The aim of this diary is to dispel the preconceived ‘glamour’ ideology that surrounds anorexia and other eating disorders. My goal is to highlight the constant torment, turmoil and struggle that goes hand in hand with this disorder, an insight into the thought process behind it and hopefully to make you realise that anorexia is far more than just “I don’t want to eat”.
I wake at 3am (the usual), the cramps in my stomach wake me, and it feels like something is ripping me apart from the inside out.
The toilet is right beside where Dave sleeps. I listen to see can I hear his music playing, I tip-toe to the door and peek to see can I see the light from his laptop. No visible signs that he’s awake, the coast is clear, he’s conked. I quickly fill the kettle and boil it, if he does wake, the noise of the kettle will drown out the noise of the laxatives.
I leave the bathroom feeling like a million euro, feeling empty, I love it. Let’s watch one episode of MasterChef while having my morning Americano.
Right, that’s it, time to get moving, no point sitting around. It’s safe to go for a run now, Dave will be none the wiser. My running gear is stashed in the drawer under the bed sheets, he doesn’t know they’re there.
I go to my handbag, which I’ve hidden behind the couch out of fear, just in case Dave got up during the night and went rummaging for tobacco. I take my routine 20 laxatives, 15 fat metabolisers, 10 peppermints capsules and 10 colon cleansers. Fling three pieces of chewing gum into my mouth and I’m out the door.
I love running. There’s no-one around, the stillness of the night consumes and enthrals me. My feet are sore today, it feels like they’re bleeding. I tried to counteract the pain by layering up with three pairs of socks, it was of no use. The pain is strong, much like the pains in my knees and hips.
I struggle. I tell myself if I just keep going, if I just keep running then the intensity of the pain will subside, power through the pain. My legs won’t carry me as fast as I’d like so I opt for distance rather than speed.
I run the same route every morning. There is my thought-out route which maximises the effort needed, while also avoiding any chance of running into people.
The silence of the night suits me, I can’t listen to music and run at the same time anymore, I have to focus on my breathing to help me keep going. I have the privacy here, no-one is around, no witnesses to my blatant struggle with anorexia.
Stopping and giving up just simply is not an option. I’m nearly finished, I’m nearly there, I might as well give it one last burst of energy; go hard or go home.
I get in the door, after a five-minute battle to get my hands to work properly in order to get the key in the hole. I feel weak, dizzy, my legs feel funny but I feel better now that I have it done.
Wish I could have gone faster though, I will tomorrow. I go into the bathroom and just sit. How long I’m in there escapes me, time and all sense of reality eludes me. I can’t move, nothing works. What I’m thinking about I don’t know, I just need to sit. That’s anorexia.
I make a coffee and start my exercises, the same set as always. I grab my pillow from the couch, my spine sticks into the floor otherwise and prevents me from doing them properly. All the while telling myself: “This will make you feel better for the day, it’ll put you in a better mood. If you feel better, you’ll be able to be intimate with Dave later if you feel physically good.” This keeps me going and spurs me on for the next hour.
Another coffee and a few pieces of chewing gum. Dave will be up soon, I take off my running gear and stash it back in my hiding place. I’ll wash it later while Dave isn’t around, he’ll only ask me too many questions otherwise. I jump in the shower, not turning on the main light, only lighting a candle, I cannot see myself properly in this light, and I prefer it this way. My movements are slow, delayed, staring at the shampoo bottle for a significant amount of time before the action follows to lift it.
After the shower I have another coffee, it is 8:30am now, I’ll be gone by 9am. Dave wants to have a movie day. I promised him days ago I would, but I can’t. I cannot sit around all day, he will torment me trying to put his arms around me, kiss and cuddle me. I recoil at the thought.
Touching me is not an option, he would only be doing it because he’s a man. There is no way he could genuinely want to do that while I’m all bloated and swollen. I’ll get out and about for the day and then tonight, maybe I might. I can surely pretend for one night.
I gather my swimming gear, grab my peaky cap and long puffy coat and I’m off again. I need the cap because the lady in the reception in the gym looks at me funny without it. I leave Dave a quick note telling him I’m gone swimming, that I’ll be back later. He’ll be grand, he’ll find something else to do.
I get to the gym and change in the cubicle, it’s 10am. Right, the laxatives will kick in about 12 and I’ll be out of the pool by then. I do constant lengths of the pool. Again, my body fails me and won’t carry me as quickly as I would like so I opt for distance rather than speed.
I keep an eye on the time, 11.15am and the cramps in my stomach are coming hard and fast. I have to quickly make my way out of the pool, careful to keep tensed at all times, if I relax my body now the result would most definitely not be pleasant.
There are a lot of women in the changing rooms, panic consumes me, they’ll hear me, I need privacy. I scurry to the showers and switch them all on, they will suffice in drowning me out.
When I’m finished I feel better, the swelling in my legs feels lesser. I feel lighter, it’s easier to get around, I’m not as heavy, but I’m tired. My eyes feel like they pinned to the back of my head, only held open by matchsticks. Anorexia is exhausting.
I take another dose of all my tablets from this morning, a larger quantity this time. Which reminds me, I need to get more. I do my rounds of the chemists in the city and surrounding areas, answering the same mundane questions every time:
“Have you ever used this before?”
“They are not intended for long term use and abuse could result in lasting bowel problems.”
“Oh really, thanks.” Might as well take another dose of them for good measure.
It is nearing 3.30pm now, I need to get to the supermarket, fast. The cramps are bad, the pain is almost inexplicable, it feels like Freddy Kruger himself is trying to claw his way out of me.
The shop is busy but I don’t care, I cannot care, control is non-existent, I cannot stop it, I’ll never see any of these people again. Dignity and any morsel of self-respect get left at the door. I spray deodorant to mask the smell and try coughing when I get too noisy.
I leave yet again with a sense of release, a feeling of euphoria, a pep in my step, not before taking another dose of all my tablets. They’ll kick in when I get home but I’ll go for a shower to hide it. It’s also an excuse not to have to sit around Dave, I can’t be dealing with the effort of it.
I spend the next few hours walking around Lidl, Tesco, Dunnes, Supervalu and Tesco, mindlessly pondering and glaring at all the food. Stuck in a world of ‘Will I, or won’t I? Yes. No. Nah, I don’t need it. No, you won’t let Dave near you then, imagine the feeling tomorrow, you’ll have to do more’.
A constant fight to-ing and fro-ing, more often than not only ever leaving the shop with a jar of coffee, Coke Zero, chewing gum or bran sticks. I make my way home around 8.30pm, I’m exhausted. The thought of the bus is non-existent, not even an option. God gave me legs for a reason.
I get home and Dave is there watching something on the laptop. I’m quiet, cold and distant but I say “Hi”. The more strained the conversation, the less likely he is to want to stay around me and he’ll just leave me alone. I’m too exhausted for him, I’ll make it up to him tomorrow.
As I’m pottering around, Dave makes me a cup of coffee. He put milk in it, oh Lord give me patience, was he born without a brain. That is all it takes and my mood is satanic. I throw it down the sink, while snapping that he knows I don’t take milk.
Dave immediately cowers and apologises profusely, attempting to give me a kiss and a cuddle in the process. I turn my head and pull away: “Just get away from me!”
I huff and sigh around the apartment, incessantly nit-picking at fictional faults: “Did you not do the washing, did you not clean the bathroom, why is there a towel on the floor, why are your shoes abandoned inside the front door?”
Eventually he succumbs to the feeling of unwant and retreats to the bedroom with his laptop for the remainder of the night. Mission accomplished.
I wait until I hear the laptop come on, grab my running gear and toss it into the washing machine, the noise of the washing machine will cloak the noise of the bathroom.
I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, the enormity I feel is reflected back, I repulse myself. All I can see is bloat, my stomach, my face, my legs, ugh. My attention is drawn to a note stuck to the corner of the mirror: “You are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met. What you see is not real, I love you more than the moon and the stars, Dave xxx .”
A pang of pain rips through me, sure God love him, but I automatically think ‘lies’.
The pain in my stomach pulls my thoughts away and back to the matter at hand; bathroom. I go in and light my little candle and flick on the shower. While getting undressed, I notice soil mark on my pants. Oh God, not again, how long have they been there? I don’t allow myself to delve into the thought due to pure shame, I justify the whole thing by the fact that I was wearing a long coat, no-one would have known. Anorexia is not pretty.
When I finish in the bathroom it is as if the weight I had felt on my shoulders and mind has diminished. I feel light. My mind is reminiscent of a scene from an old Western, tumbleweed floating through. Empty, unable to put a cognitive thought process together. Nothingness consumes me.
I grab a handful of bran sticks, do I feel like treating myself to a Rich Tea light biscuit? I debate it and decide against the fleeting notion. No need I tell myself, it will only keep you awake.
I lie down on the couch in a zombie-like state, a justified tiredness. Today was a good day. I take my nightly concoction of tablets, more than throughout the day. I’ll be able to run faster in the morning if I feel lighter, if my body isn’t working to digest whatever is in my stomach. I’ll have more energy to run.
I stash my handbag behind the couch, flick on MasterChef and fling a duvet around me. I begin to drift, my last thought: ‘Same again tomorrow?’
Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and food. For more information on Tabor Group’s services click here.