My name is Manon. I’m 23 years old and I’m anorexic. I’ve never been interested in fashion, I’ve never wanted to be a model and I love food!
I was diagnosed when I was 14 years old. I didn’t wake up one morning, anorexic. I’d been going through a difficult time in school and had started going to the school library at lunch times because I hadn’t wanted to be seen eating lunch on my own in the school canteen. I’d always been conscientious and working during my lunch break made me feel better about myself. I wasn’t wasting time, eating, I was working, improving my chances of achieving good exam results.
Eventually, I started to believe that I had to earn my food. Food was a treat, a reward for achievement. If I failed to achieve the academic goals that I’d set for myself, I wouldn’t give myself permission to eat. I didn’t deserve to eat. I had to punish myself. Starvation was my punishment.
People are always surprised when I tell them that I love food. I enjoy cookery programmes and love to bake things for my friends and for my family. A close friend of mine actually bought me a copy of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood’s The Great British Bake Off for Christmas!! I’m just finding it difficult to fight this illness at the moment, this cruel illness that tells me that I don’t deserve to eat. I’d love to be able to go to the beach and have an ice cream! I’d love to be able to enjoy a cosy night in, a good film and a delicious pizza! I’d love to be able to have a slice of chocolate cake on my birthday! My illness is preventing me from doing all of these things at the moment. The overwhelming guilt that I know this horrible illness would force me to experience if I allowed myself to do any of these things would just be too much for me to tolerate. How many hours of painful excessive exercise would I force myself to undergo to compensate and to punish myself for enjoying that extra snack?
I’m determined that I will get better. It’s going to be hard, but it’s definitely not impossible to recover. I was an inpatient at a specialist eating disorders hospital for nine months. I was given the opportunity to meet individuals who have recovered and they gave me hope.
When I discharged myself from hospital, although physically better having significantly increased my weight, I can honestly say that my anorexic thoughts were as strong as ever. Many people believe that a healthy weight = recovery. THIS IS NOT TRUE!!! A healthy outward appearance can often disguise the inner turmoil that this cruel illness creates. I will consider myself recovered when I no longer perceive food as a reward but as a necessity which is not only essential for health but which is also there to be enjoyed!
We hope that Manon's story helps people understand more about eating disorders and dispel some of the myths. What common myths have you heard about eating disorders? What's your experience? Post your thoughts below, on Facebook or Tweet them @ttcwales using #eatingdisordermyths