I was the last person I expected to get an eating disorder. But it still happened to me.
My ED started when I was in Year 10 and was probably caused by multiple factors, but a main one was being weighed in PE class as part of fitness testing at school. Somewhat suddenly, I decided that I would lose some weight so I wouldn’t become ‘unhealthy and overweight’, but what started out as a relatively harmless idea, quickly became obsessive and took over my life.
Within the space of a few months, I was constantly weighing myself, obsessed with exercise, and restricting my food. I started having orthorexic behaviours and was terrified of eating ‘unhealthy’ food because I genuinely thought it would harm me. As a ‘Type A’ person my ED gave me sense of control and achievement.
At first, I could only see the benefits that my ED gave me, but after 3 or 4 years it started affecting my life to the point where I wanted to change things. I was diagnosed with IBD – an autoimmune condition that I’m sure was at least partly caused by the huge amount of stress I was putting on myself. I lost my period, my hair got thinner and one year my fingernails were so brittle they started falling off. My relationships also suffered because I was such a difficult person to be around – constantly anxious and often in a bad mood because I felt guilty or scared. Yet all this time, I had no idea I had an eating disorder.
My ED ended up sucking a lot of the joy out of my life. I finally realised that I had a problem, yet no one around me was ever really concerned because I was never ‘underweight’ and was so secretive about my thoughts and behaviours which was helped by me moving interstate to start uni. I actually remember the exact moment when the switch flipped in my brain and I decided to get help – I was on a plane on the way back from a short holiday to Melbourne and I just started to realise that my relationship with food wasn’t normal and was becoming such an obstacle to living a fun and happy life.
Today, over 2 years after that light bulb moment, I’m proud to say I’ve recovered from my ED and I’m using my lived experience to help advocate for eating disorders. My life looks completely different and things I never thought possible during my ED are a part of my daily life. I finally feel like myself again and have reclaimed my authenticity. Of course it hasn’t been easy, but things that are worth it rarely are! I’ve also been fortunate to access treatment and have a really supportive family.
To all those who are currently struggling, I want you to know that your struggle is valid, and that recovery is possible no matter who you are. There is hope.
Contributed by Sophie