|Student Run Self Help||
When I was ill, I frequently used to be lectured about the long term damage I was doing to my body by a variety of people. I was going to be like a fragile old lady by the time I reached 30, I may not have children, my heart may give up etc. Their aim was to shock me into eating again, but when in the grips of a destructive illness that’s attempting to destroy you, these threats don’t seem important (or at least the illness will not allow you to see it as important). I’m curious now as to how anorexia convinced me to ignore what were very real and dangerous threats.
I think partly, it’s a human tendency to ignore anything that is not immediately threatening, and to pretend to yourself that it’s not real – like, for example, when people avoid going to the doctor because they fear that they have an illness that is actually serious like cancer. Combine this tendency with the anorexic voice telling you that what is happening to your body is ok, and you can understand why such serious things can be ignored. But when that voice is telling you this, just try to argue against it. Even if it doesn’t mean you are able to change your behaviour straight away, accepting that these threats are actually real is important. Then once you’ve done that, don’t give up hope about changing things. After about 5 years of not having periods, I’d almost convinced myself that I’d never be able to have children anyway and so that I should give up, but actually that was the anorexic voice and it wasn’t right. So don’t give into it. And finally, what is needed in the long term to avoid these threats is recovery, which is a long process, and it may not happen simply because someone has told you you’ll have osteoporosis if you don’t get better. But this is one of those things that you can keep telling yourself along the way when you’re having a wobbly moment – that although your illness is telling you you’re doing things wrong, by working towards recovery you are giving yourself the chance to have children, live without osteoporosis and all those things that, when the anorexic voice has left you, you will really value, even if you can’t convince yourself that right now.