Here is my Story of life with an Eating Disorder.
I often think about the moment I found out I was going to be a Mummy. How thankful and proud I am to be a Mummy to 5 boys. But before I could be a Mummy I had a battle to fight…
I was 17 years old, living with my parents and in my first year at college studying my AS levels. I had a long term boyfriend and life wasn’t too bad. Looking at me, I was an average college student but inside my head I was battling with myself. I had low self esteem, low confidence. I was a constant worrier and a perfectionist. I had to do everything right. I should’ve been going out with my friends, working a weekend job, sneaking into nightclubs but in fact I was battling an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia. I had convinced myself that the way I looked would help me fit in, be accepted into social groups, make new friends, maybe be that popular girl that I had longed to be all my teenage life.
It never happened. I’d beat myself up wondering why people didn’t like me. Even when they did. I was under the impression everyone hated me. Even my parents and boyfriend. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to love a ‘fat’ girl like me.
Growing up I was an only child, I asked for nothing. Had a more than decent upbringing. My mum had been poorly all my life. She had type 1 diabetes and depression….that’s for another post. My dad worked all the hours god sent to provide for us. To give us the best. Growing up I had holidays abroad every year, designer clothes, pagers, mobile phones. I didn’t have to ask, my parent would just buy things for me. I think they thought that this would make me happy.
So why was I so unhappy with myself and my life? It sounds amazing right?
From the age of 3 up to the age of 17 I was a dancer. Dance was my life. I loved it, but with my low self confidence, I was convinced I could do better. I used to push myself harder. Even though I won hundreds of trophies and titles over the years. I still thought I could do better. Being a dancer fed my need to be perfect, to have the ‘ideal’ body, to be ‘skinny’, I was convinced that if I was skinny I would move faster, lighter on my feet, look the part. That it would make me more successful.
Looking back, I had a very distorted image of my body. I was always commenting how ‘fat’ I was, how I needed to lose weight, how I could ‘pinch an inch’. I was never happy. I joined a gym and started to workout on top as my dance training. Everyone used to say that I had ‘the perfect body’ but I couldn’t see it. I wanted to be thinner. I wanted to be perfect! I wanted to be happy with myself but I never was. You could guarantee I’d always find a fault in myself.
For as long as I can remember I was always putting myself on diets. I’d research diets on the web, look for books. I’d calorie count, only eat fat free foods, liquid diets, low carb diets, salad only diets. You name it I must’ve tried it.
I was constantly standing on the scales. As soon as I woke up, after meals, after exercise, after drinks. I was obsessed. The numbers on the scales started to determine my day. If I had a loss I would be ecstatic, my mood would pick up and want to lose more. If I had a gain I’d cry, become withdrawn. Hate myself. Either way my goal was to lose more weight. The more the better.
I started to skip meals, hide food so people would think I’d eaten, make excuses and say I’d eaten, exercise in secret. I would avoid food at all costs.
People started to compliment my weight loss. This made me feel as if I was in control, I was doing something right. I was being noticed. It’s spurred me on to lose more.
Looking back, I can tell you I wasn’t overweight. I was a size 8-10. Toned and looking back at photos I had a pretty amazing figure!
At the peak of my eating disorders I was living off water and boiled sweets to take away my cravings of food.
One day I collapsed at college. The symptoms of starvation were prominent. I was constantly fatigued, had very little energy. Everything was a struggle. I would feel light headed and dizzy. I found it hard to concentrate. My moods were all over the place. I was constantly freezing cold. My fingers would be tinged blue. My hair started to fall out and worst of all my periods started to become irregular. My mum took me straight to the doctors. To my surprise she had been noticing my change in behaviour. I didn’t think it was that obvious, obviously I was wrong. The doctor said she thought I had an eating disorder and wanted to see my weekly as my weight had reached an unhealthy level.
My Weight Dropped Lower
Over the weeks and months my weight continued to drop, my desire to lose weight became obsessive. Now that everyone knew what I had an eating disorder it was getting harder for me to hide my secret behaviours. My care was taken over from my gp and I was referred to an eating disorder unit in Middlesbrough. Bloods were taken, I remember something about my potassium levels being high and that it could affect my heart. I was at risk of heart failure.
My weight had dropped as low as five and a half stone. My periods had now stopped. My hip bones protruded. I constantly ached, it hurt to sit or lie down as my bones had little body fat on them. But still I was convinced I was fat and ugly. The consultant banned me going to college, going dancing. He took away everything I loved. The only way to get them back was to gain weight! I was in a catch 22. Do I keep losing weight or do I gain and gain back my freedom? I was tutored at home and under constant watch. With the threat of being made an inpatient. I wasn’t letting that happen.
I started to realise
Eventually I started to realise that I did have a problem. I had reached the hardest point and that was admitting I had a problem. My obsession was killing me. I was referred to an eating disorder unit in Newcastle. I started having therapy and was referred to a dietician.
Slowly over the months with support I started to eat ‘normal’ foods. My ‘safe foods’ were salad and yogurts. I was given a goal to gain 1lb a week. Getting head around gaining weight and seeing the advantages was the difficult part. My relationship with food was very poor. It was my enemy.
Gradually, I started to gain weight, very slowly. There were weeks I’d still lose, but the therapy I received helped me cope with my battles relating to food, my mind and my body.
I started to feel unwell, getting headaches, stomach craps. I put it down to the fact that my body was starting to function again and my periods were going to return. Weeks went by and fatigue kicked in. My boobs felt sore but again I put it down to hormones and my body putting itself right.
I made a doctors appointment for a check up. The gp suggested I take a pregnancy test. I went along with it. I was sexually active with my boyfriend but my last period hadn’t been for around six months. I didn’t think anything of it.
I rang the doctors a week later for my results. Nothing could prepare me for the results! I WAS PREGNANT! Omg! How? Obviously I knew how, but how when I wasn’t having periods?! I didn’t know how to feel. I was still battling my eating disorders and now I had a tiny human growing inside me. That needed me to eat and look after myself for it to survive. This tiny human was dependent on me!
That was the turning point. I had to face my demons and get better. Not just for myself but my baby! I was just over six stone when I found out I was pregnant. With the help and support from my parents, my boyfriend, his parents, consultants, dieticians and midwives I started to thrive and bloom. Still underweight, my baby bump started to grow. The feeling of my baby moving inside of me letting me know that they were ok was a constant reminder why I had to battle on and get better. I did struggle with the changes my body was going through. I had regular scans, appointments with consultants, midwives and dieticians over the following months. I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done without the professionals.
My Baby Boy Arrived
On 9th of November 2002, after a 19 hour labour I gave birth to a perfect and gorgeous baby boy weighing 7lbs 1oz. I named him Cameron Reece. I instantly fell in love with him. He was mine, I had to take care of him.
I honestly think that if I hadn’t fallen pregnant when I did I would either still have issues with eating and my body image. That I would be in poor health Or the fact the eating disorders would’ve killed me. Years down the line I found out that my parents were told that if had carried on the way I was, I had months to live! This scared the living daylights over me.
I’m a great believer in everything happens for a reason. I think I was given the opportunity to be a mummy to save myself from my eating disorder, that it simply wasn’t my time to go. I am most grateful for being given 5 handsome boys to mother and help guide them on their life’s journey.
I’d love to hear your stories about where you think your life would’ve taken you if you hadn’t been given the opportunity to be a mummy.
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