February 24, 2012

Jolene blogs for Time to ChangeTo those who know me, this might  be news: I suffered from multiple eating disorders. As this Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW) is based around "Breaking the silence" I've just broken the silence in that. I had Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa and EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified).

The reason why I am open now about my eating disorders is because I have no reason to hide it. I spent so many years trying to hide it. I was worried I'd be judged or that I was a freak of some sort. I didn't realise that I was ill, and at that time, yes I was dying. There's no way I could have continued to go on like that. I was worried that my dad wouldn't let me see my younger sisters if he found out. I was worried my family would talk to me as if I was 5 years old. I was worried I'd be further bullied at school.

I hid my eating disorders so well that my family didn't even find out I was ill until I became a Beat Ambassador and obviously with that there's media work involved to challenge stigmas surrounding eating disorders. Well, I thought I hid it really well, but I've found out since that most of them knew anyway but didn't know what to say.

I am now RECOVERED and I love life. I absolutely hate the way I felt at first. How I isolated myself from my family and friends and pushed everyone away who cared. My body and mind had been completely taken over by it. I couldn't speak even if I wanted to. I was once an outgoing, intelligent girl, but I found myself introverted, isolated, frail and scared. 
The worst thing was that I'd been suffering most of my life. I was 6 years old when my problems began. I become a vegetarian and absolutely obsessed over everything that was in food. I also used to dance a lot and I found (thought) that I was the biggest in my class. I cut out sweets and crisps; everything a normal 6 year old should have. My mum took me to the doctors at aged 8. The doctor tried to weigh me and I freaked out kicking and screaming. I have no idea why because I used to weigh myself all the time. The doctor didn't even suggest an eating disorder - of course, in his eyes I was far too young. Instead I was tested for every other physical illness on the planet.

The next stage of life was secondary school. I seemed to gain weight which is a bit obvious as it was during my teenage years! But I was not comfortable with this. I was bullied during my time at school and pretty much bullied at home too. My dad decided he could come and go out of my life as and when he pleased. My mum and I moved into my Nan's and my mum would never, ever be in. Instead she'd be over at the neighbours drinking until eventually she'd come in drunk the next day and we'd just argue. I hated my mum, I hated my dad and I felt alone. I did, however love my sisters. If I had my sisters then I was okay. I figured I'd have to be more like them in order for my dad to love me the same as he loved them. As they were all younger, they were all thinner. I needed to be thinner, small and childlike. I subconsciously used food as a method of control. Everything else in my life was out of control and I felt so alone. My eating disorders, however never left me alone.

That is until I started to recover! Yes, it was extremely difficult but I was persistent and patient. I gained confidence during recovery. I began to like myself a lot more. I began to find my voice. I'd let myself go out more and be with my friends. At school people would still bully me, but in the end I just admitted yes I'd suffered from eating disorders and if anyone has a problem with that come and say it to my face. I found that nobody had a problem. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who congratulated me on trying to recover. I had people asking me questions which was always nice because I could dispel any myths they had, rather than them not asking and continue to presume these things about me. I also had a lot of people confide in me from all the different year groups and even some of my teachers! And I hope I managed to help them in the correct way! I tried my best anyway!

My voice was back. I could do this. I become a Young Ambassador for Beat and heard other people's experiences which certainly put the fire in my stomach. I knew too much stigma surrounded eating disorders. The amount of feedback I've had from many sufferers, and people of all stages of recovery saying that I'm brave is phenomenal. I am not brave at all... I freak out if there's a pigeon near me! I am simply recovered and trying to help others recover too. I hope that one day, those people who think I'm brave will realise that they are remarkable people too all with a life ahead of them minus the eating disorder.

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