The Digging Deep Project is honored to work with a range of guest authors. Here, Renske, describes her struggle with anorexia as a constant and ongoing conversation with a “little voice” that fights for control of her psyche.
Five years ago, at age 17, I developed Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia is a psychological eating disorder characterized by extremely low body weight and the fear to gain weight. As for myself, I started to restrict my quantity of food, count calories and exercise a lot. After a year of intensive therapy, I recovered. However, there is this little voice in my head that has never disappeared ever since. It speaks up whenever I feel insecure, lost or alone. I imagine this voice to be a little person, representing my eating disorder. I would now like to address a letter to this voice, this little person in my head.
I do not know exactly when it was you entered my thoughts, but suddenly you were there. You arrived at the moment I was struggling not only with myself but also with a difficult home situation. I felt insecure, stressed, alone and overwhelmed by all the emotions I was constantly dealing with. I did not want to impose my struggles on anyone, so I mostly kept them to myself. It was at this moment, I think, you came to me. You offered to help me deal with life and gain back control. You saw I was not able to cope with my feelings, I experienced a lot of stress and I was unhappy with my body since I was slightly overweight. You said it would help if I focused on something which was completely in my hands: my diet and body weight. This would make me feel better about myself and above all would give me some control back over my life. I accepted your help immediately and from then on you would become the always present voice in my head.
You were supporting and talking to me, telling me what to eat, when to work out, how to resist unhealthy food. After a while, I managed to achieve a healthy weight. I was so happy not to be the ‘fatty’ anymore, people now complimented me and said I looked good. You showed me your plan had worked, I was finally back in control and this made me feel good, really good. You became my best friend, the one I could always rely on.
However, as we moved on together, you started to occupy all my thoughts. Before, I was able to reason by myself like anyone else, but you took over. You changed my beliefs about everything but above all about myself and my body. Our friendship became unhealthy. I did not see this back then because I was convinced you only wanted the best for me. Now I know that the opposite was true. Gradually, you became stricter on what I should and should not do. Since you took up most of my thoughts, I did not have the space to think for myself and stand up to you. I was practically enslaved to your will. You made me exercise a lot and minimize my calorie intake to a maximum of 800 calories a day or less.
At first, I was trying to hide my obsessive behavior because I did not want anybody to find out. I secretly threw away my lunch, started to hide food I did not eat, skipped dessert, turned away every bit of unhealthy food I got offered and lots of other alarming things. Eventually I did not realize that I was acting weird anymore, I started to believe that my behavior was normal. I lost a lot of weight in a really short time and my friends and family started worrying about me. They told me so, but you said they had nothing to worry about, I was happy right? And to be honest, I was because I was good at this. I was blind for the fact that you turned me into an unemotional robot.
You took away all the joy and energy I once had and made my family go through a really difficult time. This obviously could not last for long as I was about to get hospitalized because of my critique body weight. It was then that I realized that I was not able to go to university this way. Suddenly, I woke up from the world you had kept me in for so long. I realized who I was again: a young, smart, 18-year-old girl who wanted to go to college and who once was excited about what the future would bring her. The fact that you took away my future motivated me to start fighting you. This is one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. You were so strong and persistent, I lived in an enduring conflict between you and me. It took all my energy and willpower but eventually I succeeded in defeating you. After a year of intensive therapy, I had driven you to the background of my thoughts. I was able to make reasonable decisions for myself again, and above all to feel again. Our sick friendship had come to an end.
Now here we are, five years later. Although I broke away from you a while ago, you never completely disappeared. You are still hiding somewhere in the corner of my thoughts. You know my weak spots, the moments I am inclined to come back to you. And I am not happy to say that sometimes I do. You still cause me some pretty difficult times and make me feel insecure. But I am stronger now, I realize when it is you and not me talking. I do not need you anymore, I am able to control my own life in a healthy way now, my life is so much better when you are not there. I will fight as long as necessary to not make you control my life again. I believe that if I stand up to you long enough, you will eventually get bored or tired and decide to leave forever. I do not need your negativity in my life.
Digging Deep accepts guest posts on many topics from a wide range of experts, patients, health care practitioners, and others who work with sick children and teens. We welcome your perspectives and stories to share regarding ways to support the emotional needs of children with health challenges and the families and professionals who support them. Please email: email@example.com if you would like to be a guest blogger.