When I told a few friends I had entered recovery for an eating disorder, I began to feel better immediately. I told them we never had to discuss the matter again – that I was letting them know simply because I could not go on leading a double life anymore. My double life had exhausted me to the point of near collapse. Knowing my secret was out in the open, I could start to make amends with food in a healthy, honest way.
Then I went home for a week. University had been rough and I needed the time out, especially because my feelings were turbulent and I was getting no work done anyway. I told my mum everything. I cried. I cried some more. I felt so ashamed to admit it; a cruel part of me saw myself as a failure. But I felt relieved to get it off my chest.
Three weeks later, and I’m home for the holidays. My sister is home, too. Here’s the problem: I still haven’t told her I am in anorexia recovery. She has no idea; I’ve hidden the disorder from her for months with baggy clothing and made-up excuses. We’re both University students and we both have exams next term. Our mother is out at work most of the time during the day so we revise in the kitchen together.
At the moment, I don’t know whether or not to tell her about the eating disorder. I don’t want to distract her or make her sad. She worries a lot about our family – she hates when anyone has something as small as a headache and gets worked up that our symptoms might be related to something much worse. She worries that members of the family are ill and hiding it from her.
She’s also a chronic symptom-Googler, which on many occasions has led her to believe that she might be dying, when really it’s just a common cold. She knows she’s a hypochondriac. But anxiety is a bizarre, irrational thing, so I can’t blame her.
Most of the time I’m fine. I’m eating well and gaining weight, which is great physical progress, but every now and again a wave of anxiety hits me and I have terrible panic attacks. I shut myself away in my bedroom when this happens, but my fear is my sister will be around to witness a future panic attack and I will be forced to explain everything to her.
I want to tell her. In fact, I need to. I owe it to my sister to be honest with her, and there’s a chance if she finds out some other way then she’ll go on to believe I’m hiding all sorts of other health problems from her.
But what if I do tell her and she googles anorexia and reads all sorts of horrible things? Even I have been terrified reading things about anorexia online. I don’t want to put her under any duress or give her sadness – especially as exams are only around the corner.
For now I won’t tell her. For now I will carry on, hoping each day that I can wear a smile on my face. I’m not sure this is sustainable, though. I’m home for over a week and my weight is bound to increase dramatically in that time. I predict I’ll have several breakdowns and it’s hard hiding them.
Yet again, I’m leading a double life, and it’s still tiring.