Firstly, thank you immensely for creating this thread; it is so encouraging and inspiring to hear so many sufferers talking openly and honestly about their illnesses, when this appears so difficult to achieve in the 'outside' world, where eating disorders are still direly misunderstood and denounced as acts of vanity and superficiality induced by celebrity culture and the mass media.
With retrospect, I can now analyse my past and have traced the beginnings of my eating disorder back to when I was as young as eight, when I showed signs of peculiar eating habits (i.e. refusing certain foods, hiding food etc). However, the first definite sign that something had begun came when I was twelve and in Year Eight at Secondary School. I cannot remember the reason - if there even was a reason that was more than subliminal - but I stopped eating completely for an entire week. I had always been conscious of my weight but had never dieted, and at this time I was 5'6 and 111 lbs. I had always been very tall but slim, with small bones, and I had a very active lifestyle as a ballerina, dancing for multiple hours on most weekdays after school. I cannot even recollect deciding not to eat; as I said, it just happened. My parents were blissfully unaware. Because of my active lifestyle, my mother was used to me making myself microwave meals as I would never have enough time for a full dinner before leaving the house for ballet, and so it was painfully simple for me to pretend to eat without being discovered. My parents had also just gotten divorced, and so I was free from the scrutiny of my father, which lifted a burden.
After a week of starvation, I resumed eating, but it was sporadic and restricted. I was weighing myself obsessively and measuring myself. My friends parents began to show concern and would talk to my mother in private, telling her that they were worried by my shrinking weight and how I always seemed to be anxious about situations regarding food and my body. This led to me being taken to the doctor, and this experience still leaves me with anger and frustration; this was the beginning of something extremely detrimental to my existence, and I could have gotten assistance there and then, but because I did not appear to be at death's door, the doctor disregarded any chance of something being 'wrong', and it was put to rest. Up until the age of sixteen, I carried on this cycle. I would eat small amounts of low-calorie food, exercise to the point of exhaustion and self-harm (i.e. cutting, burning cigarettes out on my skin, forcing myself to bathe in ice-cold water, sleeping on the floor without a sheet, depriving myself of enjoyment etc) before lapsing into full on starvation, which would last between two and three weeks. I had no social life to speak of anyway, so the alienation and isolation was a factor that I found comfort and stability in; I was an outcast in school and expressed no desire to be around others.
As aforementioned, this continued in a repetitive cycle until I was sixteen, meaning that I never lost a dramatic amount of weight because I was flitting between full-on fasting and 'normal' eating, but I was, in classified terms, underweight. But at this point, something snapped... I had failed to begin my periods and there was speculation that I was infertile. I was constantly at the doctors, having blood tests and being examined for all kinds of illnesses, and I was also seeing a psychiatrist due to diagnosed manic depression, that was proving an overwhelming pressure on my well-being, especially as I was currently preparing for my GCSE's. I was retreating into an incredibly dark place, of which the only forms of escapism I could source for myself were narcotics and self-harm, and my hatred for my body was continuing to swell and mutate inside of me. In the August of 2010, I broke into a fasting cycle again, though this time, the severity was frightening. I didn't eat for almost four weeks; that sounds ridiculous, I know, but I was taking vitamin supplements which accounted for five calories each daily, so I had some meager intake. I had a terminal pain in my skull, I couldn't wake up in the mornings or even get out of bed, which meant that I was missing school for weeks on end, I was irritable and the simplest and most trivial of things irked me to break down, such as making a coffee or taking a bath. I measured myself constantly and would cry hysterically if I had so much as put on a fifth of a pound, and my body was showing the bane of my punishment. My hair began to fall out, my skin became sallow and blemished, my bones ached desperately and my weight plummeted. By December, I was 80 lbs, standing at 5'10.
I couldn't obscure my illness from others any longer. My mother and step-father had noticed and would argue incessantly about me, which only fueled my despair as I was devastated at the impact my problems were incurring on the rest of my family. Coupled with my depression, I was at a point where suicide was a frequent and impending thought. Then finally, I decided to visit the doctor again. I was no longer seeing a psychiatrist as I had quit, despite their letters of concern urging my parents to 'force' me to return, as they were worried for my mental health and what I would do to myself. I saw a nurse and, promising myself to be honest for once in my life, explained to her everything that I was suffering. This was the point where she weighed me and declared me as possessing anorexia nervosa. It was a terrifying moment; I had never been properly educated on eating disorders, although I was once sent to a nutritionist by my school as they considered me 'too thin', and so the following days revolved around me studying this mysterious illness and how I could have come to develop it.
What I have learned in my discovery of myself, is that my eating disorder seems to have some relation to being a child again. As a child, I was forced to mature too quickly; I was moved-up a year at school and my parents were consistently serious and had no time for fun and games. I underwent strict discipline whilst practicing as a ballerina, and I used this ability to be disciplined against myself, as I found that I despised my body and wished to punish myself. All of my attempts to lose weight have seemed to be to the avail that I wish to disappear, and return to the carefree and childlike state which I never relished as a young person, but it has been only my body that has embodied this, and not my mind, which has become a darker and more convoluted place than I could ever imagine.
I am still suffering very much so and I am in the knowledge that I am not currently near recovery, but at least I am now aware of what is happening to me, and what it may mean. I still restrict and count calories in the security of those perfect and unperturbed numbers, and my weight is still threatening low - I am actually being urged towards inpatient treatment at the moment, but wish to stay in school as I am almost half-way through my A-Levels. But I know that restraint in a clinic will cease to be an option if this destructive behaviour concedes further. For now, all I can do is take the days as they come, one step at a time, attempting to come to terms with myself and accept that the pain of anorexia is self-imposed, and that only I have the power to release it's grip on me... I just hope that I am strong enough soon.
If you have read this, thank you ever so much. I know that I have written a lot, but it has definitely been worth it, to get it off of my chest and share my story. X