What have I learned on my journey to recovery?
I have learned the power of words, both positive and negative.
I have learned the strength of “self-talk” and thoughts.
I have learned that there is an inseparable connection between body, mind and spirit.
I have learned that I am hard on myself and found it easier to hate myself, rather than to dislike others.
I have learned that the thoughts that led to me having anorexia nervosa were never about my body or my weight.
My problem was believing that I was not loved unless I did things to please others and lived up to their expectations. In my younger years, I was not allowed out with friends, to walk home from school with boys or to receive phone calls from them. Even things that I enjoyed doing, which my parents did not approve of, were quickly shut down. Often when I asked why the response was “The subject is closed. I don’t want to talk about it”. So I felt as though I did not have a voice.
My thoughts were that I must not be a good enough daughter, so I started to do every chore around the house, hoping that it would make a difference. I thought I’d be loved more if I did more. I got praise for what I did, but it made no difference to my pursuit of wanting a bit more freedom to be me. I lied a lot and snuck around behind my parents back, feeling guilty each time I did. Being put down by people close to me crushed my spirit bit by bit.
The need to please and do more translated to what I did with myself. I started exercising more. As I ate less, my parents started fussing over me and were asking what was wrong. I had their attention now. Then the downward spiral began, along with the complicated web of feeling extreme guilt if I did not exercise enough or lose weight.
My body began to suffer as a result. I lost my menstrual cycle for five years. However, I thought that the attention my parents were showing was love. So I was too frightened to stop behaving like I was, as I would not be ‘good enough’. I felt I failed if I did not go for my two daily 10km runs or eaten more than a peach and a yogurt a day.
At the age of 19, I weighed 39 kgs. My behavior was not motivation driven. I didn’t want to increase my physical health and reap the benefits. My motivation was low self-worth.
There are many circumstances that lead to the feelings I had, and to the feelings that others have, of low self-worth. However, there are many similarities between various eating disorders. Amongst these are low self-esteem, feelings of guilt and self-loathing, and perfectionism. These underlying issues must be addressed early-on to change negative diet and exercise behaviours.
Support and Information
If you believe that you or someone you know may be feeling the same, then for help or advice, please contact your GP and visit:
The Butterfly Foundation: http://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au
Inside Out Institute for Eating Disorders https://insideoutinstitute.org.au
Shape Your Mind Psychologists: http://www.shapeyourmind.com.au
The National Eating Disorders Collaboration: http://www.nedc.com.au