*This post is about eating disorders (no numbers), please take care*
Once upon a time, a few years ago, I was in the midst of an eating disorder. This eating disorder was all-consuming. It invaded almost all of my thoughts and it dominated my day-to-day life.
I was obsessed with food, hunger, appetite, exercise and my body shape and size. I felt uncomfortably aware of every piece of flesh, every shape of every body part; I felt pressure, suffocation and entrapment.
I had no space or time to think about anything else in my life. Because I restricted my intake of food, exercised a lot and was almost constantly hungry, my body was craving food in the hope of sustenance. My hungry body made for a mind obsessed with food. And eating terrified me.
[from my sketchbooks]
My relationship with myself and others around me was very difficult at that time. I was so full of shame and guilt, and severely depressed. Eating became the battleground where I could enact the self-hatred and self-punishment that grew out of my shame and guilt.
I was a self-loathing teenager, perfectionistic and terrified of anything I saw as criticism. Food, appetite and body became forces over which I longed to exert control. For a couple of years life consisted of counting, checking, measuring and rules.
My eating disorder dragged me into a shadowy world. A world where ideas about myself and the world were chaotic and frightening. I clung to self-punishing rituals around food and exercise in a frantic attempt to make myself feel safe in a situation where I felt lonely, desperate and unseen.
Now I am out of that place, I look back and see that my eating disorder was a response to difficult and painful emotions. These emotions were eating me up on the inside and so it felt right to waste myself away from the outside too.
[from my sketchbooks]
During that dreadful time, anxiety ticked through my body like an ever-present clock. Dread never left me, it crouched in the pit of my stomach and never retreated: I was always hungry.
I never could articulate how I felt about myself and my life, so my eating disorder was my attempt to communicate that distress.
I was lucky enough to finally get some professional help which enabled me to live my life without the eating disorder. This help was positive in that it gave me new ways of relating to food and my body, although it was only the start of the journey for me in terms of my mental health problems.