Anorexia comes with all sorts of physical and mental hang ups. Throughout my time suffering I’ve encountered several difficulties. Most of which only being brought to my attention when I got admitted to the Eating Disorder Clinic in Norton as an outpatient. My heart rate is slow; bradycardia. My vitamin levels were low; deficient in vitamins B, C and D and potassium. My blood sugar was also very low, which meant I was told I shouldn’t drive until I’d learned to eat more regularly and stabilise my blood sugar levels. I went just over 3 months without driving. My blood showed ‘clear evidence of starvation’. Words which will stay with me till the grave. I haven’t had a proper period in my 20’s, only one induced by the contraceptive pill. I get regular blood tests to see how I’m doing now and keep an eye on things. The one issue that doesn’t show up on any tests or scan though is the one that’s been my main problem and that’s IBS. IBS is an illness pertaining to stomach pains and issues that can’t really be diagnosed. What I found that was after I’d lost my weight and I was under a certain underweight amount, my stomach would often be quite painful. I had tests, I had tests, and I had tests. There was never any conclusion made so it was always put down to IBS. I’d honestly suggest googling it if knowledge is lacking, there are so many sufferers and it’s so widespread. My symptoms sometimes simply pick and choose whether to flare up or not. Due to my Anorexia I eat the same things everyday, at the same time. I always have. Even when I starved myself. Some days my stomach would be fine and then others not. Having IBS as well as Anorexia, and its recovery, makes my life so much more difficult. Not only do I have to learn to manage Anorexia by eating more and becoming a healthy weight, but I have to do so in a manner that isn’t going to aggravate my stomach even further. There are good days and there are bad days. The likelihood is though that it’ll never show on my face.
Previously with Anorexia, whilst I still ate, my eating pattern was often extremely controlled, limited and included many, many hours of not eating. None of this was helpful for IBS, more often than not due to my lack of regular eating when I finally ate my stomach would bludgeon me for it and give me excruciating cramps. The recovery process I’m going through now is a little similar, as my stomach isn’t used to eating regularly nor used to having this number of calories to run on it frequently hurts and many of my evenings are spent in pain. Its unfortunately all about pain management at the moment.
I’m cold. All the time. Unless I’m wrapping up in my jumper, dressing gown and hot water bottle, then I’m cold. After I’ve eaten I’m especially cold. My body goes into overdrive trying to digest food and all the blood rushing to my stomach and leaves the rest of me stone cold. I’ve struggled with this so much over the last few years. I’ve been reduced to tears on more than one occasion because I’ve struggled to maintain any body heat at work and found it painful to get on with my job. During one job, in a bid to get some body heat, I used to jog on the spot and in the disabled toilet; and in another I would do steps on the spot constantly. Although I say that I did this to gain some warmth I also did it for exercise, my thought process was always that ‘every little helps’ but in hindsight I went too far, and my attempts at what I thought was to keep myself warm quickly turned into an imperative need of my day to day exercise routine. Jogging in the toilets at work is weird, its wrong, and it’s a part of Anorexia. At the time I didn’t realise that the behaviour was odd, I just focused on getting in more exercise and hitting my daily step count. No illness has ever stopped me hitting my step count or jogging. Not even fainting or being bed ridden. My Anorexia has always won and always made me exercise. There is no stopping. With this constant never stopping exercise and mental strain there was a point in my life where I had to nap every day and I even recall factoring it in to my Christmas Day plans one year, I’m always tired.
Throughout these ailments and pains I’ve been to the doctors and walk in centres numerous times. When I was in my earlier 20s I even had two procedures to look inside my stomach and bowels to see if there was anything gruesome going on. For both of these procedures I was weighed, I was always underweight, nothing was ever said.
But I know why.
When I visited my GP once, I found that it had changed to a new female doctor, she told me she was originally from the Netherlands and that English wasn’t her first language. She used this as an excuse to say what she wanted as she wasn’t brought up with the typical British politeness of people over here. All of these words came from her mouth. She then proceeded to tell me I was skinny, in the wrong way. She said I was skinny in a way that looked as if I wasn’t getting the correct vitamins and minerals I needed. She didn’t want to weigh me though. Her next words have stayed with me forever; the NHS is geared more towards helping overweight people than underweight, the UK is in an obesity crisis and the NHS would rather focus on those overweight than under. Essentially, she was telling me I could get away with it. Or even if she wasn’t that’s how I took it. I could carry on with my unhealthy behaviours, unhealthy weight and unhealthy mind-set and it would all be ok.
More recently my support worker backed up what my GP had told me, she said that the NHS gets more money and funding for helping the overweight patients. She also said that in the GP office’s they often adjust the scales to make a person weigh more so they’re more likely to fall into the overweight BMI category. There was actually a time, a year or so ago, when I went to the GP’s and they weighed me, and I was half a stone heavier than I was. My mind exploded to be honest, and right there and then in the GP’s room I was filled with anger, and an enormous desire to smash my head off a wall or carve a nice scar into my wrists. I was adamant I was going to come home and do that. Instead I came home and weighed myself. Those scales at the GP’s were wrong. There was literally no way I could’ve weighed that much. As someone who self-harms; whether it be smashing my head off a wall, ripping my hair out or taking a sharp object to my wrists, this was quite the detrimental move from my GPs. They put me in danger. Albeit my own danger, but I’m mentally ill, I’m trying to work through that. I now refuse to get weighed at the doctors and only get weighed at the Eating Disorder Clinic or at home – where both scales give me the same number as each other, which is further proof in my eyes that the GP scales had been altered.
Prevention is one of the best remedies. Nipping it in the bud before it can blossom into something nasty and have its ugly head rear up is the best ways to avoid life threatening forms of Anorexia. Have a look back on yesterday’s tips to refresh yourself on the first signs – it’s so important!