I remember the number of tiles on the ward ceiling above my bed. There were 658 exactly, and a few half tiles to fill in the edges. I hated those half tiles. They were trying to pretend as if they were the same size as the 658 others. Why couldn’t everyone else notice that? The tiles were different; they were disgusting, the grubby one above the ECG machine I named after myself. I knew I wasn’t a complete person, not until I had got my belly sawn off.
But that place, that fucking place. Full of people pretending to be complete, actors, not even attempting to mask their pot bellies. It made me so angry that I was strapped in a bed whilst those incomplete liars roamed free, with their needles and their scans, taking all my hard work out with their syringes to claim for their own.
My Name is Tim, and this is my story, my battle with anorexia, my depression and my visits to Death’s door.
When I was 11, I remember being nervous about starting a new secondary school. I had attended a small private primary school in Oxfordshire and had been raised by a Christian by my mother, father and sister. In the school there can’t have been more than 60 people, and while I was there it was the best time of my life. My friends and their parents comprised the close interwoven network that was ‘my family’. But starting year 7, that was the end of family.
I remember being obsessed with precsision when I started secondary school. Everything had a position, a set of rules. I can recall seeing the dinner bell was slightly askew, ignoring it I got on with my day, but thought bizzarely, that if I didn’t correct it, a death would befall my family, the bell would land on their head or the laws of the universe would be broken, leading to their demise. Obsessive compulsion grew and grew until eventually I couldn’t leave the room I was in, until all things were in cupboards out of sight, neatly spaced out.
The new, big, messy secondary school was too much. I left the house every morning crying and returned every afternoon red eyed. Slowly I got used to the change, and excelled to the top of my class in a few subjects.
I remember once being out in PE and seeing all my peers perfectly toned bodies, and looking down at mine and cursing it for not being like theirs . When I was 12 my mother took me to our tailors to get a suit made for me, when the tailor made a comment about ‘how much he (I) has grown around the waist,’ little did I know this was puppy fat and nothing to be worried about, but I took it to heart. Later on that month, I was in ‘the den’ my friends and I used to spend time together in, when someone lifted my shirt and I went red faced, they were all staring and some pointing at my deceptively podgy frame. That was the most embarrassing moment of my life at that point. It was then I decided. CHANGE.
It started with denying myself the weekly allowance of sugar treats from the local shop, the avoidance of all chocolately goods and feeding the potted plants my pudding when mumsy wasn’t looking. This went on for 5 or so months, with little difference to my stature.
It was then I decided to always read the nutrition guide to foods before eating them. I would read everything, cucumbers, bread, carrots, even bleach.
I started to lose weight, to feel better about myself, and I was getting much more friends at school from this calorie counting. Success, finally. I knew I could do better, I wanted to be the thin one and pretty one people look at in gym.
But I didn’t know how. I had done everything I thought sensible to lose weight. So I did the only thing I knew how, a restriction on food. All carbs went out the window.. well not out the window. I had a wardrobe, which I took all the clothes out of and would pile all the sugary, and carb filled foods, as a favour to help my family lose weight too. – at one point there was more food in my wardrobe than the entire larder.
It wasn’t fast enough. So, slowly, food by food, fewer things went past my lips. Slogans appeared on my walls, on my arms, in my head. Written in permanent markers all around my room; ‘TTTB – thin tastes the best’, ‘a moment on the lips’, ‘don’t be weak like the rest.’
lost weight incredibly quickly. I would wake up every morning and feel my stomach, my chest and spit at myself in the mirror, scratch the parts of my body I hated until they bled. Parts which shouldn’t be there.
My routine became regulated I would then do press-ups and sit-ups and go to school. I didn’t eat all day at school or home and would often pass out both at school in lessons, on the bus and at home. After I got back from school I would run to the gym, go on the rowing machine, on the cross trainer on the treadmill and then lengths in the swimming pool. When I got home I would eat a piece of fruit, throw it up, the noise of my wretching masked by a running bath. I would soak in the cold bath for each day to make my body shiver, to make the fat go away. When I pretended to go to bed I would actually be doing sit-ups, press-ups and over an hour of dumbbell lifts, and every other night a several mile midnight jog without anybody noticing. All of this was enhanced by anorexia sites, videos, and recipes which I never went a half hour without. A picture of my ideal body was kept in position of pride in my wallet.
I remember walking into the house one day and collapsing on the stairs. Nobody could revive me, the paramedics were called and they couldn’t revive me, this was my first brush with death.
I just didn’t care, none of my methods were working I couldn’t get to my target weight, my family was breaking up, my friends deserting me, some of my friends had died, and I had been sexually abused. It was then that I contemplated the value of my life, I couldn’t even get thin, what a worthless human I thought I was. I remember placing my neck on a railway track near ‘the den’ when I was on my own. I remember hearing the train roar on the tracks, and I remember a sobbing friend of mine drag me back by the neck and hold me down as a cargo train thundered by mere metres away, the wind blowing my loose shirt around my protruding ribs. I just didn’t care, I decided that nobody would be able to stop me mentally killing myself, so I changed my aim end weight; my aim was now to get into Intensive Care and die.
I remember being forced into hospital and force-fed by my sister, I remember watching a brother force-feed her anorexic sister on Hollyoaks with her. I don’t remember the first few weeks there very well, I was slipping in and out of consciousness. The doctors had told my parents that I had only days to live, it didn’t matter to me; I didn’t feel like saying goodbye to anybody. There are but a few things I remember about that time in hospital, one of them is my sister coming to see me,holding my hand with tears in her eyes, who had driven as soon as she heard and parked in a place she knew she would get a ticket. I remember my heart monitor beeping, and I remember the joy I felt when the alarms went off saying it was far too low. I remember the peace I felt when everything went out of focus and I was slipping away.
Anyway, somehow, I pulled through, and my parents sent me to a hospital my friend designed for eating disorder patients. I remember being unable to walk through the doors, or push them open.
I finally had a body I was proud of. And I was NOT about to give it up.
Months and months of counselling took place, and I grew to know more people, mostly my age with anorexia and bulimia. All who wore the pro ana red bands and the elastic bands to hurt yourself with whenever thinking of. I remember seeing some of them get thinner and thinner, some getting bigger, and healthier. And I remember some dying . I remember not being allowed to go to their funerals. I remember promising one of my best friends before he died, that I would get better, or at least make an effort to. So I started to listen to my doctor’s advice, and widened my range of fruit and tablets I would consume. My doctor jumped at this chance and pushed me the whole way, carbs were back on the table. I was locked up, a prisoner. No scales, pro ana sites, or permission to talk to other patients most the time.
But slowly the experts wore away my hardened anorexic shell and found my empty inside. And I was allowed out on my own more. Not knowing what was left I clutched onto anorexia for my identity for over a year until I heard the news from the latest scans that I had severe organ conditions and osteoporosis of the spine. I then decided enough was enough; I was going to recover from this anorexia. My depression had been ebbed away by medication and no longer wanted to die, or live a life in a wheelchair. – Although for a long time I told the doctors, ‘I would rather be thin and in a wheelchair, than fat and able to walk.’
Anorexia is a funny thing. We personalise it, give it names, like Ana. Ana seperates you from any method of recovery, pulls the rescue ropes away even when they are handed to you. So I am proud to say that beating anorexia nervosa is my greatest achievement to date. Sure it may have taken 2 dozen ambulances a battalion of doctors and a loving family. But I did it on my own, together.
Nobody is every truly alone.