Mental illness and Eating Disorders are, and will always be, issues close to my heart, both literally and metaphorically. I am not one of these cool trendy people, jumping on the mental illness fashion bandwagon to try and sell you something or get social media validation by saying this, I have my own personal reasons for such a claim. Severe Anorexia slowed my heart, Binge eating disorder made it beat far to fast and both food extremes were life threatening and nearly killed me. I have lost many friends to eating disorders and it causes me deep heart-wrenching pain when I think of all the beautiful souls who should be alive today, but are not because of mental illness and eating disorder related diseases from anorexia to obesity. It is because of this reason I always end each letter I write “with love from my now timely beating heart, Lala xxx” and because of this that I make it my life’s goal to help save lives and end this madness.
When I was 23 I was a successful professional with an amazing job and was a marathon running athlete. I ran a marathon and 44 half marathons in one year. However with poor nutritional advice I developed athletes triad (a condition where you exercise so much your muscle: fat ratio gets too much muscle and not enough fat and causes severe weight loss). This combined with my ambitious personality and a severe swirling maelstrom of anxiety (both from a busy positive life and overstimulating and happy job and from more negative insecurities), I had at the time, stole my appetite and led to me trying to find calm in the chaos by controlling my food I ate and I developed Anorexia. In April 2017 I was rushed to hospital with severe bradycardia (extremely slow heart rate) as my heart rate went down from a healthy 60-80 beats per minute for a young person, to an unhealthy 24 beats per minute, the lowest heart rate my doctor had ever seen in 20 years working in eating disorders. A simple spur of the moment decision not to go to a free yoga class and instead to go to a GP appointment, saved my life. Malnutrition had shrunk my heart and I had “mitral valve regurgitation” with my heart echocardiogram from the ambulance reading “age not entered, assumed to be 50 years old for purpose of ECG interpretation.” I received amazing hospital treatment, fantastic home care (my mum saved me SO many times) and I fully recovered in 2018, only to then fully relapse in 2019 and then again in early 2020 as anorexia is a hard thing to fight. Looking for a quick fix or magical “cure” from my anorexia, and more than aware of the devastating effects of anorexia on my body (osteoporosis and infertility) and relationships (my boyfriend dumped me for it and my family got to their wits end and my sister and brother moved away), I started secretly binge eating. It was to punish myself with food for my anorexia, using food as a weapon against myself. I thought I would “get him back” and stop my brother from hating me and I felt so much guilt for all the stress my anorexia was causing people so I started eating huge amounts of whatever food I could find, rapidly and negatively in secret- easy to do over Covid-19 when locked at home and no one to see this. This led to tachycardia (rapid heart rate) when my heart rate went to 100 beats per minute as all the fatty and high carbohydrate food I ate sent my heart rate through the roof. Both Bradycardia and Tachycardia are extremely dangerous and life threatening.
Recovery for me has thus been about finding the balance. I always joke that both anorexia and obesity food extremes cause you hair to fall out (they are so frustrating they literally “tear your hair out” as the popular saying goes) leaving you “Baldilocks” (my nickname for myself). Well, for me recovery has been about doing the Goldilocks Baldilocks and finding my perfect porridge, not too hot and not to cold; just right. No over or under nutrition; but the happy medium called healthy. Between thin and fat is healthy. Between anorexia and obesity is healthy and between too slow a heart and too fast a heart is a heart that beats on time, 60 beats a minute.
What annoys me about eating disorders, is the triviality that people place around them. There is a big difference between anorexia and undereating and binge eating is not just overeating. Undereating is for example, a fad diet. This is when you say do a detox or try a new popular and unsustainable diet that leads to weight loss. Anorexia is not this. No consciously chosen diet would take you to the point of organ failure. Anorexia is a complex biological disorder which involves imbalances in physical biochemistry which lead to rapid and uncontrollable weight loss. Binge eating is caused by biochemical changes in your brain where food becomes an addictive high and you lose your satiety signals and so can eat up to six or seven times the daily food calorie intake in one sitting. Both are life threatening and both kill people. They are no joke. They kill people like they killed my friends Becks and Steph and Emily and led to Ryan killing himself and they ruin lives. Many people I know have the bones of eighty year olds at twenty or are infertile, deprived of the opportunity of a loving family of their own, due to eating disorders. Eating disorders cause incredible pain to individuals and their families and friends and they eat away at the joys of life. So many happy memories I have are tainted by my eating disorder. At the heart of eating disorders is people and my heart breaks at the waste of joy and life to them. They took so much from me and so yes, I care about them and yes, I will do whatever is in my power, with all my heart, to stop them.
With love from my now timely beating heart, Lala xxx
COPYRIGHT LAURA CAMPBELL 12/10/2020