This blog is going to be a little different to the ones we’ve published before as I’m writing an autobiography on my struggles with an eating disorder. There are many different types of eating disorders across the world however all of them are as bad as each other and such a struggle to live with. Around 1.25 million people in the UK suffer and live with an eating disorder but people tend to hide and cover them as they’re scared or anxious about what people would think, I know I was. Mental health is so important and affects millions. That’s why at CT Skills, we offer many FREE online courses to help you increase your knowledge to help yourself, your family and your co-workers.
My name is Amelia, I’m 19 and I suffer from an eating disorder called ARFID and have done since I was 9. ARFID is known as Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and is characterised by the person avoiding certain foods or types of food, having restricted intake in terms of the overall amount eaten, or both. There are many different reasons someone might be avoiding and/or restricting their intake of food however mine is due to a phobia called Emetophobia. In my case, I restrict myself from consuming many different foods such as many meats, sweet treats and even alcohol.
Every day is a struggle for me with my eating disorder. I have to set reminders to eat and drink. A big part of me wishes I could live without eating and drinking because I’m scared of it that much. It sounds crazy, right? The food is great! Well, unfortunately, this eating disorder and phobia has flattened my joy in eating and consuming food and drinks. Because of this fear, it’s incredibly easy for me to lose weight and I find it so hard to gain it. I focus on the numbers on the scales and wish they’d be higher than they are. Being 5 foot 11 doesn’t help either!
Okay, so Emetophobia is the cause of my eating disorder. It is an extreme phobia of being sick (vomiting) and the individual will do anything to prevent it. It affects the individual’s daily lives awfully. For me, I can’t go to restaurants, eat in front of people (even my friends), eat many different types of food, drink more than one alcoholic drink, or go abroad because of the food, water, germs and so much more. Germs are a huge thing for me. I stay away from people, isolate myself, wash my hands like crazy, avoid going into busy public places such as busses, public toilets, concert halls… I think you get the jiffy now.
This all started when I was 9 years old. I was in year 5 and went to my friend’s house after school. We had pepperoni pizza and brownies. I went home to my parents having an Indian food takeaway with their friends. I obviously had some of their food and I enjoyed it! But my stomach started to hurt. I caught a stomach virus from school and was sick all night. To be honest, it was the worst night of my life. Every night for years I would cry thinking I would be sick, and not be able to sleep because I was so petrified of being sick. I can no longer eat those foods! I can’t eat pepperoni pizza, brownies or even Indian food takeaway anymore. It’s horrid knowing I love the taste of those foods but I’m just so scared to eat it thinking the same events will happen over and over again. For an unknown reason, it’s scarred me for life.
Over the years, it’s gotten easier. I found new ways to deal with the anxiety and I’ve pushed myself to try new foods that scare me. I’ve also found out that I’m more of a snack person, a grazer. I don’t enjoy big meals as when I get too full too fast, I feel nauseous. But it’s also affected my drinking. I find it hard to stay hydrated and could only drink water until the past year when I’ve explored new drinks, fizzy drinks and alcoholic drinks. My previous job at Starbucks helped me to try new drinks and find joy in doing so! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still anxious when I have them but I’ve learnt it’s all psychological. It’s so irritating as I love the smells and tastes!
Sounds stupid doesn’t it? I know. I’ve been so scared to tell people about it. Scared they would judge me and make fun of me, and honestly, they have but I’ve also found the right people who help so much such as my mum. She’s been the best person I could possibly wish for. She’s my safe person and my room is my safe place. I also have safe foods such as breads and pastries. I’m not too sure why, I think it’s because they’re bland but also tasty.
Mental Side Effects
Anxiety! It’s not nice. It never is, in any case. Mine came along with Emetophobia and eating disorder. I suffer from many panic and anxiety attacks weekly but I have my good and bad days. I also shake my leg and foot an awful lot, shake my hands and fingers, play and twiddle my hair and even rub my earlobe. I admit, the earlobe one is a tad weird but I tried it once as I read it helps ease anxiety and now I always do it so I’d give it a try if I were you! I also play different games on my phone and watch certain ‘safe’ shows when I feel anxious, just to calm down the storm before it starts.
Having this disorder is so draining. It can make me see no hope in life some days and see the best in life in others. It’s made me very depressed in my past years and sometimes make the wrong decisions. I used to get little to no sleep, felt drained during the day, and had no motivation for any of my hobbies or education. I just kind of wanted to lay in bed, all day, every day. But I’m happy and proud to say I managed to get out of that stage because I know many don’t.
OCD is something I didn’t realise I had to start with. It’s only been the past couple of years where I’ve noticed it. My biggest one is germs. I have to wash my hands after I do anything in case I have a virus on my hands. I have to wash with very warm water, never cold. I have to use 2 pumps of soap and wash every part of my hands, fingers, wrists and nails. You may think that’s a good thing because “at least you know you’re clean and germ-free!” Yeah, unfortunately, It’s not that easy. Imagine having to do something time and time again otherwise your biggest fear will come true or having the feeling you didn’t do it properly so you have to repeat the whole thing over and over again until you do it right. It sucks.
Some other examples of things I do include making sure all my pens are facing the same way, not walking over grates on the floor, and taking the same amount of steps on each foot (and if I don’t, I’ll have to do another step,) when I walk sometimes my step doesn’t ‘feel right’ so I have to literally go back to where I started and do it over and over again until it feels ‘right’. Doing that in public is very embarrassing for me but if I don’t do it, I’ll have anxiety attacks for the next couple of days and there is no stopping it. A big one of mine is I can’t trip over my doorstep. Yeah, I know, it’s as weird as it sounds! If we go back to the night when all this started, I tripped over the doorstep on my way into the house. This now makes me think if I trip again, the events of that night will repeat itself. There are so many more but that’s for another day.
Eating Disorder Help
I’ve had a few experiences of help in the past. I never wanted to get help, I kind of don’t want to now. I feel like I can deal with it myself and I don’t want to have to keep opening up to people for them not to understand however I know it’s the right thing to do. I’ve tried counsellors before and they haven’t helped but that’s because I never found the right one! I’ve been prescribed medication but never took any because it’s part of my fear. I’m currently on the waiting list for NHS CBT. I’ve never tried it before but I know people with the same struggles as me and they said it’s the best thing they’ve ever decided to do.
It’s a long road ahead for me but I know I’ll get there someday. It’s difficult but I know there is so much help out there. You just need to find the right things and people for you. I speak to my mum and my partner about all my worries and they get solved very fast. I also do certain things such as seeing my friends, doing activities and the big one, animals! Animals are such an anxiety reliever for me whether that’s cats, dogs, horses, chickens, ducks or even alpacas!
I hope this autobiography has given you some insight into this eating disorder whether it’s for your useful knowledge or if you want to learn more about a loved one who suffers just like me. I highly appreciate you taking the time to read and understand this blog about me! I do recommend taking a look at our free online courses as you can learn an awful lot about how mental health affects people. We also post on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter with helpful tips and tricks to support yourself and others.