Control Wars; The Battle of Self

The difference of a year…

Exactly one year ago I was preparing for my upcoming American adventure, saving every penny I earned, and enjoying every moment of anticipation. I was also preparing for my then-best friend’s wedding in Spain where I would play the role of photographer for her big day, and was looking and feeling the best I had ever done so.

One year and twenty-nine pounds later the same cannot be true.

During my four days in Spain last year I worked as a slave to ensure A’s happiness, was neglected as a person in doing so, and was starved – beyond my control – in the process.

I was at the height of my eating disorder and anyone that has ever experienced this would understand the implications to such a person of another person controlling when they can eat.

It doesn’t sound hard to step away from something when you need to eat; however A is a high-maintenance person on a great day, throw in ‘her’ day and a new level of princess has arrived.

As a person that puts others first, at home and in work, I was at her mercy. Knowing this wedding, for me, was work I set aside most of my feelings and did as I was told when I was told. I assisted in every aspect and documented every moment on film.

By the end of the second day I realised I hadn’t eaten since I left England.

I only realised this when everyone else was eating and I was taking photos, as I was constantly told to do. As soon as I lay the camera down I was instructed to pick it up. And I did so.

That meal was a selection of finger-food prepared by A’s grandmother. When everyone was preoccupied with food I attempted to eat and found that, as a vegan, there was nothing I could eat but dates. I threw down a handful and was promptly told to pick the camera up again as the mother of the bride wanted to make a speech to the ten of us.

A few moments into the speech I experienced camera-trouble and quietly told A. The mother heard, stopped speaking in the middle of the ’emotional expression of love’, and waited until the camera was ready to document her moment. When the camera still would not work, the mother let out an angry sigh and left the room. Speech abruptly ended. Why make a heartfelt speech when there was going to be no evidence!

Not a single person but myself found this bizarre, the entire room simply continued eating without a flicker of an eyelid.

The entire wedding was the single strangest human interaction experience I have ever lived through; nothing was said or done unless the camera would document the ‘moment’.

I examined everyone at several points in each day watch me – or rather, my camera lens – through the corner of their eye, and only when it was in their direction, become animated with love for the family around them. When the lens was turned each moment stopped. It became a game.

As I was dealing with just nine people in the entire wedding party I had thought my main focus would be on A and her husband. I had already known A would be demanding. What I hadn’t calculated in was her family.

Nine A’s.

Each one a diva, princess, controller, dominator. Each one wanting to be the centre of attention.

Because of this my basic need to eat was lost on them. When I wasn’t photographing A, I should be photographing the mother, and if I wasn’t photographing her the father would step forth, and so on.

When I did set the camera aside to grab myself some water I was told to pick it up and “you’re missing moments!!!!!” was yelled at me.

By the wedding day I was exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, and pissed off.

We were in the south of Spain in May. I hadn’t eaten more than 400 calories in three days and had had approximately five glasses of water in this time.

I was in tears the morning of the wedding.

I was staying in A’s grandmother’s apartment and had no spare time to buy food let alone drink water.

The night of the wedding, after the most bizarre (I’m using this word a lot but trust me it is the only word I have for this experience) wedding I will ever be present at – the groom storming back to his apartment five minutes after saying I Do simply to “be away” from the bride, him then locking himself in his bedroom for a further two hours refusing everyone’s begging of him to come to the reception before remerging like nothing had happened, to name one thing in a long list – my hunger was finally noted when, during the main course that I was a third of the way through demolishing, A sweetly asked if I needed a break. The genuine, heartbreaking relief that struck me made me well up as I exhaustedly and happily told her ‘yes’.

My relief lasted a second. She instantly and happily turned to her father and, indicating towards me, said “ok, we’re going to take a break from eating and take some photos over there!” With a flick of her head I was to get up.

I have never held tears back so hard as I did in this moment.

When I returned to my place at the table once A was satisfied she had enough decent photos my remaining food had been removed.

When dessert came A indicated with the flick of her head and her neck stretched in my direction to almost breaking point that I was to get up and take photos. It was only then that I realised my hunger had been noticed by at least one person. A’s father turned to A and said “I think you’ve got enough photos now A! Let her eat her dinner!” Trying not to cry again I watched as A angrily snapped at her father that there weren’t enough photos and it was Her.Wedding.Day!

The following day I had my first day off before I flew back the next day. A was spending her first day as a married woman happily lounging in the beautiful 5 star cottage her parents had paid for, or so I thought, and I could finally relax.

I had been told on my first day in Spain that her family would not be comfortable with me wearing my shorts so I had spent the entire experience, aside from the wedding day, without food or water in black jeggings and my shoulders covered in the Spanish May heat. The day after the wedding, with A not around, I wore my shorts, drank sangria, and ate pizza and chips until I couldn’t eat any more.

The following day I flew home. I haven’t seen A since.

That night I went out drinking with my sister. I had kept her updated during my time in Spain with tearful phone calls and messages. When I got back I had lost a further five pounds from my already tiny frame.

This event triggered my eating disorder switch.

So angered at being starved I began eating to spite my experience. And I didn’t stop.

After a month I had gone from 7stone 7lb to 8stone. I felt huge. I was still 4lb below my pre-anorexia weight but that 4lb was too close to me, I couldn’t break my new eating pattern.

With a month to go before I flew to America I was desperate.

I confessed to my sister my eating troubles I had been battling for a year. I told her I knew every calorie in everything I ate. I told her I would binge on 6,000+ calories and then starve with 300 calories for days to make sure the weight didn’t show.

I would run 5 miles after a binge and work out every day every chance I got; running a bath – sit-ups, during lunch break – no food; sit-ups/push-ups/walking half an hour, after work – 2 hours at the gym and a run home, watching tv – push-ups/sit-ups/exercise DVD, in bed – sit-ups/push-ups. I couldn’t stop.

There is no denying my body looked incredible. I was stronger than I had been in years and felt fit.

I didn’t shy away from cameras and was confident in everything I wore.

But as soon as I broke this year-long routine my mind didn’t know what to do. I had a new obsession: eating. I would binge, then forget I had binged the day before and binge again. I stopped going to the gym that month because I was eating so much junk food I felt lethargic and ill and couldn’t stomach a run. I stopped doing sit-ups before my bath because I was too tired from the junk food.

During my first month in America I gained 10lb. I was now 8stone 10lb. I hadn’t weighed this much in three years.

Looking at the photos now I wasn’t a bad size. I looked healthier than I had looked in years but my face was noticeably rounder. I remained at this weight until my third month in the States. When I got to San Diego I was no longer walking around every day. I was fixed, twenty metres from the beach and with everything and everyone closer than anywhere I have ever known. From then on my weight grew. By the time I left Australia and landed back in England – seven months after leaving – I had gone from 8stone to 9stone 8lb.

22lb heavier than when I left.

One year ago I was my most confident. I was anorexic. Now I have very little confidence in my appearance and have the exact opposite of anorexia.

After eleven months of binging I am struggling with how a person eats normally. My weight has gotten out of control.

People say when you starve yourself the weight comes back twice as hard and twice as fast. I don’t feel this is entirely due to your metabolism being messed around so severely; I believe it is your mindset that does this. You jump from one addiction to the next. One method of control to the next. One self-destruction to the next.

I hope you, the reader, never have to go through this.

I have been battling my weight for two years and have seen myself at both extremes.

Battling for normality.



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