My “bit-of-a-weirdo” ED habits and how I’m breaking them.

Ahh, it feels good to be writing again at last! I’m not really sure what I’ve been up to particularly, just living I guess! It’s been amazing. But, I do really want to get back into this blog business. So here I am! Today I thought I’d do a post on overcoming the hardest anorexia habits because trust me, there are LOTS and it’s not easy. 

My incredible therapist Jan said to me yesterday that forming ED habits is like walking through the same cornfield everyday to school. Soon enough you will have done it so many times, the corn flattens and a pathway forms. This pathway becomes second nature and you don’t consider any alternative routes. The only thing is though, this path has snakes and stinging nettles all the way down. One day, you decide to try a different route. This route is brand new and shorter with sunshine, trees and flowers. This new path is recovery. When stuck in anorexia you don’t even realise there is another path as you’re so used to what you know. You don’t realise how awful it is until you see the other side. 

What I’m trying to say is, when recovering from anorexia you need to completely rewire your brain in the complete opposite way it’s used to. This is only way you can completely be free. 

I think my recovery journey was a bit different to most, as I was in hospital for so long on so many occasions. However, it was only after being in the JR for nearly 6 weeks and waiting for my spot at Cotswold House did I decide to completely smash my eating disorder. Previously, I had always thought “it doesn’t matter if I use a smaller spoon all my life” and “I’ll just be the girl that just has salad, that’s fine!”. But I soon realised, that those things are NOT fine. That exact mentality is what left me in hospital on SEVEN different occasions. It’s what nearly, nearly killed me. 

Because of this, most of my main habits were challenged automatically in hospital. These included using normal cutlery, not knowing calories, drinking WATER can you believe, eating without distractions like TV and eating with other people. This is all well and good but we can’t forget about the many things the hospital DID’NT challenge. For example, we ate everyday at the same time, not being allowed to honour your hunger and eating similar foods almost every day. For me, the real work began when I got home. Since being discharged I have had a number of curve balls thrown at me, but I’ve learnt to deal with them. 

The weirdest habit, which lots of people won’t understand, was my fear of drinking water. If you know me well you’ll know that I literally only drank Coke Zero. Occasionally I’d treat myself to a Diet Coke (it has 0.1 more calories per 100ml if you’re interested) but I’d have to have earned that. Water, to me, was unnecessary. Drinking water and staying hydrated was a sign of health and I “didn’t deserve” or want to be healthy. 

I’ve told this to a couple of people before but I’m not sure anyone will ever really get it. My main “obsession” was to do with statistics surrounding illnesses and anorexia. I learnt soon into my diagnoses that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. 1 in 5 people diagnosed die. That’s 20%. After knowing this, it became my mission that out of me and my 4 friends with anorexia (who I met in hospital) I would not let any of my friends die. I thought, “why them?”. I truly believed it was either me or them. 

Even at the JR in March, I still wasn’t drinking water. I snuck in bottles of Coke Zero from the WHSmith downstairs. When my dietician realised I was drinking around 7 litres, yes 7 LITRES OF COKE ZERO A DAY she suggested I go cold turkey. It was destroying my bones she said. I didn’t care. However, I was put on 1:1 care with a mental health nurse who followed me everywhere (including the loo) so I didn’t really have a choice. Sugar Free Ribena became the new obsession (this was the only sugar-free flat drink they had). So now I was drinking around 7 litres of this instead. 

If you’re wondering why I drank so much volume, it’s because it filled me up. It’s also because I never knew when I was going to be weighed, so if I was constantly filled to the brim with liquid they might think I weigh more than I do and let me eat less. That’s what my anorexia wanted anyway. I, on the other hand, was starving. 

How did I overcome this? Being forced only to drink water at Cotswold House. Sometimes you could have squash and occasionally I did but I knew I needed to overcome my fear of water if I was going to get anywhere near full recovery. I would imagine myself being strong enough to go for a hike or do a workout and realised without water, these wouldn’t be possible, or I’ll just look like a right weirdo. 

Another bad habit, which isn’t associated with eating but goes back to the whole statistic thing, is hand washing and showering. I found both INCREDIBLY hard at the darkest times of my eating disorder. The showering was mainly due to the fact I couldn’t stand up for more than about 20 seconds without collapsing and couldn’t lift my hands to wash my hair. The hand washing was because I thought if anyone were to catch a disease, I’d much rather it be me than anyone else. This is of course, nonsense. I found this one especially hard to deal with when COVID came about, but luckily this one is now well and truly smashed. 

 Salt. I used to put salt on EVERYTHING. Like seriously, everything. And LOTS of it. I thought by drowning my food in salt I would enjoy it less and want to eat less. This one actually worked, I didn’t want to eat the food I had made. My anorexia LOVED this. Overcoming this one was actually pretty easy as once I started eating again I realised that food by itself can taste amazing! Because trust me, 4 plain prawns and zoodles are not tasty. They will never be. 

Next up on the odd list of things I used to do, is body checking. This one I struggle with a lot still. Body checking for me used to be excessive. And not, in any way, subtle. For me it included touching the bony bits (back of shoulders, collar bones, spine, cheekbones, hips and bum). The worst one though was creating a circle between my thumb and pinky finger and ensuring I could always fit my arms in it. If they ever couldn’t fit, I felt fat. The same with legs, but with thumb-to-thumb and pinky-to-pinky on each hand. It was horrible, brutal and I really couldn’t see it, but I was truly emaciated. 

(I was going to put a video of me doing this here but I literally look dead and it’s really quite sad so I think I’ll leave it out).

Nowadays, I still get a shock every time I feel my face or squidgy hips but I don’t have the same absolute fear. I’m learning to accept my recovery body. 

I used to weigh everything. Like everything, down to blueberries and lettuce. I thought “serving sizes” = meal size. I thought if I measured everything and counted every single calorie I would stay in control. The fact was my body was so out of my control that it was wearing away. 

Hospital helped with this one, although my previous 3 admissions on the psych ward I still attempted to count calories. It was exhausting and to be honest terrifying. It made me feel worse than I needed to and I’m glad I was forced out of this one. Now though, I’d be lying if I said I don’t even think about calories as I know pretty much how much is in EVERY SINGLE FOOD. This is a hard one to deal with. I wish I could just forget all of it but I can’t. I think it will always be in the back of my mind but I guess I just have to learn to deal with it. 

Now for another pretty obvious one: walking. As I’ve previously talked about on this blog, walking and steps became a huge obsession for me and it’s something I really struggled with. It wasn’t so much an issue when I was at my worst, because I could barely stand let alone walk for miles. But when it did have an effect it was all-consuming. When I went to hospital though, they bed-bound me and I literally wasn’t allowed to leave my bed for weeks. That, alongside a more nourished brain, helped me conquer that one. 

So there we have it. Please bear in mind that these are just SOME of the behaviours I’ve challenged and is not even half the story. These will also look completely different for every sufferer out there. But the main piece of advice I would give someone who wants to give recovery a shot would be: challenge all your behaviours head on! Whether or not you can do it and home or in hospital, it doesn’t matter and doesn’t define your worth. Everyone deserves recovery. You can do this, Warrior. 


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