"Anorexia nervosa is a silent killer" - Anjola's story


For Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Anjola shares how she navigated eating disorder recovery in our current climate. Although ‘thinspo’ on social media was a major trigger for her anorexia, support from her family and changing her mindset allowed her to find reasons to live.

I’m currently 18 and was formally diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at 15, though I had disordered eating from the age of 8, which was compounded by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Although I personally don’t identify with that label, I still have very disordered eating. I’ve also been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which affects my relationship with myself and food.

Anorexia nervosa is a silent killer. You engage in these behaviours not necessarily to die, but the reality of it is that they are deadly. Restricting food Monday to Friday, and feeling horrible after Saturday came when I was made to eat, became normal but it should never get to that stage. The worst part of my experience with anorexia was not feeling ‘sick enough’, and the constant self-invalidation and invalidation I felt from professionals.

Recovering from anorexia is almost as unglamorous as the disorder itself. From meal plans to weekly weigh ins to being on bed rest and in hospital, it is hard, but extremely worthwhile. You gain your life and most importantly, your smile back.

  • Recovering from anorexia is almost as unglamorous as the disorder itself.

Social media definitely affected my recovery in a negative way because it became easier to compare myself to someone else. I was already slowly dying because of my incredibly restrictive eating disorder, but seeing people thinner than me motivated me to lose even more weight.

Because of how many thin, emaciated girls came up on my feed, exacerbated by the algorithm on apps such as TikTok, it felt normalised and I thought that was what beauty meant. Very soon, my world became very small and I felt I needed to conform.

Navigating anorexia was a long, harrowing and tiring journey, and the recovery process arguably even harder. It is not a straight path, but one that meanders and has crossroads.

I think the most important step you take in that journey is when you get to those crossroads: whether to continue along the path of recovery, or travel down the steep, narrow path of disordered behaviours, giving into the voice that equates happiness with a lower weight. In fact, I am still on that journey. Every day I wake up and stand at the crossroad, deciding which path to take.

  • Every day I wake up and stand at the crossroad, deciding which path to take.

The most important part of my recovery was the support I got from my family. No amount of family therapy, individual therapy or CBT-E (cognitive behavioural therapy for eating disorders) - which I actually found counterproductive - could give me what my family gave me.

The unconditional permission to eat, the daily reminders that my size did not affect how my family saw me, the desperation in my mother’s eyes when I was in hospital. I knew I had to recover, if not for me, for my family.

My family gave me the strength that I needed when I found it difficult to move. They were consistent with my meal plans and adapted them to accommodate my autism. I was given no room to slip back into my disordered behaviours, and despite hating it at first, I know in hindsight, I wouldn’t be here today without their constant nagging, begging, and demanding. Exercise and following positive recovery accounts also helped with changing my mindset.

I urge everyone going through eating disorder recovery to try, no matter how hard, to change their mindset. That emaciated body you long to have and the ‘thinspo’ on your feed does not equate beauty. Restricting your intake and purging will only make you spiral out of control rather than keep you in control.

Gaining weight does not end your world, rather continuing to engage in those behaviours can actually end your world through death. It sounds morbid and discouraging but it’s the hard truth, and I myself have to fight those disordered thoughts every day.

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