I should start by saying that this post is about eating disorders so if that’s something that’s going to put shitty thoughts in your head then it might be best to leave. All of this is a warning. Please don’t be like me.
That said, I hate the term ‘disordered eating’. As opposed to ‘ordered eating’? What the hell would that be? Anyone who skips breakfast or eats lunch in a hurry at their desk or drunkenly orders kebabs late at night is going to fall under ‘disordered eating’, surely?
I don’t like saying ‘eating disorder’ either, but that’s a personal thing. Where ‘disordered eating’ just sounds like you switched your starter with your dessert, ‘eating disorder’ sounds pretty damn serious. The psychiatrist who did my diagnostic evaluation wrote that I had ‘Past History of Anorexia Nervosa’, so I guess I fall into the pretty damn serious category. However, it’s a retrospective diagnosis – meaning I never actually saw a doctor when I was ill. I also don’t believe I ever had it. I don’t believe I was skinny enough. I was on the pill so I don’t know if my periods had stopped because of that, or because of the malnutrition. Two of the main diagnostic criteria, and I don’t think I met them precisely.
I have starved myself, though. I’ve never been bulimic because I get scared when I throw up (I also panic when I get hiccups). But, then, I have also been known to comfort eat. And I have been overweight. I had to train myself not to eat out of boredom – working as an admin monkey for so long meant I was constantly snacking at my desk. So, it’s all a bit of a mess.
Why would I starve myself? I’m not sure. Psychologists say that children learn that refusing food asserts control in a world where they have none, and that an anorexia ‘sufferer’ (I hate that expression too) is doing something similar. Well… maybe? That’s got a kind of logic to it. Although, I never actually did that as a kid. I was an annoying picky eater, but not a defiant refuser.
I do have one memory from when I was a kid that may have something to do with it, but it’s a puzzle piece to a jigsaw I’ve shoved far back inside the closet. I was 10, and it was when I was living with my mum and her boyfriend. They didn’t look after me all that well. Or at all, really. I remember having jeans that were a couple of sizes too small because they never bought me new clothes, and I could get them on and off without undoing the button. I remember thinking that something wasn’t right about that.
But that could just be a sad memory all on its own.
I was ‘normal’ sized for my age as a teenager, perhaps because of all the cigarettes and coffee. When I left home, however, I started to put on weight. Not loads, but enough to have to go up a dress size or two. Even that didn’t trigger anything. In fact, I don’t even know what started it. One day the voice calling me fat and useless and awful just got louder than before, I suppose. In March 2006 I was restricting food, taking ephedrine and exercising five times a week. By May I had lost two stone. By September, I was exercising every day, taking speed and ephedrine, and rigidly only eating the same thing every day so that I knew I was only consuming around 800 calories. I didn’t actually lose loads more weight, I just got ill. Eating rice with a tin of tomatoes stirred in wasn’t exactly nourishing.
Of course, then my grandad died and I moved and started drinking and eating terrible food and I got fat again. And again, it wasn’t how much I weighed that got to me. Something just clicked in my head one day and I had to get skinny again. I had to.
Want to hear the worst plan in the world? The ephedrine – which at this point I was taking as an ECA stack in pill form from bodybuilding websites – no longer worked on me. I had a little think and worked out that if my metabolism was controlled by my thyroid then all I needed to do was speed that up and then I’d lose weight. I could only get hold of thyroid hormones intended for dogs, but it was the same thing so it didn’t matter. I seem to remember the dose was much higher than it was for humans, because I broke the pills up when I first started taking them, but after a while I stopped caring.
I got skinny again. That wasn’t anorexia though. That was self-inflicted canine hyperthyroidism. Not the same thing.
And then I moved up here. I ran out of thyroxine, ephedrine became hard to get hold of and I put on a stone and freaked the fuck out. I tried restriction on its own. It’s fucking hard. You spend entire afternoons just gritting your teeth to try to stop yourself feeling hungry. You crunch ice. You drink so much water, your insides splash when you bounce. It was horrible. I went back to my first love, speed – and the mania that comes with the emptiness, and the horniness that you’d take out on someone else if only you weren’t so fat that you can’t bear for anyone to see you naked. So you exercise away your unbelievable frustration and get skinny again.
Or pregnant. I did that bit wrong and got pregnant.
It isn’t just about being skinny. Being skinny is just the result. It was never my weight that set it off. It was falling in love with someone I shouldn’t and losing control. And hating myself so much, I decided I didn’t deserve to eat.
Totally and completely pathetic.