#NEDAwareness Week- Eating Disorders and My Debt
Living with an Eating Disorder is expensive. However there are other, more subtle connections between eating disorders and falling into debt than might first appear. Eating Disorders are often a marker of other problems, which a person might try to deal with through the use of behaviours and rituals.
Debt and eating disorders can work together in a vicious cycle, whether this is eating disorder leading to debt, or problems with debt leading to eating disorder behaviours.
Please find below another untold story in the honour of #NEDAwareness Week ‘Let’s Get Real’, on debt and eating disorders. The high cost of eating disorders means that living with it can contribute to an individual falling into debt. However, other, less obvious connections between debt and eating disorder can also be seen. The depressant effect which eating disorder has on the brain generally results in poorer judgement, causing a person to impulsively make decisions they would not normally make.
This can influence purchasing decisions as well as social ones! A series of impulse purchases, which seemed like good idea under the influence of ED, could, clearly, have an impact on a person’s level of debt. As well as this, eating disorder can, in both the long and short term, have a effect on productivity in the work-place. Frequent use of behaviours are likely to increase the number of sick days a person takes from their job. We hope that story will shed some light on how expensive eating disorders can be, how the behaviours have a high cost and how it completely blinds person to the stark reality of life.
In 2003 I started university with a very low confidence. I was in my late teens and very shy. I remember how I skipped freshers week and when my lectures started, I cried non-stop. I felt lost in this jungle. The university was huge and there were so many people. I felt I didn’t fit in. All of a sudden everything was wrong, my hair, my body, my clothes.
And it was during those times, in a quest to fit in I planned to go further ahead with my disordered way of life. I was already very conscious of my weight and tried everything to shed those kilos. The time which should have been spent on studying was spent fretting about my hair and clothes and how much weight I could lose in next few months.
It was during these times, I was given a credit card by my bank. I wish to this day that lady hadn’t offered it to me. She told me it will be a great asset during my student years.
With this credit card, I was given a go ahead to go and purchase as many slimming and beauty products I could buy.
The only thing I didn’t have the confidence to use was make up. I hated the attention it drew to oneself.
Soon I was receiving parcels in mail. I opened each parcel with great enthusiasm. It filled me with awe. With yoyo dieting I was also losing my hair.
I remember how hair extensions were a complete new phenomena then. Not many people had heard of them. In order to disguise the effects of fad dieting and lack of nutrition in my body, I started using hair extensions. They would arrive all the way from America with a hefty custom duty to pay on them.
I was also buying anything that had to do with slimming. I tried body wraps, sauna treatments, belts, pills, shakes, and very expensive diet plans. 90% of the products failed.
I scraped through my first semester. By the time I entered the second year of university I had achieved 60% of how I wanted to look. Little did I know the consequences of this obsession?
I didn’t once look at maxed out credit card and store card bills. It’s OK, once I graduate and I get a job, I’ll pay it all off. I was also working 4 hours on weekends in a high street store. I received 40% off on clothes. And my pay was mainly spent on paying 60% for high street end fashion brand.
By the time second year of my university ended, I was £7000.00 under debt. After achieving the perfect hair with the help of salon extensions, now my focus was on perfect clothes and then perfect body.
Every day I found new faults in my body. I purchased an arm toner because I thought my arms were too fat. I then purchased tummy toner and then leg toner. Next came obsession with my teeth and I splashed out on teeth whitening products.
I was also consuming all the pills on the market. My monthly pay from my part time work was just enough to pay the nominal charges on my credit card.
I graduated from university with a debt of over £15,000. My university fee was paid by my parents. I had no student loan, just a massive credit card bill.
Now the reality sank in and I had my first break down. I couldn’t tell my family about my debt, but I was worried.
By the time I entered university for my postgraduate studies, I was a complete mess. I gave up my part time job to focus on my studies. I wanted to walk out with distinction. It was an ideal program with many great career opportunities.
By now my ED was at its worst. I spent hours strapped to one slimming machine or other. I spent days fasting and all this had an affect on my performance.
It doesn’t matter how much I tried to focus on my studies, the dieting and quest to lose weight took precedence over all.
Mid-way through the degree I had another breakdown and I had to defer my dissertation. By the time I completed my postgraduate studies, I was a completely different person.
My mind was dying. I had zero energy to complete any task. My room once an epitome of cleanliness and organisation was a complete mess now. I was put on anti-depressants and I spent days hibernating in my room.
The more weight I lost the more I lost interest in life and people.
I no longer socialised, read books or used hair extensions. Instead I took on head scarf. I lost interest in clothes and my anxiety became worst. I would spend weeks locked in my room.
After my Masters, I completed two internships but had no confidence to go forward in my field of interest.
I can’t forget the reaction of my family when they discovered my bills. They couldn’t understand where I spent all the money. A community mental health worker referred me to a debt charity. They were going to help me write to my creditors and consolidate my payments into affordable monthly payments.
After one year with no job, a lady from debt charity asked me to go for debt relief order (DRO). She couldn’t see me getting back into work anytime sooner and she was right, even today I struggle to get a job.
After one year, I was finally released from all my debts but by that time my health had deteriorated so badly that I was admitted to ED unit.
It took six consecutive years to get to a stable weight and a stable mind.
I often reflect back on those days and I think why did I take those drastic steps and measures to change my looks?
Why did I believe with staid conviction I was ugly?
Why didn’t I appreciate the natural beauty God had blessed me with?
I think a lot of this has to do with my upbringing and the environment I lived in. The comments by my family members left me feeling very low.
I hailed from a family of very good looking people and I always felt I was the ugly duckling. The comments on my weight by my siblings were the worst. The comments on my looks by my aunt also left me feeling how I wish I was a different looking person.
In a quest to fit in and have them accept me, I did everything I could to change myself. In this process I lost my sanity, my physical health and my career.
Today when people tell me, I’m pretty or beautiful, I believe them. ED has destroyed 60% of me but now when I look in mirror I appreciate my thin hair, it’s a gift I tell myself. God creates everything beautiful and I believe I truly believe I am beautiful. It’s a beauty of heart that shines brighter than anything else in life. All of this has taught me about appreciating people for their inner beauty. I no longer follow any trend, instead I’ve created my own trend and I’m very comfortable in following that trend.
I share this experience in the honour of NEDAwareness Week 2018. I share this with shame and remorse, but this is true reality.