As a member of a generation who are, as you may have read, stuck in a perpetual childhood – and all the socio-economic problems associated with this – I spend much of my time in front of my laptop jumping from one website to another, reading the same drivel, getting distracted by facebook, it’s almost like being back at University; except there I felt like I was working towards something, whereas now I feel like I’m treading water with no search party coming after me. There is a boredom in this existence that is, I’m assuming from various nights out, creating a lot of misremembered nights and painful morningings. Any money coming in is spent on trying to forget the fact that you have no money – a Catch-22 situation for the 21st Century.
For me, boredom, lack of money, hangovers, all those “normal” problems, are not what is most troubling about spending all my time at home, nor do I see Facebook as the most damaging distraction to my eternal job hunt. For me there are much more dangerous things on the internet, more painful things than hangovers to deal with when I wake up in the morning, numbing boredness would be a blessing in all honesty. The reason for this: I’m bulimic (recovering).
Most people will be at least a little familiar with this eating disorder, like most mental illnesses it manifests differently for different people, essentially: eat food, get it out. For me this was a binge purge cycle that lasted from the time I was about 14 to the age of 19, almost 20. There were better days than others, better years than other even; I thought I’d got over it at 16, or at least I thought I had started to, but after a hip and back injury it turned out that I was simply over exercising to compensate – the adrenaline and endorphins were enough to mimic throwing up, I tricked myself – my lowest point was my summer before going away to uni, three years after injuring my hip.
This was also when I was at my heaviest. My most unhappy. But I couldn’t tell anyone, I thought if I told someone that I had an eating disorder, that I was ruining my own life, they would laugh in my face – echoes of “you’re too fat to have an eating disorder” plagued my daily existence, every time I looked in the mirror, went to eat something, went out with friends – going clothes shopping was probably the worst thing (why do they need so many mirrors in such a confined space?!).
My body image is pretty wrecked and I’m still feeling the repercussions of my binge eating – my hormones are still pretty out of whack: what with the pill and large periods of starvation throughout puberty – I didn’t start my period until I was 16, along with a few other symptoms that have ebbed and flowed over the years. I still suffer from anxiety on a daily basis, and even though I’m doing nothing with my life, have no money, and have parents and friends constantly asking how my job hunt is going, the thing that still worries me is opening the fridge.
This is my daily struggle, I’m bombarded with all the things that got me into this situation in the first place – TV, magazines, my mother, my friends, media, society, all the usual stuff – when I’m meant to be “sorting out my future”, all I can think of is how bad I was, how I never want to be there again, this is a full time vocation for me – recovery. It is a daily struggle. I know that when I’m in work, 9am until 6pm, I don’t panic as much; it’s not a sense of achievement at having done a full day’s work; it’s not that I’m tired out or that my brain is completely occupied – 90% of the brain capacity that I do use will always be about what food I eat, how much exercise I have done, and what the scales will look like tomorrow – no, I need a job so that I have structure. Like being back at school.
In looking for a job I’ve read so many non-descript “job descriptions” that I know I’m not right for – all making me feel worse and worse about myself, I don’t like me why would someone else want to work with me? The first couple of weeks out of work were some of the hardest I’ve been through in my life. This is why I decided to stop looking, I needed to stop having outside forces making me feel worse about myself – this is before I could receive rejection letters, or just not hearing anything back – who am I kidding, when do they send rejection letters any more? – I couldn’t deal with that anxiety, I already have too much.
My weight has plummeted and is continuing to do so, but unfortunately, if I don’t get out of the house to run or go to the gym, I just don’t leave the house. When I could handle it I would look at online applications, vacancies, but after a while I realised that all I was doing was creating a new cycle; instead of: eat, binge, puke, repeat, I would shop about for vacancies until I felt like I was nothing or my anxiety had taken me over – either way I would end up feeling too bad to eat. I used my unemployment status as another way to harm myself. So I stopped. I decided to get better, be happy with me and that does not involve fitting myself into someone else’s idea of being a perfect graduate recruit.
To be happy with myself I’ve started doing what I love to do, mainly that’s baking – cupcakes and cookies, all vegan – but I also tie-dye clothes (good when you have no money and want to add some variety to your wardrobe), none of this will make me money, but it will make me happy; it allows me to accept that I do have some talents, something I can share with others and not feel nervous. I’m creating something, not destroying myself.