I just want to clear up a little myth using my own experience being very poorly with Anorexia. I was thinking about what message I could share in line with Eating Disorder Awareness week, when I remembered a very prominent memory. I learnt a lot of things that day… just because a psychiatrist or a doctor has lots of letters after their name and earn lots of money, doesn’t meant they always understand your eating disorder better than you do. And also, no matter what my weight’s been over the years… I’ve always loved food.
It was my second admission to an eating disorder unit… but over the first few days they couldn’t keep me there because my pulse fell into the twenties. So I spent some time on the Coronary Care Unit (the ward for poorly hearts) on a heart monitor, where I was surrounded by either long-term smokers, or elderly people close to death. I remember partly feeling relieved that I wasn’t then being watched by the eating disorder professionals, and the staff in the main hospital weren’t going to make me eat. But then, because I lost weight whilst I was there (I was exercising in the toilets on the ward… I remember the sharp, cold collision with the floor on my backbones) a support worker from the unit came to sit with me for meals and snacks, even though as I wasn’t yet sectioned I still did struggle with completing, and argued repetitively about why I shouldn’t/didn’t need to be eating all of that. I remember having a very tense argument with one of the support workers I loved and got on with (in Yasmin, not Anorexia mode) about a bloody teacake… in which I got quite vicious.
When the days did go by, and I had been using the time on the heart ward as a holiday from being forced into recovery… having no idea how poorly I was… as I was laying on my hospital bed, I saw the team of mental health professionals enter, ready to try and take all of this away. They’d come to give me a mental health assessment, and the first time… I was successful in winning my case, I guess defending myself out of the passion I held for the control Anorexia gave me. But the second time… a day or so later… I wasn’t so lucky. This was my second time sectioned since being in services.
But I remember the psychiatrist coming over to me whilst in the hospital bed, telling me how poorly I was, but I was rather p***ed off because he was the most persistent person in trying to get me sectioned so that they had control of putting me on a tube if they wished. He may have been right about a few things… but I still tried to put a picture in his head of what it actually felt like with Anorexia. I told him… I love food. I felt guilty saying this, but it was true and I desperately wanted someone to understand my truth.
He basically laughed in my face. He thought I was lying so that I could try and convince him not to section me… he just didn’t get it. Why could I starve myself over such a long time, and still love food?
Because every bit of food I do eat… because I’ve never gone a day without eating anything… (another myth is that Anorexics don’t eat regularly… but I always have, just in very controlled amounts, until eventually, those portion sizes seemed normal… and eventually, rather ‘big’) Every bit of food I did eat… I cherished. In fact because of the smaller amounts I was eating, it’s like the pleasure of those moments were multiplied by 12 compared to what they were when I was a normal weight. I was addicted to food, but I was also terrified of feeling a loss of control. I thought about food, just as many others with an eating disorder do, for pretty much 90% of the day.
Not one eating disorder is the same though – maybe some people really do hate the taste of food, but from all the people I’ve heard and read about, everyone with Anorexia seems to say the same thing – they still love food…