing creative things like poetry, drawing, and writing stories. I am enjoying life now because I am overcoming many obstacles. I am studying Creative Writing to improve my thought processes in coping with my life challenges, as well as helping my intellectual struggles with learning. I  encourage others to do what suits them best.

Opening up about recovery is hard but worth it for mental health. Live “one day at a time”, because you know in your heart that this is the best thing for yourself!

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