This week is Eating Disorder Awareness Week. So many people, both men and women suffer with an eating disorder in silence. A lot of people think of an eating disorder as Anorexia or Bulemia but it's not. Not to me anyway. I wanted to take today to share my story. A battle for me that is still ongoing.
Food for me has never been fun. I'm not someone that enjoys going out to eat or trying new foods. I love to cook, I love trying new recipes and coming up with fun and exciting dishes for my family. I just don't like to eat what I serve.
It started off as a control issue. At the age of 12 after suffering through sexual abuse and years of mental abuse it felt like the only thing that I had control over was my food intake. I never thought that I needed to loose weight. If anything I was already underweight and could have done with gaining a few pounds but instead I just refused to eat. My Mum took me to the doctors, I was prescribed medication and sent to a therapist. Although both of those things helped, I still didn't up my food intake. I hadn't dealt with the real issues so I masked it by restricting my food intake. In hindsight, a really stupid thing to do but I was twelve and didn't know any better.
Between the ages of 16 to 18 I ate like a horse. Something inside me clicked one day and I felt hungry, like I've never felt before. For those two years I gained weight, I enjoyed food and no one would have know that just a few years before I was literally a mess of a person.
Throughout all of this I had also been suffering with Emetophobia. Throughout my childhood though I didn't know that there was a name for it nor that other people also suffered from the same thing. I just figured I was a weird kid and something inside me was broken.
When I was eighteen I was surfing around Google, not for anything in particular but I came across Emetophobia and realised that this was me! It described my fear down to a T... My eating by this point had already started to suffer again but I had managed to maintain my current weight. Then two years later I got a stomach bug. I passed out in my kitchen at 3am, I came round and made a frantic phone call to my Mum asking her to come and get me. I was petrified. Long story short, I spent two days at her house suffering from this stomach bug. Afterwards though I started to associate food with vomiting. In my head if I didn't eat then I wouldn't vomit. When I was thinking like a normal person I knew that my theory was flawed and for lack of a better word, stupid. In moments of panic though, it seemed completely logical to me. Slowly I began dropping weight again. I would try and force myself to eat but after a bite or two I was feeling myself begin to shake. My palms would start sweating. I was sure that it would be this meal that would make me vomit. On the few occasions that I did manage to eat a meal, for hours afterwards I would be plagued with anxiety attacks. The feeling of food in my stomach was the worst thing.
I had good periods and bad periods. There were times where Anthony would literally beg me to eat. My Mum and Sisters would try to talk to me. At it's worst I was having around 20 anxiety attacks a day. I didn't leave the house for weeks at a time and when I did try a wave of panic would send me running back home again.
Eventually I went to the doctors and they refereed me to an Eating Disorder Clinic. At my appointment I sat there and explained everything to them and they were lovely. The problem was that because I don't have a classic eating disorder, such as Anorexia or Bulimia, they couldn't help me. I was suffering from a phobia which was affecting my eating. I agreed with them. I never thought that I was fat. I knew that I was underweight. I wasn't in denial about it. I wasn't hiding my problems with eating.
In the end the thing that saved me? Emilie.. I fell pregnant with her and suffering from 24/7 nausea for 28 weeks and then on/off nausea for the remaining 9 weeks of pregnancy was the best thing that could have happened to me. I still hate the idea of vomiting. It's still the worst thing in the world to me but I don't let it consume my life anymore. I still suffer with the whole eating side of things. I don't think that I will ever be able to sit down and eat a massive plate of food in one sitting. I still have days or even a whole week where the idea of food makes me break out into a sweat but the difference now is that I am in control of how I respond. I always saw food as the enemy but really it was me. I was the one letting food control me. I was the one choosing not to put the food in my mouth. I never want to be in that place again.
If you yourself think that you may be suffering with an eating disorder then please talk to someone. A partner, friends, parent, doctor, teacher.. There are so many people out there that can help. You do not need to suffer in silence.