I know you think anorexia is your friend.
I know you think anorexia gives you self-worth and makes everything okay. You think anorexia can be a real companion to you, someone that you can completely depend on. But the truth is that it can’t. Anorexia is a false friend who’s not worth sticking with.
I tell you this as someone who used to be best friends with anorexia, and oh my goodness it seemed amazing at the time! Anorexia would give me this purpose, reassure me when I needed it, show me the way I should be living life and teach me what I needed to know, just as a friend should. I saw it – her – as such. She would console me at night when my parents were arguing. Her voice in my head would seduce me, give me comfort and joy when I felt like giving up on life. Anorexia did this like no one else ever had. Anorexia eased my struggle to feel good enough, or like I was valued. I hated feeling emotions and she helped switch them off by turning my focus to exercise and calories so that my mind no longer needed to focus on things that were stressful or made me upset. All I had to focus on was this new friend, and that came before everything.
Months went by and our relationship grew and grew. I didn’t care that I was missing out on so much of life. I didn’t care that I missed meals out with my friends or that family mealtimes were spent with me sneaking food off my plate. My relationship with anorexia was exactly what I thought I wanted and needed.
The months turned into years and I knew that I was being such a good friend to anorexia in return. She would tell me to miss meals, tell me to run that bit harder, and when I did she praised me. Her praise meant the world to me – it made me realise that I was good at something. I got annoyed at times when she belittled me because I wasn’t doing enough for her, even though I thought I was doing my best. She told me I was going to get fat, that I was worthless and deserved to fail. It was the days when anorexia treated me like that, days when I didn’t please her that I would have to push myself harder to be her best friend. I thought that maintaining this friendship was the best thing I’d ever done, and the way she made me feel meant that I didn’t want it to stop – not now, not ever.
There did come a point, however, when I was losing control, and instead of loving my anorexia I began to loathe it. This struggle began over the summer after my GCSEs. I had gone away with some friends and was having a brilliant time but there was so much food around. I couldn’t be a fun and sociable girl at meal times when the thought of food repulsed me! It was then that I realised that I couldn’t have both anorexia and my other friends. Instead of making me happy, anorexia was stressing me out. I was beginning to hate it.
To make matters worse, my school called my mum when I went back after the holidays. I was furious! I didn’t understand why they had to interfere. It made it harder for me to keep hiding my friendship with anorexia because Mum was watching my every move. Missing meals was turning into a huge task and I had no energy left to find her ways to do so. Each night I would get into bed feeling completely fed up. Anorexia was turning in to a manipulative bitch and I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt alone and afraid. No longer would she congratulate me on the day but instead scold me for my lack of self-control. She would shout at me, tell me I wasn’t good enough, guilt trip me into getting up in the early hours of the morning to do more exercise. On those nights, I would lie in bed in a cold sweat, hating what anorexia had done to me.
The next six months were a battlefield. I was battling my parents, and there was the constant fight in my head as I battled with myself –I was at a complete loss as to what to do with my life. I hated who I was, and what I had become. I was so unhappy and I didn’t know what to do about it anymore. I just wanted to be me again. I wanted to forget about calories and exercise and just enjoy life.
It hasn’t been easy all the time, and it has been a bit of a minefield for the people close to me. They don’t always know the right – and wrong – things to say. I remember that people used to comment on how healthy I looked when I was getting better in hospital and putting on weight, and I hated it! I thought they all thought I was fat, and that that was their way of saying it. When people told me that it looked like I was enjoying food, a pang of guilt would always hit me and I would think to myself – `I shouldn’t be enjoying this`.
And as I look back at those times, it angers me that I felt that way. It angers me now that anorexia still makes me feel completely useless at times. It angers me that anorexia sucks me in and tells me I am fat, that I am not good enough. I hate her for what she does to me!
Now when that voice creeps in, I have to reason with myself and tell myself it will all be okay. I know she is telling complete lies when she tells me I am no good at anything, or tries to make me give up on life. It takes time and it takes practise but I know now that I have people around me who support me when that voice gets too loud.
Most of all, I know that anorexia is not worth being friends with. That manipulative voice doesn’t actually understand how you feel; it just sucks you in.
But you deserve more.
That self-worth that you think anorexia gives you will disappear and you will be left with guilt after every single mealtime. You will be left with feelings of resentment about everything and everyone.
I know the battle is hard but you have to do it! You have to find the strength to beat it, to fight those voices and learn to talk about how you feel. You have to learn that you deserve to be appreciated. And yes, you do deserve so much more out of life.
I know so many of you will read this and not believe anything I say. I was like that once (and probably still am slightly stubborn at times). But ask yourself this – what has anorexia really ever done for you? You might have thought you’ve felt some sort of reward, but the truth is that this will not last. Maybe anorexia makes you feel invincible, but this won’t last either, and eventually it will break you down bit by bit. I know it did for me.
When you fight anorexia it gets easier, and you will feel happier, I guarantee you that.
Please try and challenge the manipulative voice of anorexia. Challenge the way you think about yourself and try to be kind to yourself. Please. You deserve it.
– Hope Virgo
If you want to see more from Hope, why not pick up her book, Stand Tall Little Girl? Here’s what you can expect…
‘I know how anorexia makes you feel: you think she is your friend, you think she can solve everything and make you feel amazing … but she will destroy you
and everything around you, piece by piece.’
For four years, Hope managed to keep it hidden from friends and family. But then her world changed forever. With her heart failing, Hope was admitted to a mental health hospital. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life. She had to find the courage to beat her anorexia.
In Stand Tall Little Girl, Hope shares her harrowing, yet truly inspiring, journey. Through her letters and diary entries, Hope tells us how she fought from rock bottom to beat the ‘friend’ that had controlled and nearly destroyed her life. The story of Hope’s recovery will inspire countless others.