Monday, 11 February 2013

Sick, Starved and Scared.

Hello, hello helloooo! I'd like to apologise for my massive leave of absence from blogging! Its taken me a while to get settled back in aberdeen an get to grips with uni again after the 6 week christmas break! But i'm back and blogging again! This post is going to be slightly different from my usual girly ramblings. Its very personal and took a lot of courage to publish to the big wide world. Anyway, without further ado, this is my story...

Eating disorders carry a lot of negative connotations and I feel the subject is not publicised as much as it should be. This needs to change. In light of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I thought I’d share my story. This is a deeply personal issue for me and very difficult to speak about. Please understand by writing this post I am not seeking any sort of attention or sympathy. If my story helps just one person in the whole world then I consider this an achievement.

I have suffered from emetophobia for as long as I can remember. There are only a small handful of people who will know what that word means. For those who don’t know, emetophobia is a life crippling, devastating and dangerous phobia of being sick. People often mistake emetophobs for melodramatic attention seekers, labeling them irrational and silly for being scared of something so stupid, but to an emetophobic, being sick is the worst possible thing that can ever happen to them. The bottom line is, emetephobia affects every single part of a sufferers life. It’s not just a case of ‘no one likes being sick’, it affects everything you do and often can be very serious...even life threatening.

According to experts, emetophobia can be triggered by a single traumatic event, such as a long bout of stomach flu, accidentally vomiting in public, or having to witness someone else vomit. In my case, I was sick in front of the whole lunch hall at school when I was 9. I can remember everything about that day so clearly, as if it happened just yesterday. From that day on, everything spiraled out of control. I refused to eat anything in fear I might be sick again and suffered daily from extreme anxiety and panic attacks. I stopped going to school and became dangerously underweight. My parents, very much aware of what was going on, quickly got me help. I was referred to a phycologist, dietitian, and had to attend weekly weigh in sessions at my local doctors surgery. At first I was reluctant to accept I had a problem, and didn’t want the help I was being offered. It wasn’t until my doctor looked my in the eye and said “Suzanne, if you do not start eating today, I can guarantee that this time next week you will be in a hospital bed attached to a drip” that I decided to get my act together. By this point I all I was, was tired. I was tired of starving myself, I was tired of feeling weak and faint all the time, I was tired of lying to my friends and teachers about why I was throwing all my lunch in the bin but most of all I was tired of living on a quarter of a slice of toast a day. 

It was long, and tough but after 4 years of strict diets and countless visits to the phycologist, I was finally on track to being healthy again. In fact, by the time I was 14 I’d say I was back to my old self. I still suffered from anxiety however I was eating well and life was pretty much normal again.

Everything was going perfectly. I had been discharged from the dietitian and phycologist and I didn’t have to visit the doctor to get weighed anymore. This bliss lasted two whole years until easter of 2010, where I contracted a stomach bug that would turn my whole life around...

It was a scene all too familiar to me. Sitting in the doctors office with my mum by my side waiting to be seen, petrified that the doctor would think I was crazy and write me off as a hypochondriac. “Make sure you tell the doctor the truth angel, she needs to know everything so she can get you the right help” whispered my mum right before my name was called. Sitting in the doctors chair confessing to what I had been doing for the past few weeks was hard. Admitting to starving myself, hiding food, lying about what I had eaten, cutting food into tiny pieces and leaving the table immediately after meals, was embarrassing to say the least. I felt ashamed but nothing prepared me for what the doctor was about to say next. She told me that she thought I might have anorexia and that I needed to be referred to a phycologist again before the illness progressed. Immediately I bit back, yelling at the doctor for even suggesting such a thing, but in hindsight, I totally understand why she believed I had anorexia and to an extent I believe her diagnosis. I was the epitome of an anorexic except I was not doing these things to loose weight or stay slim, I was doing them because I was so deathly afraid of throwing up. 

So there I was, sitting in the same waiting room, in the same exact seat as I sat in 7 years previously, waiting to be seen by the phycologist, except this time I didn’t have my mums hand to hold. This time I had to take control and go it alone. 

It only took a few sessions with my phycologist for her to discover I was also suffering from mild depression, anxiety and confidence issues. 2010 and 2011 were the hardest years of my life so far. All the demons from my past were very much present in my life again but this time they were 10 times worse. Being a teenager and dealing with emetophobia, anorexia and depression was tough, especially since teenagers are completely in the social spotlight, constantly being scrutinised and judged by everyone around them. I was sick, starved and terribly scared that people from my school would find out what was really going on in my life. I found it so easy to lie and conceal my emotions. In school I was bubbly, cheery and always smiling, but when I was alone it was like my whole world was falling apart. 

I was so self conscious and absolutely loathed the way I looked. It was the weight loss and the changes in my body that really got to me. It seemed all the girls around me were curvy and beautiful and here I was stick thin with the body of a 12 year old boy. I was at the lowest of lows. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I cried myself to sleep because of how much I hated myself and what I’d become. No one was ever going to find me attractive and I was never going to get a boyfriend looking like a prepubescent twig. I couldn’t take it anymore. My eating troubles, depression and self loathing pushed me over the edge and I turned to self harm. I don’t want to go into too much detail about this as it is still very raw and I don’t feel completely comfortable sharing it yet. All I will say is that it happened, it was a horrible point in my life but with the endless support of friends and family I got through it.

At this point in my life I thought I was never going to recover, that I was going to be stuck this way forever and i’d just have to live with it. I wish now I could go back in time and tell my past self that everything WILL get better. And it did. It took time, lots of therapy sessions and the support of my friends and family to get me through it. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not completely cured. I still suffer from anxiety and I think I will have to deal with emetophobia for the rest of my life. But as of now, I am the happiest I’ve been in a long time. Since leaving school and moving to study in Aberdeen I have met the most wonderful  friends and flatmates and boyfriend (even though I met him back home) that a girl could ask for. I think going through everything and managing to make it out the other end has made me a much stronger person, and maybe thats something good that I got out of this battle. After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.