8 January 2016
One Trigger at a Time...
There were lots of factors that contributed to me developing this illness, in fact it took around 3 years before I was diagnosed with anorexia. As with the majority of mental illnesses, an eating disorder doesn’t affect your life overnight, there can be lots of different triggers that can go unnoticed until you start to realise that actually there is something wrong.
Here are just a few of the problematic parts of my life that I can pinpoint that could have contributed to me developing anorexia:
Perfectionism- I always wanted to better myself. I would not stop doing a task until it was completed to the best of my ability and until everybody was happy with the outcome. As you can imagine, this consumed a lot of time throughout my period in education and at work, which in turn had a huge impact on my social life, meaning it was practically non-existent.
Started working in retail- I hardly ever went on my breaks because I thought they were pointless. I had the mindset of ‘what is the point in going to sit down for 15 minutes when this job could be done or another sale could be made.’ This of course meant that I was constantly on my feet and skipping meals. I was beginning to fail to notice the link between exerting energy and needing to nourish my body.
Magazines- magazines are full of articles about how to lose weight, fad diets and new exercise regimes. Unfortunately I came across a few that really got my mind ticking and even though I knew scientifically that they were ridiculous, I was so unhappy with my body, due to comparing mine to others, that I stuck to the guidelines that they stated.
Apps- I was starting to have real issues with my body image and this led me to download an app where you could input a goal weight and it would calculate how many calories you needed to consume to get down to that weight. Again because of the perfectionism traits that I had already developed, I made sure that this was adhered to, right to the last calorie. Consequently, this led to restricting and I also started to engage in over exercising behaviours. Another problem that occurred from this was my ability to now be aware of the specific number of calories in pretty much every food item. I hope that from what I have described so far, you are all beginning to get an understanding of how much this was taking over my life, my daily thoughts and routines.
Dental braces- things started to get worse when I had my braces fitted in 2012. As anybody with braces will know, you get handed a leaflet, which states which foods you should avoid in order to maintain good dental health. Well I am sure you can all see where this is leading, and I pretty much cut out every sugary item on the list in order to make sure that my teeth were not damaged whilst the braces were fitted. This led to constant label checking of not only calories from the previous trigger of the app, but now to check sugar content. The braces also triggered other behaviours such as cutting food into very small pieces and not picking up food to bite it.
University- the tipping point for my eating disorder, and what really brought it to light was when I went to university in September 2014. I was already well below the healthy BMI range and consequently couldn’t rationalise anything because my brain couldn’t function properly. I realised that university wasn’t the right option for me, started to feel extremely guilty and didn’t tell anybody about the struggles I was having. Therefore I lived on very little food because I felt guilty about the financial situation I had put my family into. I also started to have anxiety attacks and would constantly cry, whilst living in complete isolation in my room. This was a massive issue because I felt like I had completely lost the ability to talk to anybody about what I was going through. My anorexia was the only way I knew how to cope and I was completely unaware of the damage it was doing. I could feel a lack of control over every situation I found myself in, but I knew there was one situation I could always control, food. My weight was rapidly decreasing and now that I reflect, I think that in some ways I was punishing my body to portray the struggles that I felt I couldn’t vocalise. Eventually I left university but again felt like a failure and in turn I still continued with my eating habits.