This is properly the hardest one to write about because it goes way back to before I had my accident. I was always self conscious about my body, my looks, from a very early age. I remember hating school, the pressure that girls put on each other, the pressure I put on myself, was horrendous - girls can be bloody vicious! I remember the magazines, the MTV images, the supermodels - fashion was for the stick thin then, no compromise, Kate Moss was the person to be - I’m so thankful that I wasn’t growing up with social media craze that is now, that properly would have made me a million times worse.
I lived in a fab family, working class Bolton family - I loved my upbringing, I was lucky to be surrounded by the funniest down to earth people, whom I love dearly.
I use to go on and on about my “fat rolls” and I remember my mum saying, oh its a bit of puppy fat that’ll go, she never took superficially things like that seriously! I started dancing, I love it, I was good at it but I’d always be comparing myself to the other girls, my frame, my size, my weight, I bought my first pair of scales and hid them under the bed, so my mum & dad wouldn’t see. I was obsessed with the fashion industry, constantly wanting to fit into society.
I started off probably like most people, keeping that beedy eye on those scales, if I put weight on, I would cut my eating right down until I sorted it, it was easy to do, but as I got older and the more I lost weight, the more I felt worthy, I was told that I looked better, probably needed to loose a bit of weight anyway, then the more I lost weight, the more I was told I looked “better”, I liked that, it felt good, so then I started seeing if I could go a little lower. I realise now that the environment that I was in contributed to that, I wasn’t living at home then, it wasn’t the right environment for me and my outlook and my own behaviour was a reflection of that. I have always been one of those people who could have a full on weekend & be a stone heavier on the Monday, my fix for that is I wouldn’t eat until it came off. But then I was fatigued, felt shaky, not as sharp at work, so I come up with another idea…
I realised that if I ate and was then sick a couple of times after during the day, I would at least keep some nutrients in, but i’d be getting rid of some of the food, which would keep my weight down. But this is now the nature of the beast, the beast was that person inside of me who couldn’t just stop at that, it wanted more, it wanted a lower number on my clothes, a lower number on the scales. I wanted to fit the trend of women I was trying to compare myself too. I then agreed with the “beast mentality” in fact I encouraged it, I saw it, that we both wanted the same thing, to be thin, to be accepted, to be liked, to be worthy.
At my slimmest AKA "lolly pop head" - I thought I was fat then. It's only now that I realise just how thin that I was...
So I then started to do it twice a day, then three times a day, then I was making myself sick after every time I ate. Then that wasn’t enough, I wasn’t too sure how what I was bringing up, how much was I bringing up? Was it enough to loose some weight? What if I kept too much down? I then devised my own call to action, I would eat in order of colour, brightest thing first, followed by the lighter, duller colours after. The reason for this was because I could see how it was coming out of me, when I got to the final part of being sick, I knew the first brightest colour would be coming out last - yes you heard it I managed to OCD bulimia!
Over a number of years, I looked shocking, my skin was awful, full of spots, my completion was dull, I was very thin, but to the point I started to wear baggy clothes so nobody could see - what was the point in that!
The whole point was to feel good and look good, not to hide myself in baggy tracksuits.
I remember my mum talking to me, now bearing in mind every conversation I have with my mum even now starts with “are you eating properly” but this was different, this was a look on my mum's face that I had not seen before, a look for dispaire, of worry, of selflessness, she was helpless, she didn’t know what to do, but she could see what was happening.
She very quickly got me to realise the bigger picture, I wasn’t happy in my life, I wasn’t happy in my environment and this was my form of control, this was contributing to that, it was toxic. This was at that time a big step in my recovery, it took honesty and bravery on my part to open up to exactly what was going on with myself and in my life. I was lost and I committed to make changes and recover from this habit, because that is what it is a habit. So I wasn’t sick, but my eating demons hadn’t gone.
At my heaviest, I was mortified on this holiday, didn't want my picture to be taken, wouldn't even consider wearing a bikini, just wanted to cover up. This was the height of my binge eating almost topping 13 stone.
It wasn’t easy but I committed to not ever making myself sick again, I can be a head strong little shit at times and to this day I haven’t made myself sick in over 10 years, but I couldn’t quite let go of the fear of food, but I managed it day by day and when you have an earring disorder thats what you have to do, manage it every day, it will never go away but you CAN manage it.
I was at a point in my life where I needed to change and that’s what I did. I changed everything in my life, my environment, my area, social circles, my behaviour, it help manage the beast.
Now fast forward to me being 35, I was in my element had my two daughters with my gorgeous hubby to be and was absolutely loving life. Then I had my accident, which brought pain, trauma, anxiety, stress, tears and everything else in between, I swear it was one of those “that happens to other people”, but nope it was happening to me and we was right in the middle of it, not knowing what the fuck to do!! I was on medications for a year that pretty much knocked me out, apatite went, I lost weight, I wasn’t focusing on this to be honest but it was a consequence of what was happening to me at that time.
I was told after 12 months that my Arm was going to be amputated! What do you do with that?!? Whilst I was trying to help everybody else come to terms with this, from the back of my consciousness, creeping back in was the beast. Brilliant, just what I needed, as if I didn’t have enough to deal with. Now it was subtle at first, “shit my arms coming off”, which means the rest of me needs to be perfect to compensate my arm missing. That was the first thought process, ok so I i’d already lost weight, I was on my way. I remember a week after my arm had gone getting on the scales and being happy I was 8 stone.
Once I recovered from my amputation, operation “get myself to look perfect” looking at the media, fashion and beauty industry for inspiration, I saw perfection!! The perfection that I was looking for but clearly couldn’t get too. No, I didn’t make myself sick (i promised myself and my mum that), but I hardly ate, I was hitting the gym hard. Every morning I was standing in front of the mirror, looking at what I can make better, what could I do that would take away from my arm missing and looking like a one arm freak (my words, I did feel like that at the time). I was going on thew scales 3 times a day checking my weight, making sure id not put on, I started to take sena (a bulimic’s friend) that kind of helped things along and would speed up my weight loss. But I never quite got there - because I never would, would I that’s the nature of the beast, you’ll never be happy and you’ll always want to loose more.
Amongst all of this, I was struggling with loosing my arm, my stress levels were just at a monumental high, I began to fit have seizures, for gods sake - you know cause I didn’t have enough to deal with! At first the doctors thought it was epilepsy but the meds didn’t work, I continued to fit, it was awful for the girls and for mike to see, when I woke I was terrified, scared and panicked. Eventually me and my mum went to Edinburgh to see a specialist who diagnosed Dissociative seizures and he explained that they happen for psychological reasons rather than physical ones. Often dissociative seizures are how the brain reacts to thoughts or feelings related to the trauma of losing my arm & everything that I have been dealing with. So when my mind and body got to a point where I couldn’t cope, it would shut down and I would fit.
Then came the consequences of having these fits - I had to revoke my driving license, I couldn’t really go anywhere without some body being with me, the fits where that frequent. I couldn’t train or go to the gym, I couldn’t go anywhere without asking for a lift - independence zero! My mind spiralled, I became a victim “i’m back to square one” I would say. Now, this is the interesting thing here & something that become a total surprise to me, but looking back at my behaviour it reflected how I was feeling at that time. I started to binge eat - WTF!!!
Now I found myself at a funny point, really what I wanted to do was go back to my starvation days, but I really couldn’t be bothered too - was it an age thing? Hormonal changes? State of mind? Don’t know - I was in uncharted territory and I couldn’t be arsed to try and figure it out!
So I binged ate, I would secret eat. I would eat without nobody watching, stuff my face with things I don’t even like I was the bulimic who forgot to throw up at the end - brilliant! I got myself into a cycle of destruction at any opportunity I would secret eat. My lowest point was pinching my daughters Easter egg that she had been saving for weeks (it was her special one) I was cleaning her room, before I knew it was I scoffing the whole thing in my face, uncontrollable! Then I had to explain to her where it had gone - bad mother alert, WTF is wrong with me!! What a shit example I was setting to my girls.
Id go on the scales, a stone heavier, i’d cry and then Id go and scoff a mars bar in the utility room - because nobody would see me in that room, crying & eating like a massive pig. Next thing I knew I was almost 3 stone heavier than my normal weight. My cheeks got that big that the pushed my eyes up and I looked like a hamster storing food - brilliant yep I’ve really messed myself over. I didn’t want to go anywhere, I was petrified I would loose my husband over the way I looked - I hated everything about myself.
So, as always you have to hit rock bottom to get back up, to be honest I felt like id been at rock bottom so many times, the rock can fuck right off! But anyway time to get a grip and get some control back in my life…
I begin to analyse what I was doing, I realised that I was harming myself, I hated myself so much that I wanted to punish myself for what was happening to me. It was a form of self harm, but less obvious than cutting yourself. I’d gone to a very dark place, I already knew that, I just chose to ignore it.
I had to face the reality of what I was doing to myself.
Now when you have an eating disorder, it doesn’t go, it stays with you everyday and you have to control the beast inside of you, it’s a battle, but it’s a battle you can win. I wanted to win.
Sena - I stopped taking that and will not take it again. I made an effort to start exercising again to help myself loose weight, but also to feel better about myself. I battled everyday not to binge eat, I planned my meals and tried my best to stick to it. I set goals and I realised that I needed to plan everyday and take each day at a time.
I’m slowly getting back to me. I’ve realised that trying to be the girl in your 20’s doesn’t work. I’m 40 and have given birth to 2 children and my body has changed, my hormones are different & my life is different. It’s time to face reality! I look at myself now, in this moment and I work hard to control that beast who will always be inside of me. I’m open about how i'm feeling and acknowledge that its an on going battle - the hardest battle of all.
This is me now, I'm not my slimmest, I'm not my biggest. I will continue to eat as healthy as I can, go to the gym and control the demons that are inside me.
If you’re struggling to do this on your own, seek psychological treatment or talk to somebody who understands what you are going through. Many eating disorders are caused by deep routed issues, that need to be addressed and until you address that, you will never fully recover.
Set goals for yourself, if you have a day where you binge then accept it, own your own behaviour, acknowledge it, but tomorrow you will be back on track - never skip more than two days on your plan. Create good habits that are positive and look at yourself in the mirror and accept this is how you are at this moment in time. If I can do it you can and I’ll make it my mission to help you recover too.
I’m on that journey with you & it will never go, I accept that, but I am controlling it. I can help you too, which is why I have changed my career and set up my website to help coach, mentor and share my experiences to help anybody going through a similar experience, I have created clothes that are made to empower & I want all the learned and lived experience that I have been through to help others and educate on the importance of mindset.
I have learned not to compare myself with others, to teach myself that I am worthy despite what my clothes size is and what I look like. I will always want to lead a healthy lifestyle, but I don’t freak out any more that I don’t look like a supermodel. I don’t now read a magazine and feel sad because I don’t look like the woman / girl on the pictures.
In fact, I want to help and challenge and change the fashion and beauty industry by showing girls that you don’t have to be put into an unachievable box to succeed in the fashion & beauty industry. Equally you don’t have to go onto then being a plus sized model, you can be a standard, everyday size, disability, without a disability.
To be honest I don’t care, what size you are, what your gender is, if you are gender neutral, what your sexuality is, whether you are able bodied or disabled, have mental health issues or not, EVERYBODY should get the same chances and equality should be available to everybody. Not just what fits at a particular time.
I am passionate to demonstrate that every BODY, every PERSON, can succeed despite what society dictates. I am driven to help create a society where everybody feels comfortable, confident and happy in their own skin.