Thursday, 5 August 2010

Body image.

I had a meeting with my dietitian and psychologist today and we were discussing a few different things like my diabetes, feeds, weight and so on, when Diane (CF dietitian) asked my if I was interested in writing her a wee bit about some things I went through over the past year or two, so that she can show it to other teenage girls and young adults with CF who have recently admitted to having the same problems that I had recently. I actually feel pretty honoured that she's asked me to do it and really excited at the thought of having the chance to help other girls who are having a bit of a rough time. So I thought I'd write a wee bit on here and try to collect some thoughts and comments of other folk with (of even without CF) that I could include in my piece of writing.

Its really scary posting this up so publicly because I've let only a very small amount of people in my life know about these problems. Not only because I was a bit scared of being judged, but mainly because I've found it hugely difficult to talk openly about it. But now I've heard that other girls are going through the same issues and I've recovered so now its all about helping other people see that you can come out the other side and that there is loads of support available if you need it.

Nearly every girl/woman (and boys!) in the world will tell you that there is something they would want to change about their body, or are unhappy with their appearance or want to loose weight. Its impossible not to! With the huge amounts of skinny models shown in the media, we compare ourselves to them all the time when those types of body's are totally unrealistic and also unhealthy to keep up. Anyone who's tried to throw themselves into a gym routine and healthy eating diet knows that its seriously hard work and usually we give up and give in to that bar of chocolate or munchies your parents have picked up in the weekly shopping. But sometimes people go too far and fall into a dangerous cycle of not eating enough and/or over-exercising. I know this pretty well.

I was always a good, healthy weight when I was growing up. Sometimes actually I got a bit tubby and my mum even helped me loose a few pounds to prevent me becoming overweight - just like her and my sister. Which is pretty surprising because part of CF is that you struggle to keep your weight up and very often those with CF are underweight and its really difficult to gain weight. I never had that problem. But when I reached about 16 years old, I started becoming more aware of my weight and started watching what I ate to try loose some weight. At first it was harmless but then it became obsessive. It began with me loosing weight quite quickly when I was given some painkillers with codeine in them, which made me sick and we later found out I was allergic to them. But the feeling of loosing weight so fast made me feel more confident and people were saying how good I looked and noticed I was thinner. I hid it from everyone but I was totally out of control. Lying to people that I had already eaten to skip meals, counting every single calorie that passed my mouth and limiting myself to ridiculous amounts like 500 calories a day, walking everywhere I possibly could and making myself sick when I couldn't escape from eating. It was all I thought about every hour I was awake and it really did take over. Nothing mattered more than seeing the needle on those scales getting lower and lower. At my heaviest I was 8 and a half stone\size 10 or 12 and at my lightest I was 6 stone/size 4. For someone my height (5ft) that is a big difference. My hips, ribs, spine and bones I'd never seen before stuck out everywhere. My size 4 topshop ultimate skinny jeans were baggy on me. I couldn't sit anywhere that wasn't cushioned because the bones in my bum grinded off the surface when i sat down. My hair became dull and I broke out in terrible spots. I had no energy and felt dizzy and weak every day. That's when I decided I needed help.

I spoke to my dietitian who passed it on to the doctor and eventually I was referred to a psychologist who I met with every week or 2 and I was diagnosed with anorexia. To this day I still want to refuse that I actually had an eating disorder but I suppose part of the recovery is accepting that and moving on. I'm not going to lie, it was a huge struggle to try train my head into thinking normally again and every time I thought I was better, something would set off the trigger in my head and I'd be battling with my own thoughts all over again. I honestly thought I'd have to learn to live with the stupid condition forever. The thing which snapped my back to reality was when I was put forward for a transplant. I was told that if I didn't get my weight up to a healthy level, the transplant team would simply refuse to put me on the list. So I had a choice - start eating and get the chance to extend my life, or stay thin and die. Well I can tell you, I've never even considered the 2nd option. So that brings me up to now. Ever since I made that decision to keep my life, my thoughts on food, weight and body image have been changed completely. I even started taking overnight high-calorie feeds through a tube to help me put on weight because its incredibly hard to put on weight now that I'm unwell. Oh the irony! However, I've pulled myself out of the 'underweight' section on the weight chart and into the 'healthy'. Got a long way to go before I reach my target but I'm just so glad i don't have to battle with my head to get there.

Back to the main point. Its totally understandable for girls and young woman with CF to feel the same way as I did. Possibly even more so than anyone without CF. We are all hounded by doctors and dietitians to keep our weight up as high as possible to help protect us from infection. And I've noticed recently that nearly all the girls with CF have the same problem - all our weight goes on round our tummy's, leaving us with childish shaped bodies (thin arms and legs, bloated stomach with no waist or hips) which can leave us feeling frustrated and unhappy with our appearance.

I'd really love to hear from anyone who's experienced anything like this, has any thoughts on the topic or any ideas of what I could include in my wee article. I'd like it to be much more than just my experience - the more information or help we can give to these girls (and guys), the better! So if you leave a comment on the post I'll get back to you. Or you can send me a message through facebook or email ( if you don't want to publicly post a comment. I really hope I can make a difference. Even if its just for 1 person!

1 comments (+add yours?)

Shirley said...

you are a very brave young women and we are so proud of you it must be the hardest thing to come to terms with an eating disorder and you show more determination than anyone we know. We all understand how hard things have been for you and we just want you to know you are a very special young women and we all love you very much love Uncle Billy Shirley and kids xxxxx

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