In the summer of 2015 I decided that I would take the plunge. I was going to go on Israel tour.
Israel tour is a basic entitlement for any Jewish kid who had finished their GCSES, and I was no exception. Everyone I knew was going or had gone; the young(ish) couple that we had invited for lunch would reminisce over their ‘glory days’, remembering their time on the trip that changed their lives, and friends would gush over when they would have time to shop after our exams.
I, on the other hand, would sit in my room, anxiety running through my veins. I could hardly leave the house without breaking down.
I had had trouble with separation anxiety for some time; at most sleepovers my poor mother would get a call from the worried parents, stating that I was inconsolable, and needed picking up. So my wonderful mum would turn up to each house in her pyjamas to find me red-eyed and reeling.
After the years of constant anxiety, I decided that I needed to take matters in to my own hands; thus resulting in the holistic therapist. We had heard of her from her online testimonials, and despite my initial nervousness, I was ready. After five sessions, I was replenished, ready to face the music. Well, the evening camp songs that inevitably awaited me. A full two weeks later, my bags were packed. I knew three girls in my tour group; two were thick as thieves, and one ditched me before we had even arrived. Regardless, I kissed my parents goodbye (behind the car, to save myself from endless embarrassment), and hopped on the bus, grabbing the last empty seat. I sat next to a nice guy, and we talked about school and other such small talk necessity. When we arrived at the airport, I was already bored, but it was there that I met my best friend. She was, unfortunately, on the other tour, but she introduced me to her friends, and we hit it off. I contemplated grabbing their yellow-coloured t-shirts from the poor, unassuming girl who was sitting to my left, but decided against it; I felt that I should keep my inner psycho quiet until I knew what their parents did for a living. However, after three hours of bliss, I was inevitably given my assigned seat on the plane. The goodbyes began. “Hopefully see you there, Liv! You’ll be fine, safe flight!” I left them, taking the first new steps to a group of thirty-odd people that knew nothing of Olivia Dowell.
Fast forward one week, and I was having the time of my life. I had overcome my awkward shyness, and had actually talked to people. I felt confident, basking in my newly found status: The One Who Makes Friends Easily. I was fearless.
I remember one night, after befriending a lovely group of South Africans, we decided to sneak past the security guard and into the soothing waters of the Kineret. We all had our towels on with bikinis underneath, and as the girls ran into the water, I couldn’t help but notice their taught bodies. I looked down at mine. Definitely not taught. I looked like a beached whale amongst mermaids.
Over the days that followed, I trained myself to eat less and less. As everyone took a plate, I would take half, and leave most of it. When people offered me a snack, I would take one bite, then put the rest in my pocket, dumping it all in the nearest toilet. I couldn’t see any improvements, though I had to ask one of the guys to borrow a belt because my shorts were falling down.
When our three and a half weeks were almost over, I had 1) kissed a boy, 2) abseiled in Eilat and 3) gained an eating disorder. I was basically starving myself, though at the time I was just ‘getting skinny’ like planned. As I ran into my Mum’s arms, she gave me a bone-crushing hug. “There’s nothing of you!” she exclaimed, pinching at my tiny waist; and she was right. As my stomach started to expand due to my mum’s delicious home-cooking, the compliments came swarming in. “Wow, Liv, you look fab! … How did you loose all that weight?” I was getting attention from everyone. Life was perfect. Until the weight that I had so carefully shed threatened to reappear. When the food simply begged to be devoured, I decided that there was only one way to stay skinny. I needed to make myself sick.
The first few times that I tried, I barely got my fingers half way down my throat, but as time passed, I became the expert in my field. After reading that tomato skins stay whole in your system, I ate three before each purge, and drank at least one glass of orange juice. As the acid rose up from my stomach, causing my stomach lining to disintegrate and shredding my esophagus, so did my confidence. However, my love for my new body was an entirely conditional love; a love that was actually based on hate. It didn’t matter how many compliments I received, how much attention I got; I was never happy.
It was all a sham, all a game. A game that nearly cost me my future. A game that so many are still playing. I, however, am not. I am burning the game, setting it on fire, and dancing on it’s ashes. The game was programmed so that I would loose, Game Over. However, my happiness is slowly and surely rebuilding, growing daily. I have realised that there is no manual; no matter how many times you try to play right, the game always beats you. I am learning how to fall in love with my new body, a body that changes every day. A body that, admittedly, is paying me back for the years of abuse that it has put up with. One of the hardest points of recovery is learning how to cope with the small weight gain, which, when it comes, feels like the end of the world. The ED vinyl that was stuck on the record player for so long threatens to make an appearance, and you brace yourself for the worst, for the relapse that you prayed would never happen. You can, however, take the needle off of the record. Breathe. Know that you don’t have to go back there, back into that mindset. Take a minute, an hour, a second to stop the record player from playing. Although the ED mindset is bulletproof, you will, in the near future, have so many other records that you won’t even see it on the shelf. You can do this. We all can.
Step off the roller coaster, and take a ride on the Ferris Wheel instead; I can assure you, it’s much less bumpy. It will allow you to take a look at the blue sky ahead, and thank G-d for the life that he’s given to you.