Words by Anonymous
When I heard the words ‘eating disorder’ it felt like a slap in the face.
‘If you don’t start eating more you will end up in hospital.’
Processing these words shook me to my core. According to the Butterfly Foundation, 9% of the Australian population will experience an eating disorder in their lifetime, and 3% of those people will have anorexia nervosa. I didn’t want to be another statistic.
Have you ever wondered what it is like to have a fear of eating food?
Probably not. I mean, why would you?
Why would you become fearful of food when it’s a basic human need? We need food to survive, it’s that simple. Just like a car engine needs oil to run.
Most of us generally enjoy this basic human need. We savour the flavours and explore the textures of food. We take enjoyment in the social setting in which eating often occurs and enjoy the satisfaction as our stomachs become full. We feel ourselves refocus as energy fuels our own personal engines.
What if you reduce the amount of oil your car engine receives and as a result you can’t figure out why it is losing power? What if this enjoyment was taken over by a control outside of your own? Subtle at first, but it slowly swells like a dark cloud, looming until it consumes you.
It starts with the internal criticism of your body shape as you compare your appearance to those around you. You silently congratulate yourself for your restraint when offered something to eat and negatively judge someone else who said yes. You become distracted by compartmentalising foods as good and bad, and despite what’s considered good, you fear the calories in everything.
You become absorbed with analysing your food intake:
What have you eaten?
How long since you ate this?
You definitely can’t eat that.
Your psychological fears of shame and weakness evolve into physical pain in your stomach and add to the reasons as to why you can’t eat. Like a rehearsed script you deliver excuses to those around you as to why you haven’t touched your meal. Your thinking becomes obsessive with internal rules that are created by you and apply only to you.
You thought you’re okay. And then someone tells you, ‘your engine needs to be looked at by a professional because it looks unhealthy and isn’t working how it should be’. You thought you had both hands on the steering wheel, when in fact you are driving blind using an engine that is struggling to keep up.
The thing you thought you had control of, actually has control over you.
Why are you restricting the car from being able to start? These questions are so delicate and complicated that it takes time, patience and kindness to try to comprehend.
You alternate between fear, shame and confusion as you battle with acceptance. Accepting something is wrong, and things have to change.
No one wants to be pitied or have their independence taken from them. I didn’t want a carer or have someone watching my every move in an inpatient unit.
If I got myself into this situation, I was going to get myself out of it.
Testing is done to see if there is any physiological reasoning to the pain in your stomach. Blood tests are regularly repeated, appointments are made, but you are determined to take control again. More tests come back saying there is no physiological cause to the pain, which confirms your realisation, this is a mental challenge you have to face.
Every time you open up, you unravel a new layer of your thinking, weaken the barriers and try to understand your own complex reasoning. The fear slowly dissipates and your confidence in who you are starts creeping back.
The journey is long, but slowly both your hands return to the steering wheel. The car engine is receiving regular check-ups and the sunroof is opening to let in light. There are times where the brakes are put on unwillingly or your car swerves off course, but you have a crew ready to assist you at every pit stop.
You learn to re-focus, concentrate on the small achievements and embrace the body that is yours.
I am on a journey of recovery and I now know my body is like an engine. An incredible, powerful and solely unique engine that is mine to nurture and maintain. It drives me to where I need to be, but to do this it needs fuel, regular check-ups and a support team.
I have been on, and still am on a journey, but one thing is for certain- I am driving with my heart full of strength and my head full of determination, through my fears.
I am taking my life back.
Illustration by Aileen, You can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc