Eating disorders represent a major concern for young people. Luring oneself into fitting the “perfect” societal image of beauty could often be easy. However, recognizing that this could be both physically and mentally detrimental is a difficult and long process.
Charrisse Bell, a beautiful and strong woman, is here to share her personal story fighting anorexia. We hope that the following lines will make a difference for someone reading this and needing help. There is always a way back. And it is never shameful to look for help.
Never forget that beauty is in the way you hold yourself. It is how you treat people and yourself. It is how you love. It is self acceptance. Beauty is in your soul!
HOW MY ANOREXIA JOURNEY STARTED
From a young age, we see images in magazines and television of beautiful women who appear to have the perfect life, the perfect friends and the perfect body. Some people have the view that it is only a magazine, it is airbrushed, or it is television and that’s not what normal people look like. But when these are the only images that are being constantly fed to the public can we honestly say that this does not have a detrimental effect on how someone perceives themselves?
I was born in the 90’s, and growing up I surrounded myself with what I thought was healthy relationships, positive influences and the ever present public views on what a woman should look like. I never had any issues with how I saw myself until I was around twelve years old and why would I? I was a child, still developing and thriving in a large family and a wide circle of friends and my days were filled with fun, laughter and outdoor games no matter what the weather.
HAVING HARD TIME AT SCHOOL
When people ask me what changed, I honestly find it hard to pinpoint one specific time. I guess it could have started when I left the comforts of Primary school and began my journey in High school, when my circle of friends I had grew up with my whole life changed, some for the better, some for the worst. I didn’t intend to drift away from my best friends, its just the way it works when your enter High school. The dynamics are completely different.
Cliques were formed according to looks, popularity and the primary school you came from. I always thought I was a strong, confident girl, but I was quick in realising that I couldn’t have been more wrong. There was an toxic undercurrent within my High school, no one really understood that their careless words and actions could have lasting consequences.
Very quickly I discovered that I fell into the “average” category. I wasn’t considered pretty, I was no Einstein and I struggled to speak up in a sea of hundreds of students. I lost myself. My best friend, who was beautiful, drifted away after quickly finding her place in the popular crowd. I cant blame her for getting accepted when its all I ever wanted. I remember one of the last times we walked home together, memorable only for the fact that we were being followed by three older girls.
It is hard to forget being laughed at and ridiculed, being called a “fat pig” and being told that I was going to get beat up, simply for how I looked and dressed. I remember at the time being a size 10, perfectly healthy nowadays. But back then I was led to belief that it was a disgusting size. My friends were still in teen clothing sizes, why wasn’t I? One thing that sticks with me to this day is my friend being asked how she could ever be friends with someone like me. That kind of thing stays with you, no matter how many years pass.
RELATIONSHIPS WITH BOYS AT SCHOOL
It wasn’t just the girls either. I soon learned the boys could be equally as harsh. One of my first crushes was a boy I thought the world of. Funny, smart, good looking and popular it was no wonder I was smitten. The funny thing is we talked, we laughed and I truly believed that he liked me for me. Except, of course he didn’t We only spoke when we were alone, he was too embarrassed otherwise as we ran in different social circles and I evidently was not considered one of the pretty girls.
This set a pattern throughout high school, I was always the “secret” friend, someone the boys could have a joke and a laugh with, confide in.. and then poke fun off with all their friends. During all of this I woke up every morning and looked in the mirror. I would recite daily each thing I hated about myself, what I would change and even went as far as putting lines on my body. Most girls dreamed of being a pop star, I dreamed of having enough money for plastic surgery.
STARVATION AS AN ANSWER TO SCHOOL CLIQUES’ STIGMA
I remember discovering a Kate Moss quote, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”. It was like I was finally awake. I realised that I could change how I seen myself, how others saw me, simply by doing what she and so many other models did. I starved myself. Once I started loosing weight it was like people were beginning to take me seriously.
Don’t get me wrong, I still never caught the eyes of all those boys I used to admire, but I did catch the eye of another one. He was what we called a “player”. All the girls secretly wanted him, and for a reason unknown he picked me. Things were great at first. I fell lead over heels and was finally accepted into the popular groups I had always craved to fit in with.
Just shy of my eighteenth birthday, things started to change. I was still obsessed with not eating, failing to see the problems that my family were beginning to notiice. It was around about then that my problems really started. My relationship grew toxic and I was in too deep. Maybe it was due to constantly putting myself down,or maybe he was just a horrible person, but my partner started to weigh in on my looks. It started small, little digs on my appearance like the way I wore my hair or the clothes I wore.
Before I knew it I couldn’t go out without having my outfit pre approved, being told how much tan to wear and whether I could pull off my hair or make up. That graduated to my portion sizes being controlled, not only by him but his father too, and constantly compared to his smart, beautiful, size 4 sister.
It was all done so well and over a long period of time that it took me nearly five years to get out. I believed it when he told me I was too fat and that I needed to watch what I eat as he would never date a fat girl. It felt like almost every night I would try and make myself throw up, wishing I was bulimic but never being able to successfully do it.
The only other option was to continue to starve myself. I lived off cigarettes, redbull and little else. Once every now and then I would binge, eating so much I felt sick, but then it was back to next to nothing. I exercised religiously, sometimes twice a day on next to no calories, washing down a handful of diet pills and laxatives with caffeine. I still remember looking in the mirror and still seeing that overweight girl, being able to touch my ribs and hip bones, fit into size 6 and on one occasion size 4 clothing yet still believing I was horribly obese.
By this point I lived with my partner, and would make a conscious effort to dress in baggy clothing every time I visited home. Whenever I did go home, I would either eat in my room so I could hide my food in a bag under my bed or invite a friend round who I knew would eat it for me. As you can imagine, my mental health also took a hit. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and have been on medication for almost 9 years now.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE PROBLEM
I cant blame my family for not noticing sooner as I had distanced myself from them. When they finally did realise something was not right, it was almost too late. My mother marched me to the doctors and tried to have me committed, but I was over the age of 18, legally an adult. It hit home for me when the doctor told I may not be able to carry children due to the damage I have done to my body, that was when I finally realised that I was not okay and that I needed to change my lifestyle. I began eating again but my mind has never recovered from it.
TAKING ACTION TO FIGHT BACK THE EATING DISORDER
I can still tell you everything I had to eat this past week, I still look at myself every day and wish I was skinnier or prettier and over the past few years I have continued to struggle with diets and fluctuating weight issues. I wish I could say with one hundred percent believability that I am fully recovered, that I am happy with myself and in a good place mentally. But I cant. I don’t think ever will be.
I’m in a happy, loving relationship which has helped me more than I can express. However, I still struggle on a daily basis to be happy with myself. People ask me how I overcame my illness and I can honestly say I haven’t. Yes, I am now a size 12 and the heaviest I have ever been, but I still fight with my inner demons, still see a warped version of myself and most days I wish I were still ill.
TYPES OF EATING DISORDERS
I can share with you lots about eating disorders. Like how men and women of any age can get an eating disorder, but they most commonly affect young women aged 13 to 17 years old. I can tell you that an eating disorder is when you have an unhealthy attitude to food, whichcan take over your life and make you ill. It can involve eating too much or too little, or becoming obsessed with your weight and body shape. I can even tell you the most common types of eating disorders and their definitions;
• Anorexia nevrosa – when you try to keep your weight as low as possible by not eating enough food, exercising too much, or both
• Bulimia – when you lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short amount of time (binging) and are then deliberately sick, use laxatives, restrict what you eat, or do too much exercise to try to stop yourself gaining weight
• Binge eating disorder (BED) – when you regularly lose control of your eating, eat large portions of food all at once until you feel uncomfortably full, and are then often upset or guilty.
RECOVERING FROM EATING DISORDERS
What I cant tell you is how to recover. Every single person in unique and what works for some may not work for others. Yes, seeking help from your family and friends, your doctors and in some cases hospitalisation WILL help and is a great start. However, mentally I believe that you truly never get over that period of time in your life.
For myself, medication is now a staple in my life. For others, they turn to alternative treatments such as sports or painting. Having seen what a positive effect this can have on some people I can understand why. Whenever I feel the lines blurring between healthy and unhealthy, I turn to reading. Its my one escape from reality and I can hand on heart say that it has probably saved my life on more than one occasion.
What I will say is talk to someone, anyone, but make sure you take that first step to recovery. Spread positivity and remember that everything you say and do has consequences. No matter how trivial they may seem to you, it could be detrimental to someone else. Its took me nine years but I can finally say that I am a survivor. I battled with Anorexia and I survived.