Georgia Hall, a recovering anorexic, is writing a blog to highlight the insidious nature of this serious mental health condition
My relationship with food has always been a weird one. I have always felt uncomfortable in my body and have learnt to see that food is the underlying reason. Yet it took a global pandemic, a nationwide lockdown, losing everything I had spent my school career working towards for that relationship to turn toxic and manifest itself into anorexia.
Growing up, I always felt like one of the bigger, ‘curvier’ ones among my peer group. At school, however, I was so preoccupied by dance, music, academics and drama that I did not have the time, let alone the energy to fuel an eating disorder. However, when A-levels were cancelled I saw the perfect opportunity to get into shape and transform into the dream body I had always idolised.
My drive ultimately came from an irrational hatred of my legs, which I now recognise to be body dysmorphia, and a longing to change them into a body part about which I do not feel such deep shame. There was no work, extracurricular activities or social commitments so it was the perfect moment. It started with an increased level of exercise and decreased consumption of food but spiralled pretty quickly when my daily happiness was reliant on seeing my weight on the scales go down.
Before I knew it, I was trapped and unable to stop myself. I could not go a day without exercising, was deathly afraid of eating lunch and would forbid myself to go near any kind of enjoyable foods. The weight did drop, and fast, too fast for my body to keep up.
My health deteriorated pretty rapidly and I was experiencing the very unglamorous and painful side of having an eating disorder that people know little about. I lost my period, my alopecia was triggered again, my thyroid became under-active, I had chronic constipation, my blood pressure dropped, I was constantly cold, my white blood cell count was deficient and I developed bradycardia and was warned by a nurse that I could be stuck with a pacemaker at the age of 18.
I know I have painted a pretty bleak picture but I was one of the lucky ones. I had the support of my family and friends and was able to veer off from the dangerous road I was heading down. My mum and dad were able to organise a consultation at an amazing in-day treatment facility in London and I began the process of recovery.
In my three months of in-person treatment I learnt so much about myself, from my thinking patterns to relationships and understood what I truly value. Mantras such as ‘it is okay not to be okay’ and ‘emotions are like waves, you just have to ride them out and eventually they will pass’ are ones which I repeat to myself daily.
I realised that I did not want to go back to my pre-eating-disorder self as that person was not happy, she was the person who was in a position to develop an eating disorder. Although I am still very much in the process and am far from being fully recovered, I am no longer in a life-threatening position. I get irregular periods again and my heart is no longer dangerously slow.
My eating disorder was both my friend and enemy: it disconnected me from emotions which were too painful to deal with at the time but soon became a deathly addiction.
Eating disorders thrive in silence and secrecy and that is why I hope to spark more conversations around disordered eating and society’s twisted perceptions of what ‘health’ is. So many people have suffered, are suffering and will suffer from this awful mental illness yet I believe through discussion and acceptance we might be able to come together as a society and lessen the pain for the generations to come.
Georgia Hall is heading off to Davidson College, North Carolina this Autumn. Georgia’s blog can be read online at georgiamchall.wixsite.com/kickingoutkevin
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