One of the most difficult things to cope with (and write about) recently has been the resurgence of my eating disordered thinking. I’ve had problems since I was 14 when a bout of binge-eating lead to weight gain which was followed by dieting that quickly turned into anorexia nervosa. The situation improved spontaneously after I had therapy when I was 17 and I was pretty much OK until I left university when stress triggered off disordered eating again which, by my mid twenties, turned into bulimia nervosa. I managed to stop that when I was around 27, but continued to exercise compulsively and maintain a low body weight. This culminated in what I can now admit was really a period of exercise addiction between 2007 and 2008 – of course, at the time I said it was about “health”, not weight, even though I was doing far more exercise than was required to be healthy.
Several factors over the last 12 months have resulted in my gaining what I feel to be an unacceptable amount of weight – these include simple changes like moving closer to work so don’t have a long walk twice a day and not being able to afford a gym membership, as well as more complex factors like Dad’s illness and death which led to erratic eating patterns and my not feeling well enough to do as much exercise as I did in the past.
So, now I find that I haven’t recovered and weight gain of maybe half a stone (I’m not going near a scale!) produces levels of anxiety in me which feel about equivalent to suddenly finding myself in a burning building. The most depressing thing about it has been the destruction of my treasured illusion of recovery by the realisation that all I was really doing was holding off the illness by maintaining a low body weight that felt “safe”.
I am quite stunned by just how bad it is. How can you explain to other people that you really do feel like the most important thing in the world is losing weight? How can you explain that your main worry about your grandmother’s funeral is being under pressure to eat and other people watching you eat? How can you explain to friends who are heavily into fitness that, although you still care about them, you need to distance yourself from them at the moment because they are triggering the hell out of you? I know it all sounds utterly, utterly irrational to people who don’t have eating disorders, but I suppose that’s the nature of a mental illness.
I’m fortunate that my partner understands, having grown up with an anorexic mother herself. We’re mainly focussing on reducing the anxiety as much as possible at the moment, but I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that I probably need more counselling on this issue because, while I’ve had quite a lot of therapy for other problems, I’ve never had any specifically for the eating disorder.
Although this has been a nasty wake-up call, it probably has been necessary and ultimately a good thing for me to realise that I’m not better now that I have time to work on it. I find that there are so many things I want to write about in relation to the experience of having an ED that I’m wondering if it would be a good idea to start a separate blog about it. I’m not totally decided on this – it would be nice to have an outlet where I could blog whenever something came up, but it might also be too many writing projects.