The Other Half of Anorexia

Long term relationships go through many highs and lows. Dealing with an eating disorder whilst juggling a relationship can be the biggest test of your strength. They don’t say “through sickness and in health” for no reason. Trying to understand what a person with an eating disorder is going through can be incredibly difficult; especially when that person isn’t even aware of what is going on themselves. Anorexia, as well as any other mental health illness, can appear very selfish. Although the person is not necessarily selfish, the illness will take control which can lead to them appearing very self centered and blind to others’ thoughts and feelings. There is not much understanding around eating disorders within society that can result in others feeling confused and helpless. Others would tell me, “Why won’t you just eat?” “Can’t you see what you are doing to yourself?” The reality is yes, I am fully aware on how much weight I have lost and how damaging and dangerous it is to my health but, I cannot stop. Some might assume that when someone with anorexia looks in a mirror, they see a fat person staring back at them. I was always aware of how emaciated I looked but that didn’t deter the fact that I still had a strong urge to lose weight. It is an addiction much like all others such as drugs or alcoholism –  it is unlikely for a person to just go cold turkey.

Leap of faith

The key is finding support and establishing a close network of people you trust, which will be most effective and significantly improve recovery. Anorexia often makes you feel worthless and unloved so the only thing people choose to rely on is their malicious yet loyal demon controlling your thoughts and actions. Having a strong support network enables you to gain that courage to let go of your demons with the confidence of knowing you have loved ones to fall back on. I always imagined it as my demon suspending me over a cliff edge with only the grasp of one hand. My family and friends would stand on a ledge of rock beneath with their arms raised in the air ready to catch me as I fall. Reassurance, honesty, trust and above all love, is what it takes for you to make that leap.

The battles and strains

I have been in a relationship for coming up to four years with a lovely man called Matt. When I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in 2017, our world changed. Much like most men (not to stereotype but let’s be honest), Matt is particularly unemotional. We share a joke in which we call him a robot, which is particularly relevant given that he is an engineer. He doesn’t have much understanding in mental health so predictably, this was a huge barrier. Likewise, living together can get very intense in any relationship and he soon found out that he was not only living with me, but also with my eating disorder. His initial reaction to my diagnosis was to get angry. He could not comprehend why I was doing this to myself, assuming obviously that I had full control over my actions. My eating disorder would, and continues to, cause me a lot of distress and I would experience feeling intensely upset, angry and suffer from panic attacks. Consequently, he would be confused and get angry himself. On many occasions it would reach breaking point and we would have screaming matches because neither of us could see the others point of view. I needed my boyfriend to tell me it was all okay because I was equally scared and out of control as my situation was deteriorating.

When I would try and reach out for emotional support, Matt was not able to respond which left me feeling absolutely devastated and angry. The fact is that we were both helpless. His rejection fuelled my eating disorder to grow bigger and bigger and I would assume he didn’t care as he wasn’t giving me the support I needed. His reluctance to support me emotionally was because he was scared – he was terrified because he could see I was killing myself and he couldn’t do anything about it. Anorexia takes away everything in a person’s life: relationships, social life, values, aspirations. He was grieving because he had lost the girlfriend he fell in love with to a vicious disease that was slowly erasing me from life. I had lost sight of the real me and was totally oblivious to how it was affecting Matt. This is a prime example of how selfish anorexia can be.

Notice the little things

Although Matt was not able to give me emotional support, he was incredibly helpful in supporting other areas towards my recovery. He would help me look at menus, help me decide what to have for dinner and notice when I was around conversations that were triggering or distressing for instance calories, diets and exercise. This support went unnoticed as I was so distracted by the eating disorder and always focussed on the things he couldn’t do. Furthermore, as I progressed in treatment I gained the ability to deal with practical things which meant the emotional support became a priority. The little things count and are often ignored when you are preoccupied with a mental health illness but it was his way of saying I’m here for you and I love you. I still experience struggles with food, especially when it comes to social eating and he continues to be at my side when I need help. I am much more appreciative now compared to how I acted before. Admittedly, I am a girl of words – I like people telling me how they feel and that is how I can easily identify that someone loves me. Some people, like Matt for example, show their love through actions though I was yet to discover and accept this.

And I realised…

When Matt went on a boys holiday, the time apart gave me a chance to reflect on our relationship and the struggles we have associated with my illness. I realised a major factor – he stuck around! Through all the fights and battles he didn’t leave or run away even though at the time it may have seemed the easier option. A year on from my diagnosis we are going strong. We still have our arguments, much like many couples, but we know where we both stand in terms of what we can give each other. I recognise what he does for me and fully acknowledge that he’s doing his best and that is all I can possibly ask for. He is a typical case of actions speak louder than words which, I now understand and cherish his gestures. I have accepted the fact that he can’t give me the emotional support in the way I want him to, and on his part, he realises he can’t give that to me and will instead advise me to call my mum or a close friend when he is feeling helpless. I appreciate how far he has come in this journey from the angry and confused man he was a year ago. I believe it is not always healthy for one person, such as a partner, to hold all responsibility for supporting a loved one – I have therapists for that kind of thing. At the end of the day, he is my boyfriend, not my carer. I am still going through a journey of recovery but, as a couple we have come so far and are stronger than we’ve ever been. I have plenty of people who I can go to for various issues and it’s about making your cohort (or as like to call them, my army) as big as possible. For example, my mum is great for emotional support but I wouldn’t necessarily confide in her for planning my meals for instance. Each person can offer you something and it doesn’t matter where or who you seek support from, so long as you find it and appreciate all that they can give.

One thought on “The Other Half of Anorexia

  1. christcenteredruminations says:

    Hello Megan. Thank you for this post. I like how you compare anorexia to an addiction, this comparison provided me with new insight on the issue. I am happy that you have already begun your journey to recovery. I know that you have been to Matt, and to your mom, and to others for assistance during this time, but have you been to God? God is our creator, and he is an ever present help in times of need. From the scripture, we know that although God wants us to be healthy, our real value does not come from how we look, our real value comes from our relationship with God.

    Megan, there is an eternal life beyond the life that we are currently living. The eternal life is permanent and nothing compared to the life that we are in. However, we gain admission into that life by being in good standing with God, and not by how we look. Although the cares of this world are really pulling, we need to make sure that we do not lose sight of what is truly important, which is God.

    God can help you during this time. The bible says in Psalms 50 verse 15, it says “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” You need to tell God what you are going through, and ask him to give you the strength to overcome the temptation of anorexia.

    Say this prayer with me: “Father God, I thank you for the gift of life. Thank you for everything that you have done for me, those that I am aware of, and those things that i am not aware of, thank you. Father I ask for strength, the strength to overcome this condition. I know that if I rely on your heavenly power, I know that I will never fail. Father God, harden my heart to the things that cause me to be tempted into this condition. Let me no longer see value in this condition. Open my eyes to what is truly important lord, which is you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen”

    If you wish to start a relationship with God (if you do not already have one), here are the steps that I usually recommend:

    1) find a quiet space free from distractions, a place where you can pray.

    2) imagine that Jesus is in front of you, talk to him the way you will with a close friend. Tell him that you are ready to accept him, invite him to come into your life and become your lord and personal savior. Ask for forgiveness of past sins. Tell Jesus that you want to die to your old self and be reborn as a new creation in him. Pray that you inherit eternal life and the kingdom of God. Beware of sudden distractions when you pray, this is a trick the devil uses to stop us from having focused prayers. You might also get the feeling that God is not there or that you are simply wasting your time, this is another trick that the devil uses to discourage us from prayers. Jesus is there with you, and he cares for you.

    3) If you have any specific prayers, or something specific that you need, you can ask it in Jesus name, and God would attend to the prayers. God usually has three answers to prayers: Yes, Yes but wait, and No. God has a reason for every answer, and his answers are usually what is best for you. When you pray, you need to have faith that you will receive. God does not like it when we pray but doubt his ability to provide what we want for us. Lastly, prayers and faith without works wont bring results. E.g. If all a person does is prays and has faith that they would get a job, without actually applying to jobs, they WOULD NOT get a job. God does not work that way, God loves hard-working people, and God rewards hard-work. If all Christians had to do is pray, have faith, and stay home all day awaiting a blessing, Christians would be the laziest people on earth. LOL. Your part is to pray that God should fast-track your success, so that you receive your blessings quicker than people who are relying on their own strength. Your blessings might also come in a bigger way. Remember to thank God when you get the answers to your prayers.

    4) Read the bible and obey it. You can find free bibles online. You can also find free bible apps on google play. Keep praying all the time and maintain a connection with God.

    5) Trials and tribulations may come your way, sometimes these are designed to test your faith, and sometimes they are simply tricks from the devil to get you to denounce the religion. At times like this, you pray to God, you fast, and you maintain consistency in the faith, this way, God would lift you above all trials and afflictions.

    6) You can join a community of bible believing Christians. Having friends who are believers would keep you on track, and the conversations about the religion would be beneficial to your faith.

    7) Get a water baptism, and pray to God so that you can receive a baptism in the holy spirit.

    Remember that God loves you, and is capable of helping you at a time like this. Reach out to him, and he will manifest his ways in your life. Have a blessed day, and God bless you.

    Like

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