Wednesday 24 February 2016

Eating Disorder Awareness Week - Chloe Murray's Story

I was only 12 years young when I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. Of course, everyone in my class knew, as well as my family and my teachers. Despite believing that I could hide my emaciated body from everyone, by wearing layer upon layer of clothes, I couldn't hide my behaviours. I had lost myself, and I rapidly transformed into just an empty shell of the former bubbly, confident, energetic girl everyone knew and loved. I could hardly recognise myself. I had no personality, and all I cared about was losing weight. I didn't want to socialise, or leave the comfort zone of my bedroom. I wasn't fun to be around anymore and I had lost all enjoyment from life. 

Anorexia was in control, and I was too powerless to ignore its strict rules and rituals. I felt scared and alone, desperate to escape from the chains that were holding me back, but too weak to do so. I wasn't strong enough to fight anorexia on my own, and the majority of the time I didn't even want recovery. My confused brain was constantly in disagreement, with half of me wanting to get better and be happy again, yet the other half too scared to change and 'lose' anorexia which had become a safety blanket. Anorexia was my identity and I was terrified of the person I would become without it. Would I be boring? Who would I turn to for help? Will people still support me if I don't look ill? 

It was a never-ending battle. I was so disgusted with myself that I ensured test after test, scan after scan, needle after needle in hospital. I was so adamant to doctors that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was eating fine and that I certainly did not have an eating disorder that they were forced to rule out any other possible explanation for my recent weight loss. Results came back that I didn't have diabetes, or a brain tumour, or anything else they suspected. It was only then, I gave up. I could no longer hide this illness from my concerned family, and I felt horrible for putting them through so much already. 

After a year of being in denial, unable to admit my thoughts and behaviours to anyone, I finally opened up to my psychologist. I had feared that she would judge me greatly, and so would my friends and family. I felt pathetic. I was now 13 years old and I was unable to feed or care for myself. I was embarrassed. Opening up about my anorexia was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, but with time, it got easier. Being able to talk to someone and meet other people who were going through the same thing was a huge step in my recovery. It allowed me to feel supported and gave me hope; knowing that there were other people out there that understood me. 

To my surprise, my friends at school stuck by me all the way. I often felt self-conscious eating around them, or getting changed during PE. I felt like a fraud for eating, thinking that my peers would judge me due to the very common disbelieve that "anorexics don't eat" which is certainly not true. I felt uncomfortable and as though I was being watched, but over time that got much easier. Through my recovery, I have learnt to open up to people, and accept the support around me. Coming to University has really opened up my views on mental health, making me realise how many people are affected with it, and it inspires me to see that some people can be so open and honest about their feelings. 

I have only recently, 7 years after being diagnosed with anorexia, felt able to talk about my experience. I finally feel as though anorexia is behind me and I stronger than that. I have learnt how to express my feelings and talk to people, rather than bottle up everything and take my anger/sadness out on myself. I am happy again. I am no longer anorexia. I am just me.

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