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During the depths of my eating disorder, I was completely controlled by an anorexic voice– a voice that would never leave, looming always over my shoulder. This voice would scream at me for eating, bullying me for every calorie I consumed and telling me I didn’t deserve it.
No matter how hard I tried I could not overcome this voice. I was tubed (force-fed) because I didn’t have the courage to confront this lethal disorder. For some, an NG tube is a lifeline and can help people in their recovery but for me it was entirely the opposite.
I would fight and scream and avoid being hooked up to the feeding machine at all costs. It is a part of my life that brings tears to my eyes every time I think back to that terrified little 14-year-old me. There is really no way to describe the intense fear I would feel as the liquid calories slowly made their way up the long tube, climbing up, getting closer and closer to my nose. I’d frantically pull away from it, in a desperate attempt to stop it in its tracks, even if that was impossible. The only way I could describe it is like this: imagine that you are being held down by strangers and they tell you that they have been instructed to saw off your arm with a blunt penknife and to use no anesthetic– wouldn’t you try to escape, even if it was futile?
As it passed up my nose I knew what it was it– it was entering my stomach. A thick, sticky, and foul-smelling liquid full of unfamiliar ingredients that knocked me sick. Brown… almost as if it was already in somebody’s stomach.
Every "feed" felt like a sin. I was dirty inside. Unclean. Impure. I would scratch at my stomach for hours, wanting to crawl out of my skin. Sickening, and worse I’d have to sit for hours ruminating on that brown sticky liquid slowly being digested in my stomach. The juices slowly breaking down the fats and proteins. My stomach full, sore and bloated.
This wasn’t recovery.
After discharge, I adopted my healthy eating habits again– cutting out sugar and oils but unfortunately restricting severely too. I was terrified of dairy… for the saturated fat I thought. Turns out I was wrong.
In February 2016, I decided that I wanted to go vegan. I think I subconsciously knew that dairy was unnatural for us and should very rightly so make us feel sick when we eat it, but I hadn’t established this link. After being educated about the dairy industry and the egg industry I went vegan and never looked back.
For the first time in two years, the food I was eating wasn’t knocking me sick. Yes, I still had that voice in my head telling me that I was unworthy and that I didn’t deserve to eat, but that dirty feeling I had was slowly disappearing. The fear foods I had were slowly diminishing as I dived in and tried (vegan) yogurt, cheese, and milk for the first time in two years. Not only were these options healthier for me, I was confident that I was no longer eating the product of exploitation in my breakfast, lunch, and tea. My mind was shifting. Foods that I had never previously tried such as walnuts, avocados, and brazil nuts, I embraced, recognising how healthy and natural they were for me. The fridge became a garden of fruit and vegetables instead of stolen breast milk and stolen eggs.
My eating disorder remained incredibly strong, but I had right on my side. The food that I was eating was natural, healthy, green, yellow, purple, red and orange. I was finally winning– competing with my eating disorder, telling it that a big bowl of greens ARE allowed!
Becoming vegan was a life changer for me. I felt alive. I felt well. I felt clean.
For years, I had indulged in food that didn’t belong to me– in chocolate bars and ice-cream. I had indulged in the bodies of animals that were innocent and didn’t deserve to die– in Sunday dinners and trips to McDonalds. You could almost argue that anorexia was right– I should have felt guilty for this!
I saw what humanity was doing– exploiting animals in every way they could think of and in unimaginably cruel ways. I could have taken this out on myself, like I usually would have, but instead I made the decision to stand up for these beings that I had once used. I became an activist.
I knew the suffering that these animals had been through; intense trauma and abuse. They'd been trapped in places where they didn’t have a voice, trapped where they weren’t respected or cared for, trapped in a place where their dignity was taken away from them and, at the end of the day, it was another who would have a choice about whether they lived or died.
During my time at school I had been bullied and trapped in a system that pushed and pushed for better grades and for everybody to be the same, like an army of "intelligent robots" with no individuality or personality, used purely to make the UK education system seem superior.
During my time in hospital, I was sectioned and lost all control of my life. I couldn't make any decisions for myself. I lost all my dignity and I was abused and bullied by the staff. Left with a broken clock in my head that liked to stop at twelve and six and re-enact events that no one wanted to witness.
I could empathise with these animals, as I had felt a slice of their suffering. The scale of their suffering I cannot entirely understand– for many it’s almost incomprehensible, but I was determined to try and make things right.
The vegan community became my family and my friends. I had a place where I felt like I belonged and where I was accepted for who I was– a health conscious freak that knew about every vitamin and had a long list of foods prepared to answer the incessant question, “Where do you get your protein from?”; an environmentalist who would happily play her part in political rallies; and an animal advocate for all of the voiceless. Going vegan made me find my reason.
The animals became my reason for fighting – for them and for me. I had to be strong, for the victims of the deplorable animal agricultural industry. Billions of animals needed me. Trillions of animals need me. I could see their pain and hear their cries. They sounded so familiar – just like me when I was so helpless, lost, and terrified.
I am healthier now than I ever was before at a healthy weight when I was consuming junk and processed food without any thought of where it had come from. I’m more confident now than I was before my eating disorder– finally starting to find out where I fit in society and who it is I am. I’m happier now than I was before– knowing that I'm a more conscious person who thinks before I consume. I think about the impact of my decisions. I know that I am a better person by going vegan, in every aspect.
Many people with eating disorders go vegan, from my personal experience, because they possess compassion that goes beyond their own kind. The people I met in the hospital were the most beautiful souls I have ever met; ironically, the last people on earth that deserved anorexia nervosa. I know that embracing veganism helped them in their recovery. We can finally take control of our eating disorder and do something good for the animals we love.
Instead of being hooked up to a machine being forced fed cow breast milk formula and other forms of suffering, I’m eating an array of healthy foods and I’m out there every week advocating for these innocent beings that have ultimately saved my life. I’m advocating for these animals that don’t deserve to die.
Veganism, I thank you! Thank you to all the vegan activists out there and to the makers of the vegan documentaries that have opened my eyes to the horrors of the animal agriculture industry. You’ve saved me from the grasp of my eating disorder and made me a better person!
I’m positive that slowly but surely, my eating disorder will go, and I’ll be free. And I know that and, slowly but surely, all animals will be liberated...for the vegan movement won’t stop until every cage is empty and every animal is free!
By Unity Addison © July 2018