MASTER OF DISGUISE
MASTER OF DISGUISE
June 2016 I became a mother to my beautiful baby boy. Six years before that my ten year battle with an eating disorder finally came to a head.
From about the age of 14 I started experimenting with starving myself and exercise. I would go to my dance class at night, come home and tell my Mum I'd eaten, or wipe a bit of porridge around a bowl in the morning and pretend I had breakfast. Age 17 was when I first made myself sick. I was so excited. I don't have to starve myself anymore, I can eat what I want and just throw it up.
Anyone who's had an Eating Disorder knows that ultimately it's never about weight or how you look, although you think so at the time. It runs much deeper than that. So from 17 onwards whenever times got hard, or I got stressed, I would binge on food and throw it up. I would get lost in the cycle. Sometimes I would be in control of it, sometimes it would be in control of me.
You become the master of disguise. On the outside I was a popular, happy-go-lucky teenager. Inside I was dying. I did anything I possibly could to hide the fact that I was making myself sick. Run the taps and pretend I was having a bath to mask the noise, leaving work to puke in pub toilets that I knew weren’t part of a cubicle, and when I felt that my mum heard me making myself sick one night, I then began to puke into plastic bags in my bedroom and carry them into school to get rid of them the next morning.
Sometimes I would get up really early to go to the shop to replace the whole box of cereal I had eaten the night before so my Mum wouldn’t notice it was missing. I would go into shops on a binge and buy a whole load of junk food and pretend I was helping out at a school and said we were having a party. When I had no money I would beg the fast food shops late at night to give me some food just so I could throw up. I have eaten out of a bin before and I have even eaten frozen food in a desperate binge. That was a dark time.
Despite all of this there was NO WAY anyone would have been able to tell I had a mental health disorder. The only way anyone could have suspected something was by the cuts and scars on my knuckles from where my teeth would scrape against my fingers when I was making myself sick. But that would only have been noticed by a fellow bulimic.
In 2007, I was at the point of starving myself, I felt like I really had my life under control because I was wasn’t being that sick anymore. The reality was I just stopped eating because I didn’t trust myself with food anymore. I remember going down to visit my parents, and my Dad remarking on my weight and sounding worried. Four days later he died. He dropped down dead without any warning.
I moved back down to Devon to help my Mum after my Dad's death and this is where my eating disorder really escalated. I would run 10K a day, I cycled to work and when I got home I would do an hour and a half conditioning practice on my pole. All the while living off nothing by day and bingeing and purging by night. I came up with the best reason not to be eating. I said I was a Vegan! 10 years ago the Vegan movement was practically non-existent. I thought I was a genius! No one questioned me.
When I moved back to London a year later, things went on a sharp decline, I couldn't hold a job down, and I couldn't eat anything without throwing it up. Even salad. I was walking out of jobs to be sick and spending my rent money on food. After a scare, where I had doctors knocking on my door, who were just about to ring the police to break in because they thought I was dead, I ended up being referred to St Anne’s Eating Disorder hospital in North London and being put on medication, combined with talking therapy. After a couple of years I gradually stopped feeling the need to make myself sick, and I gained control of my life back. In fact I began having a relationship with food that I had never had before. One of balance.
When I was a child, my Mum brought us up on a macrobiotic diet. I had to bring my own packed lunches to my friend’s birthday parties and safe to say no one ever wanted to do a food swap with me at breaktime. I was made to sit at the dinner table and finish everything on my dinner plate, whether I liked it or not. Sometimes it would take me 3 hours to eat my dinner through a cascade of tears. Safe to say it was traumatic.
One of the side effects of having an eating disorder is you become kind of an expert on food and nutrition. You know what foods give you what nutrients, what food is low G.I, low carb, high in minerals etc. You are obsessed with food! I would read cookbooks and walk around supermarkets for hours staring at all the food and come out empty handed.
Now I am a mother all I want is the best for my son. One key part of his well-being to me is his diet. I am constantly drawing myself back from getting too obsessive over what he eats. I have told myself that I will never make what he eats into a big thing, and nothing will be off bounds to him. My rule is that at home I feed him all the quinoa, and brown rice and basically follow a vegan diet with him. But, if we go to Grans house and she gives him a sausage roll, that’s fine. If we are at a mates house and they have dairy yoghurts he can have one. I do not want to ever restrict him in the way that I was, but I do want him to be healthy. It’s all about balance I guess.
As for me now I am still totally obsessed with food. I totally love it! I talk about it all the time. But I am still in control of it. I sometimes do err on the side of un-healthy food because I feel so powerful that I can eat it and not throw it up and not feel bad about myself after. I keep telling myself I should probably eat more like my son, but hey you can’t do everything right can you.
Written by Eloise Dale
If you'd like to read more conversations with Mental Muthas, click HERE.
Women talking unashamedly about their mental health and parenting innit.