Anorexia; Friend or Foe?

 Hope Virgo, Author of Stand Tall Little Girl and Ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation

Hope Virgo, Author of Stand Tall Little Girl and Ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation

Anorexia is this constant battle in my head, this tormenting inescapable voice that most of the time I can fight, and be sturdy against, but at other times I wobble, lose myself and lose all sense of control to fight her.

I am not always sure when that voice in my head properly started infiltrating my life. Or how I got to a point when I was so certain about allowing it to dictate how I lived. But when I began to listen to it I knew it helped. Anorexia helped me switch off my emotions. I literally hated feeling anything and she allowed me to step away from that pain. She taught me how to be numb from pain and hurt. Anorexia gave me a sense of value and purpose every single day. Our friendship began quite wearily. I dipped my toe into the friendship not quite sure if it would help. But the steady start to this friendship soon became a full-blown love affair. Anorexia became my bestest friend ever and I did what she wanted and when she wanted it. I knew what to do to make her happy and I loved that. She told me there was no point in spending time with people or getting to know them. Sooner or later, she said, they’d always hurt me. But she wouldn’t ever let me down. She was there to build my confidence and protect me from a world of hurt.

I loved how she made me feel and I didn’t want anyone to get in the way. I craved that sense of achievement she gave me; I wanted to switch off from my feelings, and my Anorexia was helping me, more and more.



Over the weeks, months and years, my feelings of detachment became who I was. The control around food gave me direction and a new purpose. These new thoughts in my mind were becoming a friend. A close friend. In fact, my best friend. She wasn’t going to let me down or leave me like others did, instead, she was going to help me conquer life. For some reason, anorexia didn’t want me to tell anyone about her. But then I also didn’t want anyone else to have access to her; to our amazing friendship. I wanted anorexia to be just for me.

But the reality was, the truth in all this, was that anorexia was slowly killing me. I was oblivious to this and even when I sat in the child and adolescent mental health services I was in complete denial. I couldn’t understand why people were interfering with me and my best friend. I convinced myself they just wanted to make me fat…

That no one really understood…

How could something that made me feel so amazing about life actually be killing me?

Little did I know that in November 2007 I would be admitted to a mental health hospital because my friendship with Anorexia had gone too far and my heart was about to stop.

The days before I was admitted to a mental health hospital all happened so fast. One moment I was out shopping in town, the next I was stood in the entrance to a hospital. Tears streaming down my face. For the first time in years, I let myself show emotion; I stood there staring at the floor, begging my Mum to take me home. I promised her that I would give it another go, promised her I would start eating. But it was too late.



Over the next year of my life, at my lowest ebb, I had to learn that my so-called best friend Anorexia, was not really a friend but a manipulative bitch who I didn’t want to be friends with any longer.

As I began to fight back, as I began to put on the weight the inner dialogue got worse. Anorexia would beat me down. Pushing me away from all those around me. Beat me lower and lower. She convinced me that I was going to be unhappier the more weight I put on. She convinced me that I should no longer be living life and that I was letting myself go. She told me no one cared about me like she did. I used to lay in bed in the hospital, my mind thinking about her. Wishing I was back to when it was just me and her. 

Over time I had to learn that what anorexia told me wasn’t real. That she was a lying
manipulative bitch. As I sat down to eat my mind would go into overdrive. This inner conflict driving me up the wall. I was frustrated… when would it end? When would I live my life without anorexia in it? When would she leave me alone? All the things she had promised me evaporated and I was left with nothing… nothing other than being stuck in hospital whilst my life was completely on hold. Anorexia had made me believe I was invincible but come on… that was anything but the truth.

As you read this you might be thinking I am weak. Weak for either letting anorexia in or not still being the perfect friend to her. But the reality is this: having an eating disorder does not make you weak! And the reassurance that anorexia gives you, the value and the worth doesn’t last. I am not saying it is easy to fight this inner conflict but it is possible to get a point where you are living life and managing your recovery.

 

So next time that voice shouts loudly in your head. Tell it to “shut up” – surround yourself with people who care about you, people who give you support and I promise each day you win the battle in your head will get easier – that I can guarantee you!
— Hope Virgo

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Don't miss the other guest blogger for Eating Disorder Awareness Week - click here.

You can also watch Hope and Hannah's interview with me here where we discuss their blogs and much more.