What I Wish I Knew About Anorexia
By Frances Shillito
I recently did a big clean out of all my old clothes and belongings at my Mother's house - the house where I grew up. I came across sweaters, shirts, vests, dresses, and jewelry, all of which I haven’t worn in years. I cleaned with abandon. Nothing was safe. Out most of it went, into a big bag for charity. The pile of clothes grew smaller and smaller as the space inside the closet grew bigger until I came to the bottom of it all. Tucked away quietly was an old shoe box (old skateboarding shoes to be precise). Written artistically across the top of the box was the word: "Specials."
I could sit here all day and tell you about every little bit and piece I found inside the box, but I won't. What I will say, though, is that the contents of this box brought back a few memories for me. It evoked new thoughts and even left me feeling a nostalgia that resonated inside of me. It helped me remember what it felt like to be a teenager again. A nostalgia so strong I was able to recall my favorite songs, smells, and feel exact emotions.
I started my website Life As It Is Now to be the voice I wish I had heard when I was at the beginning of my Anorexia. I have done my absolute best to be exactly that, all the way through my journey. However, finding this box of "specials" and experiencing its triggering feelings helped me dig a little deeper into my past and evoke the extra courage I need to speak honestly to the ones who need it most.
So, using this little nostalgia bump positively, I’m going to upcycle the emotions, transfer them into this article and talk about what I now know about my struggle with Anorexia, what I think influenced me, and what helped me. What do I wish others knew about it all and if I could go back to my younger self, what would I say? Or more importantly, what will I say to you? Ultimately, advising my younger self, but technically advising those of you reading this, too.
I know many things about Anorexia now. Many, many things. But the main thing? She’s a little bitch that brings a life sentence of lies and takes control over someone.
She makes her victims submissive.
She leaves the outside world confused, hurt, and angry.
She puts people on a quest for someone to blame.
She forces loved ones to watch Anorexia end the life of someone they care for.
What I wish others knew about Anorexia is: no one chooses to invite her in. No one chooses to give life to her voice. No one is to blame for her existence.
Anorexia, to me and in my experience, is a person who exists in disguise of conscience, leading the sufferer to be misled into thinking, and also not knowing, when it’s her speaking inside their head and when it’s them.
What I know now about Anorexia is that, in most cases, it has always been there, chemically wired up within the brain awaiting its release into the sufferer's mind like a flight response to something stressful or traumatic.
What I wish others knew is that it is not a decision somebody made one day when they saw one too many skinny people in magazines.
So, if I could go back and talk to my younger self, especially after reading the notes and letters folded up neatly in that box of keepsakes, I would tell her that it’s OK to be different. It's OK to feel different. In fact, you may not be different. It might just be your mind telling you that you are, it might be playing tricks on you.
It’s society playing tricks on you.
It’s the bullies playing tricks on you.
It’s OK to feel angry; it’s OK to feel stressed, it’s OK to feel like the black sheep.
It’s OK to be the black sheep!
The last thing I now know about Anorexia that I would tell my younger self if I could? Don’t throw that fucking sandwich away.
It won’t solve your problems, it won’t numb the pain, it won’t make you pretty, it won’t make you succeed and it sure as hell won’t make anybody love you more.
It will kill you.
Frances Shillito - Guest Writer
Frances Shillito is one half of the professional hair and make-up duo “ShillitoSisters.” When Frances was 15 years old she began struggling with Anorexia. She recovered at age 19, but relapsed in her early 20s. Now, fully recovered from her illness, she writes about her journey on her blog “Life as it is Now.” Her goal with the blog is to be a positive example of what recovery from eating disorders can look like. She aims to be a helping hand, to raise awareness, and to fight back at the social media platforms that aren’t doing enough to protect young, vulnerable minds. You can follow Frances on her blog and find her on Instagram @lifeasitisnow