Today is World Mental Health Day. And in honour of that, here is the first article I ever wrote about my Mental Health and my Eating Disorder. Come to think of it, it was the first time I'd publicly acknowledged that I had a problem. It was in 2015 and I had written my first ever play. An autobiographical one woman show called 'Mother May I'. Writing that show was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Personally and professionally. I literally laid my soul bare- not only on the page- but I then transferred that to the stage! While it was extremely difficult, it was also extremely cathartic and opened up a whole new world to me where I was no longer afraid to just be me. Demons and all.
'My name is Ranae and I am an addict.
I am a Bulimic. There, I said it. That was hard. It's something that people don't like to talk about. Don't like to hear about. It's not a nice subject and because of its' shroud of mystery, many sufferers of eating disorders spend years and years bottling it all up. It is something that many people like to pretend is not happening. It’s easier for everyone if we just don’t think about it. But that is the very attitude which perpetuates the problem. You see, eating disorders are dangerous. They are insidious. They are like a cancer, that slowly take hold of every fibre of the person you used to be until you are unrecognisable. It can start as a very small seed of self doubt, or as a means to controlling a situation where you feel out of control. Whatever the trigger for such an illness, what all ED’s have in common is that they are psychological illnesses defined by an abnormal relationship with food and body image to the detriment of the sufferers physical and mental health. They are ugly and lonely. And suffering in silence can be the most isolating place in the world.
Eating Disorders are the number one cause of death of all Mental Illnesses.
You don’t plan for is this. You never plan to become Bulimic. You would never wish this on yourself. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.
I began controlling my eating patterns as a 16 year old. And for the next 10 years I struggled on and off with Bulimia and Anorexia. It would ping pong back and forth in severity, always coordinating with different events in my life. When life took a turn for the worse or things were out of my control, I would turn to my ED as a source of control. I became an expert at deception. I learned how to deceive those who loved me the most. And I ended up deceiving myself. I actually believed that this was just how I coped and that I wouldn’t be able to live life any other way. But that was a lie. A terrible lie that my Eating Disorder told me. The hardest thing for me was actually admitting that I have an ED. It took me 8 years to actually admit it to myself and that I was not able to beat it on my own. Everyone has a different experience but in my case, I needed professional help. Asking for it was the hardest part. It can be a minefield to know where to turn to, but there are services available. A great place to start is BodyWhys.ie. Their website is a wealth of information regarding all forms of ED’s and they also run support groups for those affected by ED’s whether the sufferer or friends and family members.
This is a mental illness. Just like any other. And it needs to be regarded as such. Let’s do away with the social stigma attached and move forward with how we educate our children and teenagers about their bodies and their self worth. Only through education and support systems will this debilitating illness become less stigmatised. Let’s open up the discussion and make it a little bit easier for sufferers to come forward and ask for the help they need. I am so grateful for how wonderful my family and friends have been. In particular my Fianceé, Audrey, who stuck by me through it all. When everyone else had had enough of my illness, she was the one person who knew I had the strength to get better. She always knew that I would get to this point. Even when I didn’t believe in myself, she did, and that made all the difference.
My hope is that I can make it even a little bit easier for someone to admit to themselves and others that they are suffering from an Eating Disorder. Often to just say those words out loud are the scariest part. It becomes a reality at that point. But only by acknowledging a problem do you have the power to do something about it. The first step is always going to be the hardest. And it is hard. Getting better is hard. I won’t lie to you. But I’m telling you. It is 100% achievable. I will never be fully ‘recovered’ in the tradition sense of the word. Recovery is a choice that you make. A choice you make every single day.
I am an addict. But I choose to live."