I had this new found confidence, a new lease of life and I was ready to start putting myself out there in the world of online dating, much like those around me. It didn’t take long for me to meet a potential suitor who I began texting everyday and night for a few weeks. We spoke about everything and anything and I felt optimistic about the whole thing. We decided to meet up and go for a few drinks. I remember trying my best to look ‘girly’ as this was the first time in a long time that I was going to date someone who wasn’t dressed like a punk and I was nervous. I remember walking up to him in the bus station and feeling disappointment initially, particularly in his height as I instantly noticed he was shorter than me, especially as I was wearing shoes with a heel on them and he just wasn’t my type both style and looks wise.
We went for the drinks anyway even though I was under the assumption that I would be escaping as soon as I could yet that didn’t end up being the case at all. Drinks flowing, words slurring and sense disappearing, we continued on to a night club and then back to his family home. I was extremely drunk but the night itself is one I still remember as being a positive experience even if what followed was anything but. I went home the next day unsure what was going to come from the evening before but reminded quickly of the situation at our own house where things were beginning to become a little unbearable for me; screaming and arguments, strong disagreements between me and my Mam and just general chaos that this new me couldn’t deal with. I’m still not sure if things had always been that way at home or if I just noticed them when I went through these changes but either way, the memories in the last few years I spent there were more bad than good. This played a huge part in the direction my life was about to turn.
I was still very much involved with my Tinder date and had started spending a considerable amount of time at his parent’s home where he lived, residing in a small box room with a tiny single bed we would share, a TV and not much space for anything else. The atmosphere over there was so different from at home, it was like a breath of fresh air every time I walked through their door; no substantial arguments, just playful banter, Mam and Dad still together and very much in love, a relaxed, stress-free vibe and just lot’s of fun and family time making me begin to dread going back. I would be invited to stay an extra night each time and then I just started overstaying my welcome and practically begging to stay another and another until I was there more times than not and had a collection of belongings squeezed in the corner of the bedroom. I started to feel like one of the family and it was such a nice thing to feel, something I think I needed at that time. His Mam intervened a few months into me staying pretty much every day and basically said it was okay if I contributed which pretty much saw to it that I moved in almost entirely, buying my own shopping and offering to help out in the house.
It would appear to everyone around us that we had a pretty fantastic relationship, regularly going on dates and plastering happy couple photos all over our social media’s but in actual fact, when you scratched up the surface, things weren’t picture-perfect at all.
At first, what was going on was something I was keeping strictly to myself because I was too embarrassed to tell anyone not to mention the fact that things had moved so quickly, I didn’t see a way out anyway and I had became dependent on living at his house now too. The thing is though, the issues started before I even moved in and I just let them slide time and time again and I don’t know why other than the fact I hated my life at home and wanted an escape. I had always been a confident, strong and sure individual and would never let anyone mistreat or make a fool of me yet there I was allowing this person I hardly knew to do exactly that. You’re probably wondering what ‘that’ is, right? Well, in similar fashion to the way we met, times were changing and it was, to the best of my knowledge anyway, around the time when online sexting and dating became popular and easier than ever before. I noticed quite early on he had a password on his phone which I had never really bothered with but I didn’t question it too much until I started noticing little suspicious ways he would act around it. I started to become increasingly paranoid and managed to finally see his password as he tried to type it in faster than the speed of light with me sat next to him. He would leave his phone on the windowsill next to his bed and one night something just came over me as I grabbed it as quietly as I could whilst he slept and sneaked off to the toilet.
My heart literally sank.
I was met with a collection of dating apps (Tinder one of them) to which he was talking actively with what seemed like hundreds of other girls. I had never experienced anything like it, not only had I never had the misfortune of being cheated on in the traditional sense of the word but this whole online dating thing was so new to me in the first place never mind having someone I was with using it behind my back. In my previous relationships there was barely any phone time at all in general. I didn’t know how to react or what to say, completely ashamed that I had invaded his privacy and checked his phone which I had also never done before. It sounds ridiculous to say I felt ashamed now, had I not have done it I would never have known. I tiptoed back into bed, carefully placing the phone back where I found it and lying awake replaying some of the messages I’d read. I decided that I couldn’t just let it slide so I tried to confront the issue without letting on that I had seen for myself by saying one of my friends saw him active on Tinder. He was so cool about the whole thing saying he forgot to delete it and didn’t realise it was still up so I had to add that she had messaged him before she realised who he was and had gotten a response. That was when he started stuttering, telling me it was ‘force of habit’ and he had been on for so long he just messaged as part of his routine, not thinking anything of it. This just made me more furious, I wasn’t stupid enough to buy it but for some crazy reason I stayed with him but I started to get a bit of a complex as I searched some of the people he had been speaking with and compared myself to them.
I could feel things becoming a little tense within his house between his Mam, Dad, Sister and himself and they were also a little off with me. During this time, I had dropped out of college therefore not completing my second year and turning down a huge opportunity to take up a place at Bangor University to study Marine Biology, in order to be with this person, can you imagine how much regret I suffered with for not going? Anyway, I was working my first Christmas in Ann Summers as a Sales Consultant instead and used my wages to buy things when I lived there. He was working part time in retail too and paying his parents board. I think there were some underlying family issues going on and me and him being hurled up in that room was just an added burden so they hinted they wanted it to end. I called my Mam up straight away and asked if we could live there instead and she agreed, so off we moved back to where I had started.
This is where my eating took a turn for the worst.
I started a new job at CeX when my previous contract was up and I was working the most hours I had to date, feeling that new kind of tiredness you do when you start finding your feet in the working world, especially considering our shop was busy all the time and I was constantly on my feet. Funnily enough, he also got a job at CeX but in a smaller store closer to home. Each day when I would return home I was met by the most stressful environment ever. Shouting and screaming between my family that I could sometimes hear from up the street and all I wanted to do was eat and go to bed but dispite my best efforts to simply sneak in past the chaos and up to my loft bedroom where he would be already waiting depending on his shift, I would always somehow end up having to argue my way through and receive a grilling for wanting to take my tea upstairs away from the noise. It became easier for me in the end to not eat some evenings or to have the quickest and smallest thing I could find so I could go to my one little quiet hideaway without an issue. The phone was still a big part of my thoughts at this time but I hadn’t had a chance to check it again as it was always in his pocket or hand until he forgot to take it in the bath one afternoon.
I dived at the opportunity to check it, hoping it was like he said and all of the apps were gone but knowing deep down I would be met with more of the same and I was right but this time was worse. It wasn’t just woman, it was men too. I felt sick to my stomach. I hadn’t even considered that this would be something I would be seeing although, looking back, he was very quick to ask me about a strap-on when I started working at Ann Summers so maybe that should have rang alarm bells. I vaguely remembered having a drunken conversation where he told me he had been ‘curious’ in previous years and did something with someone of the same sex but that had done little more than confirm to him that he was straight. I read the messages to these males and they seemed a lot more than those of a ‘curious’ nature. These were messages from someone who knew what they were talking about and was no stranger to sharing and receiving dick pics with men and woman alike. I ran to the toilet and threw the pot noodle I had eaten for tea straight back up before going to sit on my bed and wait for him to get out the bath. That conversation was one with even more defensiveness than the last and I sit hear thinking who would be stupid enough to try and worm their way out of that one? But then again who would be stupid enough to let them?
The worst thing is I asked and asked, question after question-
Was it me? Did he not want a relationship? Did he not know what he wanted?
Was he still curious?
I would have had a lot more respect for the guy if he said the issue was any of the above and we called it quits there and then but he didn’t have the guts because he loved me and wanted me and had absolutely no idea why he kept at it. He even suggested that may-haps he was addicted to sexting.
From all of this, the once strong person I was had decided to exit stage left and all I took with me was this new feeling of not being enough, not being good enough. The fact that I had built my confidence so high by losing all the weight meant that this knock caused me to fall further and harder than maybe I would have otherwise and I started to loathe myself. No longer was I a stranger to skipping the odd meal or two but now I was down to one meal a day and I made sure it was the smallest portion I could get away with without anyone realising. Not that they would because they didn’t catch the over-eating so why would this be any different, right? Some days I was eating a hard boiled egg and a slice of toast after work and on my worst days I would eat something miniscule like a piece of beetroot or a punnet of nuts and corn. The weight was now falling off and everyone was saying how amazing I looked, absolutely fantastic of me to do so well. I was even borrowing clothes off my little Sister who had always been very skinny and they were big on me.
His sexting and my discovering of the messages continued, as did the lack of food consumption and there were many occasions where my Mam would have to come up and intervene when I was confronting him over things I had found or crying that I wasn’t good enough for him. At the same time, the tension between myself and my family was rising and I could feel that it was about to come to a head, I was right.
What felt at that time like the end of the world was only worsened when I returned home after an excruciatingly long day and actually wanted to eat for once. Already hearing the screaming in the living room, I sneaked to the kitchen to make myself some veggie ‘chicken’ bites, rice and vegetables which was huge for me. I opened my bottle of Diet Coke and took a sip, leaving the lid on the kitchen bench. As I tried to slide past the comotion and head to the quiet of my room, my Mam stood between my escape path and told me I needed to eat downstairs (if only doing so was a little simpler and stress-free I may have considered it) but I couldn’t bare it with all I was going through, not tonight I thought. Blocking the door, I couldn’t get passed and was starting to become increasingly aggitated, I really didn’t need this right now. The rest was a blur, it happened so fast but I remember trying to push past her and my plate of food being pushed on the floor as well as my bottle of Coke being thrown in my face, ice cold pop making it’s way down my T-shirt.
I saw red.
Storming through the sitting room my Sister got right in my face and screamed at me and I just flipped, everything that had been eating away at me suddenly exploding. I hit her in the face and made a run for the door. I wasn’t quick enough and my Mam grabbed the scuff of my neck and threw me into the front garden which was no difficult task considering how fragile my body was becoming. Soon after, I was followed by him when he managed to get out of the house he had been locked inside (upstairs the whole time) and I tried to organise a lift to his house from my Step Dad which was double-crossed without me knowing. Instead, I had to call upon my Sister’s Dad who I didn’t even speak to regularly.
With just a handful of belongings in a car with a family member I was least close to and a man (arguably) who I was now definitely trapped with, I felt like my whole life was completely pointless. His Mam was fine with having us back and even offered up his little Sister’s much larger bedroom for us to stay in after his Dad taxied us to collect our things from my Mam’s- an absolute show for the neighbours I will tell you that much.
I had completely lost control of everything apart from how much or how little I put into my mouth, or so it felt. I began obsessing over food like never before during our time back at his house and this time it was all about numbers; calories were more important to me than any other aspect of my life and nothing would pass my lips unless I had studied the packet first and it fit into my 600 calorie per day limit with no exceptions. I didn’t eat crisps, chocolate or anything of the sort and because I actually spent time with his family who did the opposite, it was beginning to get noticed for the first time.
I was still checking into his phone on a daily basis, sometimes more than twice a day and honestly? I don’t even know why I kept doing it to myself. I had pretty much came to terms with the fact that I didn’t love him yet I still found myself seeking his approval and wanting to be as pretty as the other girls he was talking to and as skinny. The men, well those I couldn’t compete with but at least with the women it was fairer competition and I tried my damned hardest to be skinny enough and sexy enough to get him to want me and not them but unfortunately, what I realise now more than ever is that it wasn’t me it was him and it didn’t matter how much I starved myself, how long I spent on my hair and make-up or how I forced myself to try in the bedroom, he just couldn’t help himself.
One time stands out above the rest. I remember this like it was yesterday and, although it doesn’t hurt or make me angry any more, it does make me sick to the stomach to think of how I put up with that disrespect. I finished a shift at Ann Summers one day and though ‘fuck it’, tonight will be my night. I hadn’t ate all day, I felt skinny and good and I had seen some amazing sets of underwear I was desperate to try on in the smallest size I could fit into once I got off work which is exactly what I did, hurrying to the fitting rooms and finally deciding on a silver three piece bra, thong and suspender belt set. I picked up the stockings to match and went back that afternoon spending hours curling my hair and putting on fresh make-up. Using inspiration from messages of his I had read about his ‘fantasies’ I seduced him that night and gave it my absolute all, trying all the more when he told me how flawless I looked. I thought I had finally done enough.
I woke up in the early hours to find he wasn’t in bed, sneaking downstairs to check what he was doing and finding him there on the sofa with everything hanging out, phone in hand. I simply turned around and went back to bed. A few days later, I tried to give him a blow job and he just seemed agitated the whole way through leading it to be cut short. He went in the shower instead and was in there for over an hour, his family complaining even about how long he had been in there. I knew what he was doing but I had to see it for myself so I knocked on the door and said I needed the toilet. He was so flustered he left that phone on his pile of clothes and I locked the door and made my way through the messages on ‘fabswingers’ that he had been sending and receiving in that shower whilst I sat in the room next door.
I found it easier to not get angry after many similar occurrences and instead I would just sob and sob until I couldn’t breathe or find any more tears within me. It makes me want to cry now when I look back at how my once happy and out there personality was chipped and chipped away at until there was barely anything left of the person I had spent my life becoming. I had cut myself off from my friends, my colleagues thought I was incapable of performing or getting to work on time because I was so obsessed and distracted with what he was doing in the short time I was gone and emaciated with the lack of energy and food and I no longer spoke to my family.
He was all I had in the world.
Eventually we decided to start thinking about finding our own place and after house searching for a matter of weeks, something came up literally around the corner from his parent’s house and we were in just days after signing the papers. I remember wondering if things would be different now we were taking that next step but I knew deep down that they wouldn’t be and I stepped through that front door truly believing I would be miserable for the rest of my life.
Now out of the way of watching eyes, I was able to have absolute full control over my eating and I was down so many calories that I had developed a gap between my thighs, I was constantly freezing cold and could now see my ribs. I had no energy and would feel like I was on the verge of fainting multiple times an hour, having two to three baths a day just to feel warm and wearing jumpers when it was hot outside. Black coffee and Diet Coke made up the majority of my diet and I would muster all the strength I had during the day to walk to the local Tesco and pick up all the foods I wanted to eat, look at the calories on the packet and put them back before weighing myself on the scales for 50p every single day, keeping the tickets hidden in my purse and crying if I had gone up by even one pound. I would also weigh myself on the home scales every half an hour, it became part of my routine. I would obsess over the countingcalorie hashtags on Instagram and search ‘pro ana’ sights to motivate me religiously. I was also posting regular photos of myself and healthy food which I wouldn’t finish just to give the illusion that I was losing the weight naturally and the compliments were constant, egging me on.
I left my jobs, taking up a full time position of food obsessing and I now had next to no energy, even walking up and down the stairs was a struggle. I became detached with whatever was going on within the phone that used to taunt me because I simply didn’t have the strength to care and I no longer wanted to have to put on an act when having sex with him so I would pretend to be asleep and roll over every night but sometimes that didn’t prevent it from happening regardless.
I know that he and his family must have discussed my eating or weight at some point because my scales magically disappeared after I overheard his Mam telling him to just hide them from me yet that was the only attempt to help that anyone tried. I had no one in the world to talk to and remember one night just having this overpowering desperation for some affection, asking him to hug me. He put an arm around my fragile frame and removed it just as quick using the fact that I was ‘too bony’ as an excuse.
I lay awake that night freezing cold, desperately lonely and completely lost.
I couldn’t see a way out..
*I have no pictures of just how severe my eating disorder got and how extreme my body looked because I worried they would trigger me and I didn’t want to look at myself like that ever again.*