I wasn’t that old when I stopped eating a lot of things, I don’t know what the trigger was. I don’t remember fighting with my Mum about it until I was older; 10 + perhaps, I could be wrong. I remember arguing at the dinner table. She’d leave me there after everyone had finished and it was a battle of wills. I always won – I never ate what she wanted me to and I think she eventually gave up. Most meat was ok as were carbs but nothing creamy and if I even suspected she’d cooked something in butter I wouldn’t touch it. I constantly doubted her. Getting me to eat vegetables was an impossibility. Aged 16/17 I developed more of a problem with food. I wouldn’t eat lunch, I’d throw it away or hide it away in drawers in my room and I eventually stopped eating anything much, just enough to get by. I was diagnosed with an eating disorder but it wasn’t really the problem, depression was. The issue was however that I never really learnt how to eat healthily. I went from home to working in pubs/restaurants, never really eating at traditional meal times. I’d only eat breakfast if I was having to do the early shift. Otherwise I’d start at 10 and probably not eat until 3.30. My partner who was a Chef would try to get me to eat dinner before evening service but I was never hungry by then having only eaten 2 hours earlier. By the time 10pm came around I was always starving but the kitchen would have closed so I’d have cereal or crisps. I was naturally quite slim and working in that environment, always running around kept me that way. As the years went by I was aware I was unhealthy but I was thin so I ignored it. When I went to work in an office things changed as I was much more sedentary. I tried to eat “normal” lunches but I don’t like sandwiches so didn’t really know what to eat. And when you’re 27 it feels childish to ask someone about it. Despite a little weight gain, I was ok but it got a whole lot worse over the next few years. Food became about comfort (my mum always used to give me sweets or chocolate if I was upset as a child) but more importantly it became about punishment. The introduction of anti-psychotics didn’t help anything and as my social life expanded, alcohol consumption increased which again, doesn’t help. I piled on more and more weight, hating myself more than I ever thought possible. Seeing my reflection now (at my heaviest) whether it be in the mirror, a car or shop window makes me want to destroy my body. Not just destroy, obliterate. Even seeing my shadow at times can make me cry. I want to crawl out of my body and disappear into nothing.
Aged 39 how is it possible that I don’t know what healthy eating looks like? Eating breakfast is new and only happens because I am working from home. I don’t have enough time when I’m commuting – I barely make it to work on time when I only have to move from my bedroom to my living room. Lunch certainly doesn’t happen – it feels like an odd meal to me. Often it is cereal for breakfast, a jelly, packet of crisps and cereal again for dinner yet it doesn’t strike me as weird. Is it? I feel like that should be easy to answer yet it’s not.
In my 20’s I tried to talk to mental health professionals about the way I felt about my body but it was always dismissed as typical image issues, nothing to worry about. I guess they felt that my suicidal feelings, depression and self-harm were more important at the time and maybe they were right. But what they didn’t seem to understand was that the way I felt about my body was fuelling the self-harm. I didn’t tell them that I wanted to die because of the way I looked because I thought they would laugh.
My current therapist has known for a very long time that I struggle with this. I’ve explained that it’s not just about my weight, it’s that I am horribly ugly as well but he thinks that’s because I look in the mirror and see what I believe is in the inside (my feelings about me as a whole i.e. that I am abhorrent person.) Maybe it is both. Recently I told him that I “wanted” to work on my body image and weight. I don’t want to, I have never allowed us to go into it because I am so desperately ashamed but maybe it’s something I need to do. I left the next session during which we started to talk about it feeling utterly broken. So unbelievably ashamed. I never want to see him again. He said “let’s pick this up next time” so I asked him if he really thought I was ever going to talk about it again. For what I think is the first time he said “I’m going to keep talking and talking. I’m going to push you hard on this”. Right now I don’t know who I hate more, me or him. I don’t think I am strong enough for this.