Trigger warning: self-harm, suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorder
I was one of the lucky ones.
During sixth form I became obsessed with food. I had a subconscious drive to just be healthy. Harmless.
After a while, family friends began remarking on how skinny I was. I remember finding these comments extremely pleasing. I don’t know why… I just did.
Towards the end of year 13, my fixation on ‘health’ escalated. I started drinking black coffee because I thought the milk would make me fat. I’d feel an enormous sense of guilt after eating a meal. Outside of school I was irritable, rude and unapproachable. I’d get extremely tired at social events and often leave unannounced. I couldn’t face people.
Then I went to University. Catered accommodation was hellish. I hated having to eat in a huge canteen, twice a day, surrounded by 2000 people I didn’t know or want to. It was simultaneously a massively social, but also isolating place. I’d spend whole days in my room, looking at the ceiling, with the incessant clamour of drunk students outside my window.
After every meal I’d count the calories of everything I ate and put them in a spreadsheet.
I missed several deadlines. I couldn’t concentrate. In November I had a series of panic attacks where I’d cry for no apparent reason. My mind was cluttered. I hated myself. I cut my left arm with a scalpel blade several times. I remember finding it relieving, in a twisted kind of way. I once walked in front of a moving car. It swerved and missed me.
I got to a point where I’d make myself throw up after every meal. Instead of eating I drank a lot of red wine. Usually a bottle a day. I felt like a failure. I didn’t know what to do.
Halloween 2015. A couple friends and I took some MDMA. I finally felt able to tell them everything. I remember feeling a great deal of relief. It’s a shame I felt I could only tell them when I was high, but I did and from then on, I felt understood and I was looked after. By talking to people, it made me acknowledge how fucked up I was.
Also, my older brother was studying for a PhD in mental health at the time. He was my lifeline. He taught me how to help myself.
In January 2016, I was diagnosed with severe Depression and Mild Anorexia. I was 49kg. I started on Fluoxetine (Prozac) then later to Sertraline (Zoloft).
It took about a year of therapy and medication (which I still take) for me to feel comfortable with myself. Now I enjoy life. In an odd way I am thankful for going through all that mess because it’s made me appreciate everything I have.
It was really really really hard, but I was one of the lucky ones.
Art by Jess Brown