This week I came across a blog that had me close to tears, so contacted it’s talented, brave blogger, Sophie, and asked her to write a piece for us about her life as a mum with anorexia.

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I’ve read and watched a fair bit about eating disorders over the years, but the one thing I’ve never managed to find any advice on how family members can support their loved one who is battling such a controlling illness.

Sophie kindly agreed to write about the types of support she has received over the years, and what she has found works best for her:
 

My name is Sophie.
I’m a Mummy, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister and a Friend; and I have a terrible
secret. I am in a relationship with a girl who is slowly killing me. My love
for her is breath taking at  times, and
yet I despise her with every part of my being. My Husband knows about her of
course. He has watched me fall in and out of love with her for the better part
of a decade.

 
Her name is Anna.
 
Anna is beautiful
and confident and strong. She makes me feel safe and secure, and she has never
left my side when I have needed her. She has seen me through eight tattoos, a
marriage, a baby, a miscarriage, oh and we mustn’t forget that dreadful
decision to cut my hair into a pixie cut. She has also pushed my relationship
with my Husband to the brink of separation, she has broken the hearts of
everyone that I love, and she has watched my health deteriorate to the point
that my hair is literally falling out.
 
I am Sophie and I
am anorexic.
 
Is it my ambition
to be super-slim and gorgeous? No. As a complete raving hippy, I firmly believe
that beauty comes from within. No, this disease is all about control and
safety. Some may say that I’m quirky in the way that I only eat my muesli with
a teaspoon, or how I can’t eat my lunch until after 2:30. It may appear healthy
that I cycle 40km on the exercise bike per day, and then I walk for at least an
hour. It may seem childish that I can only drift into what is often an
extremely disturbed sleep by holding onto a teddy, having fluffed each of my
pillows exactly 43 times. These behaviours keep the delicate balance between
myself and Anna steady. Life is largely about compromise. If I cycle for an
hour, then I am okay to have a snack after dinner. If I walk for an hour I can
have three small meals today. This is no way to live. This is merely an
existence.
 
Eleven months ago,
after nine years of hiding my affair, I decided to come clean. The news of my
illness came as no surprise to anyone, they already knew, it was I who was
turning a blind eye. I accepted a place with a therapist and I finally stopped
lying. I refused to go into hospital choosing to stay at home and rely on my
family instead. In hindsight, having watched the life drain from my loved ones,
I should have accepted the help and relieved them of the burden. The first few
months saw endless tears. My Mum would phone me every single day
panic-stricken, she had to hear my voice to know that I was still alive. My
Husband’s fingers would stroke my hip bones as they protruded from my back,
checking for bedsores like the Consultant showed me. With my immune system
weakened I caught virus after virus. One day, my usually quiet Dad came to pick
up my Daughter so that I could recuperate. As he turned to leave he looked back
at me and asked me to tell him that I would get better, and that I wouldn’t
leave everyone behind. I will never forget the sad look in his eyes.
 
What broke my
heart the most was the guilt I felt towards my beautiful Daughter. Beatriz. My
life, my best friend, my everything. A miracle baby after struggling with
infertility due to my low weight and cysts on my ovaries, she came into the
World and she made me feel human again. In twenty-seven days she will turn two.
She never witnesses me crying, she doesn’t know that it hurts so much for me to
lie on the floor with her, every ounce of my energy is channeled into making
her happy. We feed the ducks, we smile, we laugh, we go on adventures. We dance
in the kitchen, we pretend to be monkeys, we talk in deep voices just because
it sounds funny. I take her out for lunch and sit sipping my tea with skimmed
milk. She is too young to wonder why Mummy doesn’t eat with her.
 
My wonderful
parents have been my strength all along. They have seen me through years of
self-harm in High School, Depressive episodes that stripped me raw, becoming so
weak that a mere cold could kill me. As a Mother now myself I finally
understand how hard it is for them, perhaps that is why I accepted help. They
have had to learn how to care for me and how to manage all of my quirks and
mood swings. They have come to understand that simply yelling at me to eat more
won’t work, in fact the anxiety from that would drive me to eat less. After
their initial upset, they realised that crying whenever they saw me didn’t give
me any confidence in my recovery. I needed to believe that I could get better.
I needed to feel human. They came on holiday with us last year after my weight
dropped so low that I was technically not supposed to fly. Holidays as a child
were always full of donuts for breakfast and picnics for lunch, steaming slices
of cheesy pizza for dinner and glistening scoops of ice cream for dessert. Mum
and Dad understood that it wasn’t going to be like that, and as much as it hurt
them, they learnt to just ask me once if I wanted something, and then to leave
it when it became too much. There is a fine line between encouraging disordered
behaviours and slowly challenging them. My parents have found that line and
they are paramount in my recovery.
 
As difficult as it
is for Mum and Dad, it is hardest on my beautiful husband, Roly. He has sat and
held my hand as I have screamed at him in panic, he has fetched me tissues to
dry my eyes. When we first met I was curvy, vivacious and full of life. He has
had to sit back and watch the girl that he loves turn into an anxious,
withdrawn shadow, merely floating through each day without really feeling.
During my years of self-harm, he cleaned my wounds. He has driven to the shops
in the middle of the night to get food for me because I have suddenly decided
that everything in the full-to-bursting fridge frightens me. Earlier this year
as I lay on the sofa, dazed and frightened from taking too many diet pills he
calmly found my stash and emptied every bottle into the wheelie bin. There was
no anger from him, no accusations of lying and hiding things. On those rare
occasions when we go out for ‘lunch’, he patiently waits as I check the food on
offer in each café within a mile radius before making a decision. In many ways
he has given up his life for me. He used to listen to music and enjoy the odd
pint of cider and a game of pool. Now he sits in every evening and tells me how
proud he is that I have just managed to eat a pepper and some couscous.
 
My relationship
with Anna extends through my whole family and my friends. They have all been
yelled at, cried at, stood-up when socialising has seemed too much. Through it
all they have been patient, and that has been the most precious thing. It is
only human to react when you are faced with angry words and lies, and yet they
have remained calm, allowing me to figure things out with Anna, and they have
always accepted my apologies and moved on. They take an interest in my therapy
but they understand not too push it. They have learnt that Anorexia is not a
shameful thing, it is a deeply psychiatric illness, an addiction of sorts; and
they know that as with recovery from any addiction, the impetus must come from
me.
 
It may be that as
you are reading this you are recognising someone that you love, a Daughter, a
Son, a friend. It is understandable that your first instinct is to help them,
but first they must want to help themselves. Understand that any eating
disorder is a web full of anxiety, rules and order. The key to approaching the
issue is keeping calm, and acknowledging that the person you love is still in
front of you, they are just trapped and they need your support. Accept that
there will be good times, and times where you just want to lock yourself away
and cry. There is no cure, and that is one of the most important things to
understand. Your loved one will always battle with the voice, however they can
learn to manage it, and you can too.
 
Eleven months on I
am still receiving therapy. No, I am not in recovery, I am referred to as a
functioning anorexic. Meaning that whilst my weight is low and my diet is
extreme, I am maintaining the level that I am at and I am living a relatively
normal life.
 
If you are reading this and you are
feeling Anna stirring inside you, it is time to really look at yourself. Accept
how yellow and pale you are, how thin and blemished your skin is, how bruised
you are, and how much your bones ache. Acknowledge that it isn’t nice to be
freezing cold, sat underneath a blanket with a hot water bottle as the Summer
rolls upon us. Know that you are important, learn to love even just one tiny
part of yourself and accept the help of the people around you. Being skinny isn’t
living, being proud of yourself is.

Thank you Sophie for writing such a heartfelt piece about your life, and I really do hope you continue to gain control over Anna, so that Sophie gets as much time with her gorgeous daughter and husband as possible!

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