I’ve broken yet again. What hope have I got? I wonder, but I must have hope. Must not I, for when I think there is none, I want to die because one cannot live without hope. (Diary excerpt, 1991)
I’m 40 years old. The next day I regress further. I’m out of control. I am. All I can do for the rest of today, is fix tea, go to bed and read a book to help me forget reality for a time, at least. I seem in a no-win situation, and must act, or I’ll be in more than quicksand.
Ten days on: I didn’t take any … pills last night and although I sweated I didn’t wake up with a headache. So I’ll not take them any more.
The next day I feel nauseated. I think it must be due to my sudden cessation of those pills. (My doctor’s overseas).
Thankfully I have my children, who never fail to raise my spirits. My daughter has progressed through the Girl Guide Movement to become a Venturer and last night we enjoyed her group’s fundraiser dinner and concert in the local scout hall. My daughter was there with about six of her school friends – a lovely bunch of friendly girls. George was there with his new partner – the first time she has gone to a function where I’m present. She seemed to pretend I didn’t exist, so I let her be. Maybe she felt as uncomfortable as me. One woman mistook her as my daughter’s mother (ouch) but the embarrassed woman, on being corrected, told me that of course she could see I was the Mum, because my daughter and I look alike. I smiled. I KNOW I’m my daughter’s Mum and I know I love my daughter and that’s all that really matters.
Now that I’ve ceased taking those pills, confusion reigns again. I’ve learnt enough to know I can be true to myself and love myself. I am allowing myself an average xxxx calories daily, which combined with at least half an hour exercise daily, will keep me fit and healthy. This is my plan unless my weight falls below xxkg, in which case I’ll increase my intake. Just getting through today has been a big step. For 10 days I was out of control. The 10-day limit is a big improvement on previous times when I’ve stayed out of control for MONTHS.
My psychiatrist, Prof., says to “stand back”. He says that when I feel more confident, things (that is food, men) will not appear so black and white to me. I am learning to love myself and eventually, I’ll be able to share myself without losing myself.
I manage to get through the next weekend, keeping hold of me. I have come a LONG way. If I feel myself getting anxious I’m learning to take deep breaths – and relax; and tell myself I don’t have to do anything because nothing is more important than keeping myself together. I’m learning to respect myself.
I am my own responsibility. I must solve my own problems, face my own fears and meet my own needs before I can turn my attention to others. The first thing to do is list my fears, my needs, my wants, and then, another list, of action, and concentrate on these, above all else.
So what do I want: I want time for myself, to write, wander, travel; I want to solve my eating problem forever; I want to walk by the sea; walk in the hills; I want to be physically fit – walking, swimming, running, dancing. I want to dress nicely. I want to be well-groomed. I want to have a small second-hand car to drive around home, so I can manage alone, without necessarily a man in my life.
I also want, and need, the support of my family. Without it, my journey is a thousand times tougher. ‘Ed’ loves to fill the void. The school holidays are always a test.
I was not happy this morning as I did not have my children: they were a mile away at George’s house, playing with my three nephews (my sister’s boys). I felt they should be with me, at my house. They are my family. George has many of his own nephews (and nieces). Fifteen-year-old daughter visited me about 11am, with her faithful dog Sam and I cried and tried to explain how I felt my sister avoids me due to my mental state. Dear daughter stayed and calmed me. She said she has had a few “run-ins”, about me, with her Grandma and Grandpa. I told her it’s hard to tell them anything because they, especially her Grandma, tend to pass judgment rather than listen.
Despite my efforts to remain calm, anxiety returns during my sleep and water pours off me. Remembering the words of Prof., “Action Beats Anxiety”, next day I phone my mother and tell her I’m upset at my nephews staying with George and not me. My words upset her and then I feel sorry for her. Mum is always doing things for others and is so tiny, and thin. I tell her she should do some things just for herself.
Slip, slide, slip, slide.
I tell the man in my life I don’t want to be with him. He says: “That hurts”. I say: “I’m sorry, but I’m confused; I need to be alone until I am not confused.”
I cannot bear the thought of waking one more morning, to the dreadful realisation that I have gluttonised the day before. Nigh on 30 years of my life have been plagued with torment. No more.
My slip becomes a landslide.
I fall in a “hole” of depression and confusion reigns. I eat non-stop for three hours, at which point I put myself in bed and lose myself in sleep.
Next day I eat nothing until 6pm, trying to gain a foothold. I’m “fed up” with my life being traumatised by food. I cannot think clearly. All I know is I love my four children. I know I miss my daughter (she lives with George) and I love her very much.
I wish I could be “normal”. Poor George, poor J. Men in my life; I don’t think I’m right for any man.
… I’ve been in my “hole” for two weeks.
Day One of loving and respecting myself. I’ve stuffed myself repeatedly over recent days. How my insides tolerate such abuse I do not know.
I will be nice to myself from now on and the biggest nice thing I can do is “eat proper”. I have to count calories; I’m nowhere near able to let go of them, as I just go to pieces, like a machine that has lost its controls. I’ll allow myself a sensible amount – an average of xxxx calories. Gradually I’ll feel better and look better and be healthier. Really I hate food. I hate the way it has a hold on me. How I wish I could just eat when I feel hungry and stop when I’ve eaten my fill.
Two days later: I ate a wholemeal bread roll with cheese and salad filling at 12.30 pm. I enjoyed it. I was sensible and kind to myself. Therefore I feel better. I must continue to be kind to myself…
Fifteen years later, in 2006, I got over the line. I was free to be kind to myself every day. I could eat three meals and three snacks a day. Gradually I learnt what it was like to feel full or hungry, what it was like to ‘feel’ like eating a certain food, and to listen for my body signalling ‘that’s enough’. No more starving, no more bingeing, no more medication required for anxiety.
Free, free to be me. The experience of journeying through the eating disorder wilderness filled me with a passion to give hope to others. With the wonderful support available today, your recovery can be achieved far sooner than mine. Yes, it can. Especially if your family or partner is supportive and working with you and your treatment team towards recovery. Family, in whatever shape or form, of origin or choice, is the core of our existence.
I wrote the above post in 2012, six years after reconnecting with my healthy self. In 2024, I continue to make up for the 44 years lost to my eating disorder. The hard work of recovery was so worth the effort. I love sharing time with my children and grandchildren and watching them follow their chosen paths in life. I love embracing each new day and exploring what it offers. I love being involved in the eating disorder field, and being an advocate for people experiencing an eating disorder today. I especially love being my own best friend.
If you are experiencing eating disorder symptoms, reach out for help today.
Click here to purchase your copy of my memoir, A Girl Called Tim .