I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in September about 1 year ago when I was feeling very weak and feeble and I could barely get out of bed so my parents took me to the nearest hospital. Hearing the doctor say that I was diagnosed with Anorexia in front of my parents felt shameful and embarrassing but another part of me liked it. I thought that being diagnosed with an illness gave me a sort of ‘identity’ and made me ‘special’ in a way. After three days in hospital, I was referred to Dar Kenn Għal Saħħtek and registered as an in-patient immediately, which brings us to where I am now.
I started having these thoughts about the way I looked earlier that year. I went to a doctor’s appointment where I had to be weighed. I couldn’t remember the last time I had weighed myself before that, so when I saw the number, it scared me. It scared me because I didn’t know how much was considered a ‘healthy’ weight. The next day I was at school asking all my friends how much they weighed and when I found out that they weighed less than I did, I felt that I had to lose weight. I started out by cutting certain food groups. I felt so proud of myself for committing to something like this and I thought I was getting healthier but little did I know everything would go downhill from there.
I was so glad seeing the number on the scale drop and the more I saw myself shrinking, the more I wanted to continue. What I didn’t know was that, with the weight I was losing, I was losing everything else. I would barely talk to anyone in my family and became isolated. Nothing mattered except for my weight and what I was eating. One of the hardest things to do was to actually talk about it. One day, I sat down with my concerned mother and in tears, I explained how ‘fat’ I felt and how I wasn’t thin enough. My mother decided to take action by setting appointments with a nutritionist and psychologist. Things were looking up although I had no intention to recover and I only ate because I felt like I was forced to. This only went on for a couple of weeks and then I relapsed. That was when my parents decided to take me to hospital.
My first few weeks in residential treatment were the worst days of my life. I spent countless days crying and worrying about food and the way I looked. Since, I wasn’t making any progress, I was taken again to the hospital and this time the doctors decided I had to be fed through a nasogastric tube. The thought of having to gain weight felt horrible and so scary. I thought the world was going to end. I started having thoughts about suicide and I would self-harm because I just felt like it all got too much and I wanted everything to stop. After 2 months of staying in hospital, I was sent back to the clinic where I was given a second chance at recovering.
Things started to turn around for the better. I got my tube removed and I didn’t need to be force-fed anymore. I am still a resident patient, but I am now allowed to go out in the weekends and spend some time with my family which is helping me rebuilt my relationship with them. The weekends I spend out are some of the very best days of my life and I actually feel like all the hard times I went through were worth it. I am still trying to recover from Anorexia but this time, I am determined to get my life back.
Recovery is not a linear road and it never will be but you have to be strong enough to get through the difficult days and overcome your fears. I am sure that anyone who is struggling with an eating disorder can, and will recover, even if it takes time.
In my case I have had many people who helped and are helping me along this journey. I have a psychologist, psychiatrist and nutritionist who all helped me realise what I was doing and how bad it was for my health and how it was affecting the people around me but most importantly I have the support from my family. Having a good relationship with your family truly does help you in recovery because they can make you feel loved and important and also spending time with them makes you forget about what you’re going through for a little bit. Professionals, family and some friends all gave me advice that at first I didn’t want to listen to but now I have realised how important it actually is to listen to it because when you are not feeding your body enough, you brain doesn’t think straight, so it is best to accept the advice of those who love you instead of your head that’s telling you the wrong thing.
Some other helpful tips that I found have helped me are:
- Following body positivity accounts on social media – Nowadays, body positivity is becoming such a big thing so make sure you take a look at these accounts which make you feel more accepted.
- Not believing everything that diet culture shows on the internet – It is so easy to get influenced by these people who show you things about food or calories that make you feel like you shouldn’t be eating a certain thing but it is important to know that everything is good if eaten in moderation.
- Avoiding mirrors or reflections – Believe me, this is a hard one because we are surrounded by mirrors and reflections but it is good to take a break from analysing yourself and actually enjoy what you are doing in the moment.
- Keeping myself occupied – When you spend most of your time doing nothing, you are more likely to think about food or your body so give yourself something to do. Read, draw, go for a walk or even just going to work or school can get your mind off of food.
- Surrounding myself with positive people – Surrounding yourself with positive people can make you become more positive.
- Talking about what’s worrying me – It’s good to get things off your chest when you feel like you have so much. Make sure you talk to people who you trust and you don’t have to be shy or ashamed because everyone has their own problems and worries.