Amy, 22, English Literature & Psychology student & avid writer, diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in her early teens, WELLINGTON
The artificial control of anorexia was, for Amy, her only means of control. Having grown up in a family fraught with illness, her mother diagnosed with MS and wheelchair-bound, Amy’s upbringing was one of love but also tension and responsibility. At the age of thirteen Amy began engaging in strict diet rituals and rigorous exercise regimes as a means of numbing herself from the external world and the disjointed world within. As a child and adolescent Amy’s sensitivities made her an easy target for bullying, Amy struggling as a result to make sense of herself among others of her own age.
In this time Amy resorted to self-harm and punishment, believing that in order to feel something she must first reach oblivion and feel nothing at all. This pursuit of nothingness was met by the concern of her parents and teachers and eventually her GP who misjudged her illness for typical teenage behaviour. Amy was eventually admitted to Auckland’s Starship hospital at a critically low weight, her heart and other internal organs on the verge of collapse. This was the beginning of Amy’s seven-year battle to keep her life.
Over the course of these years Amy was admitted and readmitted to hospital, refusing to comply with the necessary treatment and devoted to resistance, to anorexia’s deceivingly seductive burn.
“The quasi-illness, quasi-recovery condition is both a life in death and a death in life,” says Amy, stripped by anorexia of her teenage years and high school experience.
In a 2017 diary entry Amy writes: “I feel close enough to myself to feel but far away enough to feel nothing at all: I can be without being, exist without existing, and this is how I live, how I be, now and always.”
Amy kept many diaries over the course of her illness, her writing the only way, she says, she could hold onto herself when life was “a constant hanging on by fingernails.” It was Amy’s leaving home in 2017 to attend university that revealed, overwhelmingly, her dire condition.
Frail and exhausted Amy made the decision to move back home in 2018, committing this year, and the years to follow, to a journey of healing. In this time Amy looked after two children whom she describes as “love at its utmost embodied.”
Amy also self-published a collection of poetry with a friend who has also experienced anorexia, this book a testament to the portion of their lives spent “in and out of the depths; in and out of a body resisting and returning.”
According to Amy it was a combination of her Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, expression through writing, and newfound understanding of her illness’s biological and genealogical origin that allowed her to see herself capable, and worthy of recovery.
Over the last few years Amy has shared her story with the media, been a spokesperson on the panel for the NZEDC (New Zealand Eating Disorders Clinic) Hope Night, and believes wholeheartedly that being vulnerable is the “most difficult, courageous, and necessary step forward.”
“For years that outnumber my own struggle, even my own existence, individuals have fallen prey to the stigma surrounding this illness and its penetrating sting. For all those who have wondered, ‘why me’ and thought ‘this is all my fault,’ EDGI is an opportunity, for us to get some answers, clarity and understanding of the underlying forces at play with eating disorders,” said Amy.
Amy is now in her final term at university and plans to pursue postgraduate study as well as her writing. “Anorexia is a shell of the thickest variety,” says Amy, “but we must remember—it is not immovable.”