My problem with food
Our author tries to make things better for other sufferers of eating disorders by telling it how it is.
Firstly, sorry for taking the easy-option and writing this anonymously.
I would love to be able to put my name at the top of this article and show you who I am, and I too get annoyed with the seamlessly ending amount of anonymous sob-stories on the web, but at least I can promise you that this won’t be a sob-story.
Secondly, I accept that people experience eating disorders differently and so this may not apply to all sufferers, but having talked things through with a friend, I know I’m not the only one who would benefit from some of these changes being made.
One reason in particular for having to write this anonymously is the fact that I have this fear that if anyone knew about how I was struggling with eating at the moment, I’d be made to intermit. This may be an irrational fear, but you hear horror stories from people in other years who have been forced to intermit, and I don’t think intermitting would help me.
For one thing, I’m in a stage of recovery, so whilst it’s still hard, I can manage. Colleges need to be more proactive in allowing us to tell people without suddenly stepping in and making a whole ordeal out of it. Sometimes I just wish there was someone who could know I wasn’t coping, but I don’t want the involvement of half of the college welfare team, I just need someone I can check in with occasionally to let them know how I’m doing.
Eating disorders are something that it’s hard to fully recover from. I would tell most people that I had an eating disorder, but in reality I still have good days and bad days. On good days you might see me at a formal (still probably unable to finish all on my plate), but on a bad day you would probably not see me much at all, and it can be silly little things that trigger a ‘relapse’ period.
These ‘silly things’ include the fact that I still very much need to plan what I’m going to eat in advance. This is particularly problematic when it comes to eating in the buttery – I can’t just turn up and pick a meal on the spur of the moment (or if I do the chances of me eating it have already decreased). What helps me is knowing what the buttery is serving beforehand.
All that this requires is that a menu is sent round the students, or put on display somewhere where they can see it. And it would be so helpful if such a menu included details of the side dishes on option to enable me to put together a proper ‘meal’. And when I get to choosing my food, it would be oh-so-lovely if the catering staff actually let me look at the options first.
Don’t be so keen to serve people quickly that you ask me whilst I’m still in the queue, and haven’t yet got to the food, it throws me, I panic, and usually end up with something I subsequently don’t eat. These things may sound trivial and pathetic (and reading it back, they do to me too) but such small changes would really make a difference, especially for someone who’s had to use up all of her willpower just to go down to the buttery in the first place.
Once I’ve got the food, I find it helpful to eat it in places other than the buttery, at my own pace, and luckily I’m in a college that is fairly flexible as to where we can take our buttery food. This is also where friends can be so supportive, in coming with you at strange times of day to strange places to eat, without making a big fuss of it.
Having an eating disorder is particularly lonely, and so every minute that you are able to spend in the company of friends is another small step towards recovery.
I don’t think it is the case the colleges don’t try to support people with eating disorders, and I’m sure the availability of support differs between colleges, but maybe they need to take a step back and ask us what kind of support would help us best.
Whilst it may be hard to fully recover from an eating disorder, it’s by no means impossible, but it’s certainly not going to happen whilst people in this position are scared to reach out for the help they so desperately need.
If you want to have your say on the matter of eating disorders as we come to the end of Mental Health Week, or have something else you want to discuss, email [email protected] with your ideas.