At first glance it might seem that I am just a happy, normal girl who loves to bake and walk her dog. However, I have suffered with an eating disorder since I was 13. It was only in May 2014 when I realised that this Voice in my head was slowly but surely trying to kill me. And so began the long, hard, and painful journey which is recovery...

I want My Cocoa Stained Apron to be a special place...a place for reflection, memories, shared stories...and of course a little bit of cocoa-staining ;) Recovery might be the hardest thing you ever choose to do in this life. But it is also the bravest and best decision you will ever make.:)

Monday, 18 August 2014

I’m not fat, but…I don’t need to gain weight, right?

This is what I would be constantly thinking, ninety-nine percent of the time, when I believe I had the eating disorder. And so, accordingly, with a fear of weight gain having inplanted itself within me, I consciously sought to eat as little as possible. Enough to keep me ticking, enough to keep me from being hungry, and enough so that my loved ones wouldn’t notice or start worrying about me. The deception I engaged in during that terrible time, when I look back upon it all now, makes me want to cry with shame and guilt. But I know now that an eating disorder is in itself a type of disease, and that those who are inflicted by this disease think and behave differently to the rest of us. It doesn’t make us bad people, and I know now that I am not a bad person. All I have to do now is make sure that I never go back to that dark, horrible place, and that I never enable those manipulative voices in my head - which constantly sought to convince me that I should not, under any curcumsatnces, gain weight or eat more than the little I permitted myself to have on any given day - to control my mind and actions ever again.
I’m going to take you back to the beginning, now. Where it all began, for me. Because, like so many others out there who have gone through what I did, I wasn’t always like that. The way I was for those seven or eight years when the disorder really exerted its power over me, I mean. Most of use aren’t born with an eating disorder; it’s something that gradually establishes itself over a longer period of time; starting off as something so small and seemingly harmless; but, bit by bit, developing into something far, far more malevolent that can easily take over the sufferer’s entire life. Well, I think this was certainly the case for me, in a way. Every day, in almost every hour, I would be thinking, in some way or other, about food. As in, not that I wanted to eat all the time,  or that I was hungry or greedy: no. When I say I was thinking about it, it was in a distorted, abnormal sense. It’s almost like a fear of food. Let me give you a quick example of one of these thoughts before I move on.
On one normal morning of one normal week, I wake up and lie there for a few seconds in the warmth of my bed covers, listening intently for any sounds of movement in the still, silent house. It’s Sunday, so usually, Mam and Dad would have a sleep in, and not arise until gone nine.  I tense, then begin to sit up, anxious to get downstairs and dressed so I could set off for a long, brisk walk with my beloved springer spanial, who loved to walk as much as I did. But there was a more pressing motive too that  made me quicken my step as I made my way towards the kitchen. Set the table, quickly, and put the bowl and plate that you normally use on the draning board, with a spoon and a knife beside it. Then when Mam and Dad get up they will see them and assume you have had breakfast. But you can’t have breakfast today, as probably you wil have to eat lunch with everyone later on, and so if you have a proper breakfast now there won’t be room for that and you won’t be able to have hot chocolate later on either. Perhaps when you get back from the walk you can have an apple or a banana, right? That’ll be grand. That’ll tide you over easily until coffee time, no bother at all.
If you didn’t really understand initially why I seem to be so full of self-hatred for myself at times, well perhaps you do now. And this is just one example of this damaging kind of thinking which dominated my mind when I was ill.  I’ll go into more detail about this a little later on. But now let’s go back in time a bit, to when I started secondary school.
Like many young people who have this disease, I believe this is where things started to go wrong for me. I guess it’s a transformative and extremely difficult time in the life of any young person. All the innocence and the ignorance of primary school being left behind, you enter an entirely new world where appearance and identity are everything. You become so conscious of your own personality, your own physical appearance, your own body image, and those of the people around you too. And so I became aware that there were many girls in my new class who were so much more slimmer and prettier than me. And besides that, their lunches seemed - well, so much more healthier than mine. In reality, of course, my classmates probably just brought in sandwiches from home and bought crisps and chocolate and such like from the canteen; but at the time the likelihood of this never really occurred to me and I only paid attention to what I actually saw. Wraps and wholemeal bread and lots of fruit; and so on. No sign of cakes or biscuits or anything which I was now beginning to regard as unhealthy, thanks to what was taught to us in health-focused subjects like home economics and science and SPHE.
I was determined to become like my new classmates. I have always been a shy person, and in my new school environment, I already felt as if I didn’t fit in and that I was just a boring and unattractive teenage girl - ugly, dumpy, a little stupid, perhaps, and far from being the perfect shape which the pretty, fashionable girls seemed to had already attained. I told myself that if I could perhaps become a little bit thinner, then I might become more popular; people would take more notice of me. But how was I going to achieve that? I suppose it just came naturally to me to try and see what I could reduce or cut out of my diet. Focusing on the “unhealthy” things. And so, my after school treat of a chocolate bar was immediately dispensed with; as were the little cake bars and such like I used to enjoy in my packed lunch – I would often just give them away to a classmate or slip them back into the cupboard back at home when I was certain no one was looking. 
I didn’t tell anyone how I felt; and I fretted lest my Mam or anyone close to me would pick up on what I was doing and deter me from my mission to become slim. And slim I did become. Well, not slim – thin, skinny would be the more appropriate adjective here I guess.
And so the years passed and I realised, probably around late second year or something, that I had reached my target. If anything I was slimmer than my friends were; and this, of course, gave me some meagre sense of confidence: I was still ugly, I thought, but at least I was not chubby anymore; my size was just right. But maintaining that “ideal” size was my next challenge. By now, my odd behaviour around food had been noted by my Mam, and she had already approached me on numerous occasions about my eating and how I appeared to be a lot more thinner than I once was.
I would cry then and say I was sorry, and promise her that I would try to be “good” and eat “normally” again. And I would, for a little while, anyway. But then I would just fall down once again, and things would revert straight back to the way they were. It was an awful, vicious, heartbreaking circle. And things didn’t improve when I left school, oh no. If anything, they became worse, as my next post will show.

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