‘Are you OK Serrell? Seriously Clembo, what’s the matter….oh god do you still love him….are you pregnant…is it me, have I pissed you off? Please honestly just say?’
At that very moment I knew if I did ‘just say’ I could never ‘just not say.’ That would be it. I’d be forever the random that suddenly starting throwing up after meals- where the hell had that even come from. My best friend and I were driving back from Cardiff after a night out with another besties. I hadn’t long broken up with my ex and although on the surface, it seemed I was just going through the standard break up motions, underneath all was far from fine. They didn’t know that, and I didn’t really know it at that point either. But then, right at that moment, in the car with my friend, I thought I’d tell her I’d been making myself sick after mini ‘binges.’ I was stuttering a bit as my mind was racing from tell her/don’t tell her/tell her/don’t tell her. I knew that as soon as I said it, I could never take it back- would she judge me? Would she think I was losing the plot, I kind of worried I was myself! Would she tell everyone and then I’d forever be judged if I even hinted at needing the toilet after a meal.
Of course she did none of those things as she’s one of my bestest friends in the world. We actually laugh about that conversation now, mainly because she thought I may actually have been pregnant- not sure who’s it would have been. But yes, she was the first person I ‘told.’ None of us had ever been through anything like this so she wasn’t sure what to say, or how to say it but she offered words of support. Obviously there was a huge part of me that was scared to tell her, and scared to actually hear the words out loud myself. If I hear them, it would be real, an actual thing that was happening to me, as opposed to me just disregarding it and keeping it as my own secret.
Kate urged me to tell my mum as she knew she would support me. I knew she was right but I didn’t really know how to. How do you tell her that? Most of my other friends were breaking engagement and baby news to their parents, I had to tell mine I’d got into a cycle of eating 5 chocolate bars and then throwing up, and then repeating- fun times. I knew my mum would ask me why I was doing it, and strangely, that was the most scary thing, because I didn’t know myself. I knew I wasn’t really happy but this whole sickness thing was just random. I couldn’t even call it bulimia because I didn’t feel ‘worthy’ of that title. For me the bulimic period was just the start, the tip of the calorie free, proverbial iceberg. It got a lot worse but it was the anorexia that was a living hell, stripping me of any kind of life and replacing it with emptiness, in every sense- something I’ll go into more in another post.
So I told my mum. I went back to my parents, and while we were sitting in the sitting room I nervously told her I’d been making myself sick. ‘But why have you been doing that?’ my mum said calmly. That big question that you just can’t answer, maybe because I was desperately unhappy. I don’t actually remember telling my dad. I think I asked my mum to as the shame was just too big, how do you tell your own dad that? I vividly remember telling my oldest bestest friend. We were sitting in her bed as I’d gone to London to stay with her for the weekend. She said she’d suspected something when I ate not one but two giant pieces of chocolate cake after a night out, and then promptly rushed to the toilet. ‘I thought it was so weird as you’re quite healthy, and you may have had a bit of cake, but never 2 big pieces. I didn’t know what was wrong but you just know you’re not happy.’
Once anorexia took hold, it was quite clear to see, in all it’s glory, that something wasn’t quite right- but you still feel too ashamed to ‘tell’ people. You make up reasons as to why you’re not drinking, why you’re not eating out with them, why you’re asking about calories in certain foods, why you can’t make special occasions, why you can’t meet up over a set meal time. You get fiercely defensive should anyone question you, your weight, what you’re eating, how you’re feeling. ‘SHUT UP, DO NOT FUCKING QUESTION ME’ is what your head is screaming but outwardly you give a half smile and shrug and say that you’re fine, A-OK, nothing to worry about.
The stress and strain of putting on a constant act to try and mask over something most people may already know, makes an ED a squillion times worse. If you are in the grip, that tight hold of an eating disorder, please consider opening up to someone, anyone. Good friends will not judge you, and a good family will support you. I realise how lucky I was, and still am to have people in my life who have helped me, and I know this isn’t the case for some. I also realise how scary the idea of ’telling’ people is but it can actually help how you feel, and your own recovery. I remember dating a guy and wondering how the hell I would drop it into the convo- ‘so what do you fancy doing on date 2? I’ve got some food issues left over from bulimia and anorexia, so maybe not dinner but we could just do the cinema yeah?’ Now, I’m pretty open about it. A lot of people ask me why I changed careers and moved so I tell them about having an eating disorder, that prompted the changes. If they have an issue with it, that’s their issue, not mine- I’ve got enough of my own!
Putting on a constant act is draining, it’s tiring and it actually only makes the situation feel a whole load worse. Consider telling your friends what’s going on, be as open as you can be then there is no need to put on this act, to carry around the weight on shoulders, every single day, to dread the plans they are going to suggest because you just don’t know what other excuses you can use. They will want to understand, they will want to help, and no, they may not say the right thing all the time, but at least you don’t have to keep up constant lies.