• Welcome! It’s great to see you. Our forum members are people, maybe like yourself, who experience mental health difficulties or who have had them at some point in their life.

    If you'd like to talk with people who know what it's like

Competitiveness and anorexia

S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Why does no one talk about this?

ED hospitals are the worst places I have been to where this has been very apparent. In some there is an air of jealousy and resentment towards each other in the race to be seen as 'the worst anorexic'. When one person spirals it creates a ripple effect and it seems others go down too.

From what I have read of pro-ana sites, the same thing seems to happen.

There is one famous 'recovered' anorexic (I actually don't believe she is recovered at all) who proudly boasts that her doctor proclaimed her to be 'the worst anorexic he has ever seen', she has said that in the depths of her ED it used to be her aim.

I often wonder if that doctors statement was true, or whether he said it to try and promote recovery. In the sense of look you got your title, it was you wanted, and maybe now you have achieved that you can move on?

I have heard so many anorexics who claim their doctors have said the same thing. Maybe it is a psychological trick they are using?

But why would someone want to compete for a title which basically means you are very unwell?

I have talked about this with other anorexia sufferers, many agree that there is an air of competition, it has been brought up in ED groups i've attended, but some people refuse to take part in the discussion as they seem to be in complete denial or maybe their reasoning for this is something they are ashamed of? Or some other reason?

I'm not criticising anyone by saying this, but I do wonder why people don't discuss it?
 
K

Kate31

Active member
Joined
Nov 27, 2009
Messages
40
agree

I cringed hearing about this 'recovered' person and her book is everywhere it kinda gets my goat a bit as it makes a mockery of recovery...
 
kathrina

kathrina

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 6, 2009
Messages
62
Who is this "recovered" person you're on about?
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
I cringed hearing about this 'recovered' person and her book is everywhere it kinda gets my goat a bit as it makes a mockery of recovery...
I know, i don't call going from one obsession to another as 'recovery'.

But I would be interested to hear your thoughts on this Kate, surely this is something you have come across before? Or was Marchwood a place that managed to deal with this behavior effectively?
 
Last edited:
K

Kate31

Active member
Joined
Nov 27, 2009
Messages
40
competitiveness

On the whole my experiences of EDU treatment was very positive but there was always the odd patient who delighted in asking if we were bigger than her or saying just how much weight she needed to regain compared to the rest of us.

I agree though if one person crashes/acts up it ripples across the whole unit - one time half the ward tried to OD and another time a few decided to go on 'strike.'
 
S

summerfairy

Guest
I've just joined after reading this thread and thank god someone else has actually verbalised what I think is a huuuuuuuge issue that never gets talked about!

The thing is with anorexia, you can't win. To be the worst, you have to be dead. If you don't get to be the worst, what kind of life is that? Feeling like shit all of the time, medical complications, a life of pain... but still it can draw us back time and time again. Unfortunately for me, whenever things go wrong my first instinct is not to eat. This always comes back to haunt me... and it's so easy and seductive to fall back into that trap of false promises and lies.

The competitiveness thing is why I think groups don't really work. Oh, yes please, let's join a group and then I'll have loads of anorexic and bulimic friends and we can all go out for coffee (no milk of course) and get really ill together. I don't think so.

I used to desperately try to help other people to get well. Finally, I realised I couldn't do it for them, I couldn't make them have a breakthrough. I don't even know what makes those breakthroughs any more.

For myself, I know I have for to a state where I can semi function, but I have a part time job I absolutely fucking hate where I just stare into space and wither away in an empty room away from everyone, and I have a very lonely life. The right thing to do would to be to get well, truly well, and change these things. Yet instead, almost like learned helplessness, because I can't deal with this situation, I do the only thing I know now - starve to make myself numb. So I don't have to think, I don't have to worry about wtf I'm doing with my life, I can just reduce everything down to numbers and calories and losing 2lb per week and everythingwillbefineanddandyandOKifIjusthitthisnumber but no it won't.

Anyway, sorry about where this has come from... just the first thing I read in so many years that actually addresses one of the biggest problems in ED treatment. In fact I'm thinking of completely dis-engaging from the NHS and going it on my own because the whole thing is making me ILL.
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Hi Summerfairy and :welcome:...YEY somone else has experienced this too! Thank you for talking about it! :clap:

Yes as an anorexic you don't ever win. I guess when I stopped trying to make it a win or lose situation I finally 'won'.

I'm not dismissing NHS treatment altogether, I went to a day hospital which was good. I was forward about this issue in groups, and my sheer annoyance of it made me want to 'win'!!

When I was very unwell having others there to help encourage me to eat was so helpful, but at times it has been unhelpful too especially as I became more recovered.

I'm sorry you are having a tough time at the moment.:hug: Making changes and decisions in life can be very anxiety provoking. Do you know what kind of job you'd like to do?
 
S

summerfairy

Guest
I'd like to work within occupational therapy. At the moment I do nothing like that! It has no future really... which would be OK if I was happy, but as everything else isn't brilliant dealing with the job on top of that especially when I don't feel particularly well isn't great. I really want to keep working though.

It's weird really as you don't see people trying to become the best schizophrenic or the best depressive. I suppose the thing with eating disorders though is there are, unfortunately, some positives in some ways. It's completely twisted when you really think about it, because what being the 'best' brings you is more pain for yourself. What a great prize!

At least with me, in terms of 'positives', I like not having to think. The way around this would be to actually change my life and deal with why I don't want to think about things (which isn't anything major BTW, I just find my daily routine boring, depressing and lonely as hell). The other problem I have is I used, for years, running as a way of dealing with things and absolutely loved it. It was my life and my glue. Then I had to have surgery on both of my knees and haven't been able to run for a year. Running held everything together and without it, I fought and fought not to go back to restricting and held on for so long but

I'm glad your day patient experiences were good and sorry that I've gone a bit off tangent. I do think that competitiveness is what holds a lot of people in eating disorders though.
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Yeah things are difficult when you are not feeling too great. Are you able to do some voluntary work in something like OT? To try and get some experience of it?

My last job didn't help me either, amongst other things I fell into that trap of stick with what I know even though it is completely and utterly destroying me. But it also had a benefit for me it distracted me from food, too much....
I don't know what I was scared of now, in the end I really had to leave as I was in treatment for so long but in hindsight it was the best thing to happen!

I guess my anorexia makes it a competition in terms of every meal you miss is an accomplishment, every grain of rice you manage to smear into your napkin is a 'win'. And every time I take a small chance and say yes to a little bit more, or anything at all in fact my anorexia tells me, you are losing. Berating me for daring to be human. Maybe if others have similar experiences it transfers into a competition with others when in treatment? Whatever the reason I wish more professionals would acknowledge it.

I don't know about you, I did feel 'beaten' when I was in treatment, I felt like I was giving in rather than getting better. I felt ashamed and embarassed eating. It never felt like a proactive choice at times. It's a horrible illness.

For me now what keeps me going is remembering that with anorexia I always end up in the same place, with life I have choices and freedom.
 
Last edited:
S

summerfairy

Guest
I suppose part of the problem - and part of the illness - is after a while your brain just doesn't function properly because it needs nutrition. So all the little games, the games you actually can't win at, seem to make sense. I know I've looked back on things when I've been well and wondered what the hell I was thinking. And even if you win, so fucking what? You've won nothing! But it all seems to make so much sense at the time. I think over time when your brain becomes starved it's near impossible to make good decisions. Oddly enough, although I partly do this not to think, the not thinking is part of what holds me in it (i.e. if I could think properly then I wouldn't be in this mess - I can't think to sort it out).

I'm glad you left your last job. If something's destroying you like that, whatever it is, it's not worth it. Sounds like it was pretty bad. Mine has gotten to the point of physically showing up then sitting in the room doing as little as possible which has been surprisingly easy.

Your last sentence really strikes a chord because all anorexia does is delay things. Like you say, you always end up back in the same place. Then you have to get well again. It's almost like I can see this so clearly right now yet tomorrow I can't say I won't carry on on the same treadmill.

I wonder if ultimately the competition is with ourselves. We can be our own worst enemies and that's more powerful than any competition with anyone else.
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
I suppose part of the problem - and part of the illness - is after a while your brain just doesn't function properly because it needs nutrition. So all the little games, the games you actually can't win at, seem to make sense. I know I've looked back on things when I've been well and wondered what the hell I was thinking. And even if you win, so fucking what? You've won nothing! But it all seems to make so much sense at the time. I think over time when your brain becomes starved it's near impossible to make good decisions. Oddly enough, although I partly do this not to think, the not thinking is part of what holds me in it (i.e. if I could think properly then I wouldn't be in this mess - I can't think to sort it out).
I agree with that, which is why I kind of think there is still a need for inpatient or intensive out patient treatment. There was a time I went from letting things just happen to sheer determination, a switch flipped in my mind and all of a sudden losing weight and quickly became everything. And yes I think it was related to low nutrition. At my lowest I think I became positively insane! I was hiding in my bedroom from the social workers knocking at the door, and I'm old enough to have a teenage daughter! LOL! I'm sorry I have to laugh about it, it seems very odd to me now.

I'm glad you left your last job. If something's destroying you like that, whatever it is, it's not worth it. Sounds like it was pretty bad. Mine has gotten to the point of physically showing up then sitting in the room doing as little as possible which has been surprisingly easy.
The job wasn't destroying me as such, I also had other issues, I was bored there too, I hated the environment. There were elements to the job that I hated and my ED and it interacted, it eventually became a tool for my ED. I only wanted to go back at one point because I wanted to lose weight again!

Your last sentence really strikes a chord because all anorexia does is delay things. Like you say, you always end up back in the same place. Then you have to get well again. It's almost like I can see this so clearly right now yet tomorrow I can't say I won't carry on on the same treadmill.
Yes it does delay things, and I also know how the anorexia tomorrow might discount what you see right now, and take you to that treadmill. The battle to recovery is a moment by moment struggle.

I wonder if ultimately the competition is with ourselves. We can be our own worst enemies and that's more powerful than any competition with anyone else.
I'm begining to think there are many angles to this now...i'm pleased you raised this thread again. Thank you :flowers:
 
S

summerfairy

Guest
Reading back to your original question, I think half of the time it doesn't get talked about because people don't want to own up to it. It's pretty much admitting at that point to things people probably don't want to admit to.

Yes, I do think malnutrition makes you somewhat insane or at least do things that you never would normally. I wonder if the competition element is linked to this in a way, i.e. when your brain becomes starved it starts to think in a different kind of way relating to comparing. Or whether even that competition is some kind of vehicle that people desperately use in order to try to become the lowest weight they can, by any means. It doesn't make that much sense really. Or, maybe it's a product of how the treatment system works in a way (although I'm not sure I completely buy into that).

So how do you leave it all behind?
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
For me it was by remembering that the only 'prizes' were;

1. Accompanied when going to the bathroom and showers
2. Losing my dignity
3. Losing my sanity
4. Osteoporosis
5. Crumbling teeth
6. Possible infertility
7. Bad breath
8. Hair falling out
9. Inability to control my emotions
10. Losing my home
11. Losing my job
12. Losing my freedom (through section)...
13...and as a result possibly not being able to live/visit some countries...
14...and not being able to work in certain professions
15. Being subjected to abusive and unprofessional behaviour from staff in treatments
16. Being doped up to the eyeballs on meds
17. Continual and permanent mental torment and depression (low nutrition)
18. Losing some friends

I have to remind myself of all that when temptation arises because I know that one lapse could lead to a relapse.
 
Last edited:
S

summerfairy

Guest
but at least for me most of those dont apply

my bmi isnt under 13.5. in fact it isnt under 15. so i dont have to worry about sanctions imposed on me from other people

i dont remember if i said before but i would never go inpatient or day patient again

i dont give a shit about job/work as long as it brings enough money in
which maybe doesnt help

buy i desperately want a way out of this
so how do i do it
cant sleep
 
S

*Sapphire*

Guest
Hey there are many more reasons why. And I guess it wasn't just about reminding myself about that. There were many things I had to do to be able to walk away from it and it did not happen overnight, sadly.

I had to make slow changes, let go of each behaviour one by one and by reducing them gradually. I had to make some life changes, strive for the things I wanted not that I felt bound to do, or finding a better compromise.

I also had to be honest, really honest with those around me about what they can do to help and what is unhelpful, and be honest with myself about what i was doing to myself and those who love me.

It wasn't easy, it was a rollercoaster, one that i'm not eager to ever get back on, but there were also real moments of joy in my recovery and real moments of joy in my life now. I just remember how miserable everyone seemed in treatment, even those resisting it, I guess if they were like me they reserve their joy for when the scales go down for two minutes in the morning then the rest of the time is utter misery.
 
Top