• Alex Bovell

My Eating Disorder

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

5 years apart

I'll be honest with you, this terrifies me. My eating disorder has been something I've kept extremely private for over 8 years. The first person I ever told was my boyfriend and I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was frightened of what was about to happen. I was ashamed of what I was going to tell him. I was worried I'd lose control, I was apprehensive, afraid he wouldn't understand. However, I was also yearning to tell my secret that had been weighing me down for such a long period of my life. Something inside of me desperately wanted someone else to know. I desired a compassionate ear, the love and support I wasn't giving to myself. I'm incredibly lucky my boyfriend is amazing and took this in his stride helping me and encouraging me from that point on, to do what I am today.

What I'm writing might seem entirely foreign to a lot of people and I completely understand that. I also hope with my all my heart it does, because I wouldn't wish this on anybody. It's extremely difficult for anyone to understand what someone goes through until they walk in their shoes. The words 'eating disorder' have such selfish, egotistical connotations, I've heard it all. I've listened to people making fun of "anorexics" or turning their nose up at girls who 'appear' to have an eating disorder because they believe they're self-absorbed. This cannot be further from the truth.

From my personal experience and through chatting with many other sufferers, eating disorders are about CONTROL. When my depression developed at the tender age of 11 - 12, I felt out of control of my whole life, it had been turned upside down. At the same time, I lived in a society that was OBSESSED with weight and that 'perfect' body. The sad truth is it's only getting worse. It's my assumption that majority of girls have some preoccupation with their weight and I was surrounded by women everywhere talking about weight. I realised I didn't fit the 'pretty' 'ideal' image everyone was desiring to be. You pair that preoccupation with someone who is lost, someone who has perfectionist tendencies and an eating disorder is likely to develop. In my case, this is exactly what happened.

There isn't a day you suddenly wake up and have an eating disorder, the scary thing is how fast they creep up on you. However, there are significant points in my life that definitely fuelled my predisposed eating disorder. I remember at the beginning of year 9 my family and I were going on a skii trip to Melbourne and I'd been there before so I was aware of all the shopping I could do. Innocently, I jumped on the scales in my bathroom, weighed myself, took down my body measurements and set myself a weight loss goal. The next day, after school I bought myself a calorie counting book that included every food I could imagine and the calories it contained. The danger is when I put my mind to something I'm all in. It wasn't long before this book became my bible, I investigated it and became obsessed.

I don't even know how to summarise the past 9 years because my eating disorder has taken me to HELL and back. The best way to describe an eating disorder is an absolute monster living inside your head and turning you into someone you're not. Someone who's anxious, depressed, agitated, dark, empty, shit the list goes on. What I'm about to share terrifies me, however, I don't know any better way to give insight into what's like living with this illness. This was my thought process, a glimpse inside my mind, when I was at my lowest point, starving, miserable, and lifeless around 2009, at 14 years old.

I wake up and immediately feel my stomach, wondering if it's flat enough? I search for my hips bones,  as though this gives me accomplishment.
I attempt to stand. However, as soon as I rise I feel dizzy & light headed. I immediately grab onto some furniture, a wall, anything, so that i don't fall over.  I remain for a few minutes until this wave of blackness passes, and continue to the mirror, investigating my body again. 
Is this beautiful? I'm aware it’s unattractive,  Yet I need to remain in control. I continue to the bathroom and step on the scale, knowing that number will determine my mood, and my plans for the day.
Is this life? Revolving my whole day around food. I step off the scale,  and move slowly to the kitchen. My mind is racing what can I allow myself for breakfast?
I worry, what if other people are in the kitchen, they can't make me eat what they are. How can I measure my food without them noticing? I opt for something that doesn't require measurement, then I know the calories 100%. 
As I eat, I savour each bite, knowing it'll be a while until I next eat.  As the day goes on all I think about is food, when will I be allowed to eat my next meal. I say allowed because unless it's the appropriate time, I cannot eat.
My head continues to hurt, with headaches, migraines and thoughts. There's no concentrating on anything else, because I'm starved. All i think about is food.
My mind races, exhausted, “how many calories have I already eaten, how many calories do I have left”? The questioning and interrogating continues. It's a constant nagging I can't escape.
It’s tiring, exhausting and mentally draining. I want it all to stop.

It's evident, eating disorders are a mental health illness, for me it was a coping mechanism. At my worst, I was lifeless, food and calories controlled my life. I was completely oblivious for a long time until one moment it hit me... I wasn't okay, I was suffocating. I recently found journal entries from this time, however, I've chosen not to display them due to the figures, weights & heights because eating disorders can manifest at any 'number'. You don't have to be extremely thin like the misconception society has. I strongly believe disordered eating is making it's way into the lives of so many innocent individuals today. Yet because we, as a society, are a dieting culture, we aren't aware of these red flags.

These journal entries made it clear to me, my eating disorder was such a control issue. I was petrified of losing the power and restraint. I kept believing a number on the scale would bring me happiness, and it only did the opposite. I was underweight, malnourished and depressed. When I speak to my family now, they tell me I was a nightmare, always unhappy, anxious and agitated. I lost my passion for sports. I lost my childhood, my innocent years where we're supposed to be carefree and happy. What hurts me most, is the friendships I let suffer because I was too afraid to let go of my eating disorder and the control it had over me.

No words can express how much I despise this illness and the pain it caused me and my loved ones. I'll never be able to repay my mum for what I put her through all of those dark years. It makes me feel sick and hurts me to know just how many individuals are suffering right now. Through opening up I hope to inspire anyone else living with this illness to seek help, you need to. Get rid of that idea that you're not 'sick enough' because if you think you have an Eating Disorder, you probably do and there's no shame in asking for help. The Butterfly Foundation is an amazing starting point if you need some more information and assistance. I also hope that I've helped others who aren't suffering, have compassion and awareness for this illness. For now, this is as much as I will share as I've written quite a lot. In the weeks to come, I'm going to share what has helped me in my recovery, which I am still in today. I do believe my Eating Disorder will always be a part of my life, these are habits ingrained in me for over 9 years. Yet it doesn't control me the way it used to. I realised this as I weighed myself for the first time in over 3 years at university last year for a unit we had, and the number on that scale was the highest it's been for as long as I can remember. I didn't care, I wasn't affected, and I was proud of myself and my body. I'm continually getting better and better at fighting that monster and living the way I want to.

Thank you for taking the time to read and please share with me any thoughts, feelings or experiences you may have surrounding this topic. Lots of Love, Alex Xx