“Imagine if something in your brain was telling you to act a certain way, a way that you knew in hindsight was dangerous but you still didn’t know know what to do.
Imagine being at your lowest, being seduced by this voice that sucks you in, makes you feel valued, takes all that pain away… but as that voice gives you hope, gives you value… you know at the same time it is running you further in to the ground and had the power to destroy you.”
That’s exactly how my battle with anorexia began again. I thought I had beaten it once but was I naïve to think that I wouldn’t be bothered by that voice again. Was I naïve to think that she wouldn’t be lurking waiting for me to slip up. I had done so well up until I was 25. Yes it hadn’t always been plain sailing and easy but I had pushed on, stayed fighting and stayed well in my recovery. But in March 2016 my Grandma passed away. She had lived with Alzheimer’s for a number of years a disease in which she felt ashamed to have. But the funny thing was, whilst she was ashamed of her own diagnosis she wasn’t ashamed of mine. She had never been ashamed of my anorexia. Throughout my teens I wrote to her weekly and she would always take the time to write back. Pages of letters, millions of words we put down. The support she gave me was incredible and something that as I sit here writing this I still miss. Maybe that’s why I beat myself so much after she passed away.
I remember it as vividly as if it was yesterday. The penultimate time I saw her we lay in her bed, it was upstairs in her lovely house. I read her poetry by TS Elliot. She loved listening to it and she always pointed out when I deliberately missed bits of it. I was there with her for hours reading and talking. Her cat Lilly, stretched out on the end of the bed.
Every now and again she would ask me to open and close the window. I headed back to London that evening and whilst the day had been hard at times as she didn’t know who I was I had loved being with her. A fortnight later she went in to a Care Home and I headed back up on the Friday to see her with my Mum. I hated it. I didn’t like seeing her in there and I found it so hard. I was so relieved when my Mum said it was time to go. I travelled back to London that evening on the train, tears streaming down my face. I had tried to be strong for my Mum but I couldn’t do it. I kept reasoning with myself as the guilt set in. I told myself it would be fine; I would back up there the week after to see her. I could talk to her then, read to her, do what she wanted… it would be fine.
But it wasn’t…
There was no next time.
The following Tuesday my Mum rung told me it wasn’t looking good. I was terrified, I wanted to be strong I knew I had to be. On Wednesday morning I went for a run, I made sure I ran over all the double drains, I run as fast as I could, I told myself it would be okay if I ran faster. She would still be alive; she would fight on. I could control that if I did this properly.
But it didn’t work. Instead I got a call at work, and had to leave immediately. I walked out of the front door of the office, got on a train to Didcot Parkway and headed there. As I think back to that day the sadness overwhelms me still. It was horrible.
I turned up at the Care Home with my older sister but it was too late. I never got to say sorry to my Grandma.
For some reason, and to this day I still don’t know why but instead of being strong, instead of fighting anorexia I let the guilt eat me up from the inside out. I let it drum in to me. I blamed myself for the death of my Grandma. I beat myself up because I hadn’t been able to support her the way I should have. The way she had supported me when I was sick.
Looking back I don’t know why I began to let anorexia back in. I felt trapped and alone. I stopped talking to people around me and shut everyone out. I didn’t want their help, Iw as independent I could do this on my own and that is all I wanted to. Anorexia was making me feel better and I was going to let her do just that…
Or was I?
No I was strong I was a fighter. I shouldn’t be ashamed that I relapsed. I shouldn’t be embarrassed that I had begun to count my calories again. All these habits that I had broken. I was scared that my life was feeling out of control. Scared that I was going to have to admit to those close to me that I wasn’t as strong as I had been. That I wasn’t able to fight this illness. This voice in my head, anorexia, beating me down and down.
Stigma stopped me reaching out for help. Stigma made me too embarrassed to reach out when I needed it most. Stigma made me nearly end my life. Seriously that is so unfair! It is so unfair that I worry about the reaction of stigma that I stop telling people how I really feel. I was an emotional mess but too afraid to show that side of me.
We have to keep fighting the stigma that people with mental health problems face so that people stop suffering in silence. So that people with mental health problems can reach out for help if they need it. So that everyone, no matter who they are can access that support.
I am lucky that my journey didn’t end in suicide, yes I tried it and I had to learn to challenge suicidal thoughts. I had to get back on track and fight to get well but that’s not the point. There are far too many people who do end up giving up altogether. People who deserve to be valued.
I urge you where ever you are, whether you have been unwell in the past, whether you are having a bad few days… reach out if you are struggling. Reach out if you need support. You deserve it! You have nothing to be ashamed of. And I promise you talking about how you feel really will help. And I one hundred percent believe it makes you stronger!