Fighting with Food.

I’ve never been a normal weight. I’ve always been big. When I was 5 I weighed 5 stone, and every year I put on another stone until I was 14 stone at 14. After that I started to try and do something about it for myself, I was motivated for myself rather than other people telling me what to do. I became the queen of yo yo dieting. At my lightest I was 11 stone, my heaviest 18.

Funny thing is I don’t particularly remember being an unhealthy child, I don’t have recollections of eating too much or eating junk food, I remember looking at my thinner friends at meal times and thinking “you eat three times as much as me, why am I the fat one.” I may not remember how I got that way, but I do remember what happened as a result of it.

When I was 5 my school sent me to a dietician, I was told I wasn’t allowed seconds at meal times and wasn’t allowed puddings at school. I was never bothered about losing the food, what I was bothered about was the isolation. I was 5 and I was already different to everyone else but I didn’t lose any weight.

When I was 10 my mum took me to weight watchers. She’d send me off to school with i box of lettuce (literally) and I’d weigh in with the adults every week. I never lost any weight.

When I was 12 I went on slim fast. I took milkshakes for packed lunches and ate salads for dinner every day, I still never lost any weight.

The reason I didn’t lose weight was that I ate in secret, I was and still am an emotional eater and even worse sometimes a bored eater. At those young ages, I was already unhappy, and the thing that distracted me from that was food.

But then something changed. At 13 my mood was even lower, I suddenly wasn’t just a bit sad, I was depressed. I wasn’t struggling with puberty, I was struggling with my existence. That’s a tension that takes more than food to release, that’s also when I found self harm. Suddenly I didn’t need food to calm the emotion anymore, I had a new way. So I started dieting, really dieting, i did every quick fix in the book and learnt all the tricks. I was determined and I was going to be thin. Little did I know then that that was just another coping method, another thing for me to obsessively control. But, I did it. I lost the weight.

Then disaster struck, my self harm was discovered. My mum ran through the house and collected anything I could possibly hurt myself with. She checked by bags after I’d been shopping, there was no where to hide anything. Suddenly my coping mechanism was gone.

So I ate. I ate a lot.

Then I felt guilty I’d messed up my diet. I felt ashamed I was so weak. I felt horrified at the disgusting person I thought I was.

For the first time I made myself sick… and I loved it, every single second, especially getting on the scales.

I felt safe in my habits, I would lose weight, I’d get pretty, I’d finally fit in with my friendship group, and best of all I’d never be caught. Because no one expects the fat girl to have an eating disorder.

It became a daily occurrence, multiple times a day for as long as it took for my mum to forget about the self harm and weaken her guard so I could pick it up again. When I could start self harming again the food stuff became less intense.

It was always there.


But the vomiting emerged and disappeared again like the moles in the old arcade games of whac-a-mole.

The dieting came and went.

My weight yo yod. I could go from obese to normal weight and back again in a couple of months. I was good at losing weight. I was good at putting it on.

I learnt the calories in everything, I learnt every pro-mia and pro-ana trick in the book. I could sit for hours and tell you the easiest and most effective methods. The film ‘to the bone’ (which is probably one of the most accurate ED films I’ve ever seen) describes this as ‘calorie Aspergers.’ Although I don’t appreciate the analogy fully, I get where this is coming from. It’s an obsession, an addiction, it’s time consuming and all consuming.

I spent years like this, and they came and went pretty quickly when I look back on it. Sometimes eating disorders are made to look glamorous but the very real side effects meant that –

I started to lose my hair.

My teeth started to rot to the point they would just break in half and fall out.

My nails were yellow.

I was always shivering.

I missed social events that involved food or drinks because of fear of calories.

I failed a subject at school because I was to scared to get up and get some more paper because I thought I would draw attention to how ugly I was.

I refused to leave the house, I firmly believed I was so ugly if someone saw me in the street it might make them sick.

I found a new thing, chewing food and spitting it out, all the taste, non of the calories.

Then I went to university. The freedom only made my habits worse until by the end of first year I was spending so much on binge food I was getting myself in debt, I was throwing up over 5 times a day. Some days I felt like that wasn’t enough so I would take 40 laxatives as well. I even started smoking because I read it was an appetite suppressant.

One night, like many others, I passed out on my bathroom floor. When I came round again I had the realisation that I was literally flushing money down the toilet.

The next day I registered for a doctor and made an appointment, I was referred to the ED department of the local mental health services (after being told, really helpfully, that I shouldn’t get my hopes up for treatment because they only treat ‘proper eating disorders’).

A few months later I sat infront of a doctor. He told me he’d read my notes and asked me what I thought the problem was.

I told him I didn’t know.

He told me that was a lie, that I was a smart girl and I knew myself that I was bulimic.

He told me we would break for lunch, he said I could stay in the room if I didn’t want to eat and he would bring me some water.

He recommended me for treatment and put me on meds to stop my oesophagus rupturing and sent me on my way.

He got it. He didn’t tell me I was to fat to be Ill. He didn’t tell me I was making it up. He told me it was real, I wasn’t on my own and I was going to get treatment. After the session I went to the shop, I bought food for dinner and I ate it, and I didn’t get rid of it.

I had a mixed experience in treatment, in the end I gave up going because it was setting me back but it didn’t make the treatment itself wrong, in fact the skills and thing I learned set me well on the way to recovery.

For a while food wasn’t an issue anymore.

But like any addiction that’s not dealt with properly it was always in the back of my mind. My mood cycles change regularly and you can guarantee that each one changes my relationship with food. My disordered food behaviours are always the first coping mechanism to reappear and the last ones to leave.

I catch myself with different thought patterns depending on my mood.

When everything so stable I get healthier, I eat better and I exercise more and I find myself losing weight in a healthy way. Weight loss is always in my mind. But when I’m stable in my mood I think about it logically, I am overweight, that is physically unhealthy and needs to change. To do that I need to eat better and exercise. I can talk about weight loss, tell you that I am comfortable in my appearance but need to lose weight for my physical health and be confident that I believe this.

When my mood is low I catch my own bad though patterns and behaviour but I’m never willing to change it. I have an underlying belief that my weight is what makes me unhappy, so when my mood sucks I believe that I’d be completely happy all the time if I was thin. So I start the quest.

Firstly, I stop eating and drinking. A few days in to that I’ll start to feel ill from dehydration so I’ll drink. Then I’ll feel like I’ve messed everything up so why stop there? I’ll eat again. Immediately after I eat I’ll feel like a failure, get rid of the food by any means possible and finally feel empty again. Feeling empty gives me a buzz, getting on the scales everyday to see the weight coming off gives me even more of a buzz. Then the cycle will begin again and will last until my mood changes, and then a bit longer while I work on breaking the cycle I create.

When my mood goes up, I’m awake for days, I shop for clothes even more than normal and I work on smashing calorie and weight loss targets. I get weighed everyday and depending on what the scales say set my calories for the day, anything between fasting and 1,800 calories. I burn off what I’ve eaten because of the boost in energy that comes with hyper mania. When I’m in that state I’m always successful and nothing can stop me. I get the buzz from going down clothes sizes.

I have come to accept that although generally if my mood is stable food isn’t a big issue for me anymore, it will always be an area I relapse into. I will never have a normal relationship with food, and to be honest I don’t even know what that would look like for me. Now it’s about controlling the patterns, maybe my next relapse will only last for a couple of weeks rather than a couple of months. Maybe I can pick up warning signs quicker than normal.

A stable mood means more stable thinking, I can identify the things that trigger my behaviours and I can avoid them. I can stop conversations that will set me back. I can stay motivated by health rather than a desperation to have a thigh gap.

But nobody is permanently stable, whether it’s mental health related or not there are always Highs and lows, and for me there will always be food based behaviours that go along side that.

While I was in treatment I was given a list of what normal food behaviours were, it was explained to me that I just take them to extremes.

It is normal to eat junk food or overeat on a bad day. It is not normal for that to mean repeatedly binging and feeling guilty about it.

It is normal to not eat as much if you’re stressed or agitated or even just busy. It is not normal to stop eating for a week because your preoccupied.

It is normal to cut out certain foods to try and get healthy. It is not normal to cut out all food.

Being diagnosed with bulimia and BPD has made me realise how most of my issues come from living in the extremes and struggling to find a middle ground. I rarely focus myself on eating disorder recovery, what I need to focus on is living in the middle and not the extremes. In BPD talk we use the terms black and white and grey. It is natural for me to live in the black and white, I need to live in the grey. We also call it ‘splitting’ or ‘split thinking’ which are terms I identify with all to well. I strongly think that when I get to grey, if I ever can get to the grey, most of my issues will fall in place. I think my issues with food aren’t issues with food, they are issues from the mentality I carry in most areas of my life, they are issues that don’t belong in the grey.

The lies I tell myself.

I’m currently on holiday.

I’ve had a pretty shit few months and I thought I just want to see some sun, so booked a break and here I am, sat on my balcony I’m Tenerife, red from the sun, watching Netflix with a stack of drink from the all inclusive bar, over looking the sea.

There’s no place I’m happier than in a hot country, it’s the place I crave for pretty much every day. Anywhere will do as longs as there’s sun and sea to look at.

But I find something weird about being abroad. The sea, the mountains, the sun, it makes me realise how small I am and how actually as humans were pretty small and insignificant and I find that liberating. I also find it’s where I do my best thinking. I become this deeper person. inward looking, constantly questioning, forward planning, existentially philosophising about my life is a task that faces me and chases me around the pool.

This time I’m on holiday with my mum and on the first night she asked me some questions and there began this years questions for myself. She asked me about my future and I answered her with my rehearsed lies. The lies I tell everyone and tell myself so often I’ve started to believe them but when I said them to my mum. I instantly came to the realisation I don’t believe them. So let’s take a look at them shall we?

1-my view on having kids.

I tell everyone that asks me that I don’t want my own children, that I just don’t see the need and I’d be happier and freer on my own.

Truth is I desperately want my own children, I’d be an amazing mum. Truth is I Darn’t admit that because it would mean I’m failing at something I want because I’m such a long way off. Truth is I’d be terrified of bringing a child into the world because they might inherit the pre disposition for mental illness that all my family has, and I’d hate to think I’d bring life to someone who would battle so hard with it.

2- my views on a partner

I tell everyone I don’t want a partner, that I’m independent, that I make my own decisions and don’t have to consider anyone else and that’s best for me

Truth is I’d love to find someone but I refuse to put myself in any situation that might involve a relationship. I’m too much to handle, what if it didn’t work out and it triggered my BPD and it fucked me up even more? What’s the point in trying when I’m so unattractive? Who would ever want someone like me?

3- my view on my career

I tell everyone I don’t care what I do as long as it’s helping someone.

Truth is I don’t really care about that right now, what I actually want is a job that’s easy going and enjoyable so maybe just for once I could focus on having fun rather that stuff that’s so intense, but it feels to selfish to admit that.

4- my views on my past

I tell everyone I’m over it,

That it doesn’t matter and I don’t blame anyone, things just happen and now fuck it, I’ve made something of myself.

Truth is, I’m still angry. There stuff I’ve never told anyone, and even the fact I’ve not told anyone makes me angry. Truth is I feel pretty hard done by, why me? Was it my fault? Who am I to still be upset by all this stuff? But actually, why was it me? Things happen and have happened that should never and that’s not ok.

5- my views on God.

I tell everyone that I don’t believe in God, that i am against organised religion, that the whole thing is ridiculous and cult like.

Truth is I do believe all those things, but I’m desperate to believe in god again, I just don’t. I constantly flashback to my church days and I get it out of my head as soon as possible, because I flashback to the hurt and the pain and the embarrassment I faced. But I miss the purpose, I miss feeling like there’s a point. Sometimes I try and convince myself that god is real and I made a massive mistake leaving the church, but it just doesn’t stick.

I could go on and on about this topic fo days, but 5 is a nice round number and it already got to heavy for my liking, so for now, that’s all.

What it feels like to be signed off work for mental health reasons.

I have been declared unfit for work due to my mental health numerous times. Sometimes I would be signed off, go back to work and be signed off again after one shift. That was in my last job, a job I enjoyed but didn’t really care about. It meant nothing to me to miss a few weeks or months and then go back. Around 18 months ago, after just graduating university and after a crazy (quite literally) year I landed a new job. A job that I cared and still care about. In those 18 months I have phoned in sick twice, only one of those times was mental health related and it was just after my dad passed away so I kind of let myself off for that, and, even then it was only a couple of days, not long enough that I could no longer self certify.

A few months ago, maybe more than that my mood took a turn for the unstable, I was carrying on as normal and keeping myself on track enough to still be working. Then I wasn’t. In mental health world theres a fine line between struggling and in control and struggling and no longer in control. Right now, I find myself in the latter part. I may be in control of my actions but I am completely out of control on an emotional stability level. It started to effect me at work and a few weeks later I found myself declared unfit. It hit me hard, I didn’t ever expect to be back in that place again. Lets talk about the issues and the positives that come with being signed off shall we?

So, before I get into the issues, here are the positives that I can think off.

  • Being signed off gives me more faith that my doctors know my illness. They know when its time to say stop and time to say go. My doctor advised I be signed off a few weeks before I was, he left it with me and I was adament I wouldn’t do it, but on my next visit and the worsening of my symptoms he took the option out of my hands. Looking at the situation that was the right call, and that helps me trust the system a little more.
  • Being signed off takes some of the pressure out of day to day life. For now I don’t need to think about going to work and functioning on that level. I have time to focus on keeping myself safe and that can be full time job in itself.
  • I have the time to work out an updated plan for keeping myself well. The last one I did was a couple of years ago and included things such as ‘go out of the house at least once a day’ and ‘make sure you at least shower.’ Those things are no longer an issue for me now I can swap them out for skills that help me in my higher functioning lifestyle. In looking at those plans I can also appreciate how far I’ve come, and praise myself for it. Like, at one point I was that unwell I couldn’t function without hospital stays and friends monitoring me and actually one hard time in 18 months is fucking good going. Recovery is never a straight line.


Now lets talk about the challenges, and to do that lets start at the beginning of the being signed off process.

Firstly is the visit to the doctors, I don’t have a massive issue with this, I’ve always trusted my doctor, more than mental health professionals in some cases, but it can be daunting for some people to go to there GP and tell them there mental health issues.

The next thing is one which I struggle with, the dreaded phone call to work. Like hey, I know I’m meant to be on shift tomorrow, I know I’m screwing you over massively and someones going to have to work extra hours but I can’t come in tomorrow, or for the next 3 weeks. I had so much anxiety over doing it, and it makes me feel like the biggest dick on the planet, but truth is it’s better that I do that than come in in the non functioning state I’ve found myself in ( I should also add that if you have a good employer there shouldn’t be 20 questions or any guilt led by them, luckily for me I am in that position). Currently Ive been signed off for a week longer than expected with a note on my sick note saying I need to be reassessed at the end of the two weeks. That scares me even more, because once again in 2 weeks time I may have to ring in again saying I’m not going to be back in at the last minute, leaving me with the, you’ve just screwed everyone over once again feeling.

Then theres the ‘I feel emotionally naked’ feeling, I am open about my mental health but theres something really degrading to me (and I’ll admit its my issue) to hand in a sick note that discloses my biggest secret, the thing I try hardest to hide.


An issue I faced today was the wording of my sick note, which just says ‘depression’ when I actually want to explain. Yes depression is an issue for me, but right now its instability which means depression, hypermania, impulsivity, anxiety, inability to function in relationships, flashbacks, addiction,dissasociation and so much more. My doctor always puts the least possible on my sick notes because of confidentiality but sometimes it feels more of a hinderance than a help.

Then theres the actual time off. 

How do I explain to the people around me that Im not working for the next couple of weeks? To my mum (who I now live with) I’ve gone down the line of stress. Theres a lot the older generation don’t understand about mental health, my mum falls into that category, which I don’t blame her for at all. She actually tries really hard to understand and support me but I can see the panic and confusion when she tries to talk about it, I think thats a problem with the education in mental health rather than her, but still its there. So for now I’ve gone with stress, then theres the rest of the family, they understand a lot more, but do I change my story to them and risk exposing myself to my mum?

What am I meant to do with my time?

Theres something about being crazy that turns you into a child, like have a spent the last week doing jigsaws and puzzle books just to keep myself distracted? Yes. Have I being spending 18 hours in bed? Yes. Have I been painting and colouring? Yes. There is another panic, what if when I get back to work someone asks me what I’ve been doing? When I answer it won’t sound like I’ve been ill, it will sound like I’ve had a bit of a jolly, but actually I’ve being doing those things to distract myself from my own thoughts and pain.

I 100% don’t want people to know that I’ve spent the first week of my time off reliving every moment of my last 2 weeks at work questioning every decision I’ve made whilst at work. Like have I fucked everything up. When I said that, was that me or my mental illness. When I snapped at that co-worker, was it justified or was that my illness. Then theres the bits I don’t need to overthink, I know I fucked up because of my mental health and I feel guilty 97.34% of the time.


Being off work means any small amount of motivation I had to keep it together has gone. Like, do I want to start drinking as soon as I wake up? fuck it theres nothing to stop me now, do I want to stay in bed all day? Yes and now theres nothing to make me get up… I was going to make more examples but I’ve reconsidered in case they disclose to much, sorry about that I guess. Truth is in the job I work, it would be selfish of me to carry on going in, barely aware of reality just to keep myself going.

And lastly, you’ll be glad to hear, heres my massive concern, what will people do when I get back? Will everyone treat me like normal and pretend I was never off? I hope so. Will people ask me if I’m Ok? please no, because lets be real, I’ll be better, I’ll be functioning and I’ll be back to doing my job, hopefully well. Will I be OK? probably not, just better.  Worst off all, will people question my ability to do my job? Will I be seen as less? Will my time off be judged? With everything I’m hoping the answer is no. But thats part of the issue with mental illness isn’t it? If I was signed off sick because of a stomach bug, or the flu, would I have the same issues, the same questions?