I talk a lot about how creating Lighter Than My Shadow was hard, probably harder than anything I’ve ever done including recovering from an eating disorder. I’ve often been asked (and often wondered myself), why do it then? Why put myself through reliving so much that I had happily left in the past? There were times it felt like perhaps the worst decision I’d ever made.
So I gave a great deal of thought to why. Not only so I could explain my motivation to other people, but so that when I was feeling as though dredging up the past was an awful waste of time, and worrying whether anyone ever want to read it, I could remind myself. This is why.
1) EATING DISORDERS THRIVE IN SECRECY
My eating disorder made me a liar. Everyone knows how it goes: “Oh, you’re not having lunch?” “No, I ate earlier.” Clearly you didn’t. Or perhaps you did, but you didn’t want people to see what you ate, or how you ate it. The rules and rituals I needed to follow to allow myself to eat were elaborate and, quite frankly, embarrassing. I didn’t want people to watch me, worry about me, whisper about me.
Later, when it wasn’t anorexia but binge-eating, I felt even more ashamed of my behaviour. I ate in secret, usually at night. I avoided visiting the same grocery shops because I was afraid the staff were analysing my purchases. I stole food.
All in all, my eating disordered behaviour disgusted me. The more disgusted I felt, the more I hated myself. The more I hated myself, the more I needed to do something – anything – to make myself feel better. Like restricting my food…
It wasn’t until I started talking about it that I managed to start breaking that cycle. But admitting you are struggling, even to someone you know will be supportive, is so difficult. To me it felt like admitting weakness and vulnerability meant I was a failure. I didn’t want to be someone who needed help.
This was one of the first reasons I wanted to write a book. Even when you’ve broken that silence, in recovery from an eating disorder you can feel so alone. Reading books was the first thing that helped me realise that I wasn’t the only one, that what I was facing was an illness, not some kind of personal failure. Even if there are hundreds of books out there already, another can’t be a bad thing. The more stories of eating disorders that are told, the more people will be aware, empathetic, understanding. Perhaps it might help someone feel less afraid, or less ashamed than I did of asking for help.