'I did not eat my 18th birthday cake' - A writer shares her personal journey to Anorexia recovery

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Illustration. (Photo: Getty Images)
Illustration. (Photo: Getty Images)
  • Hannah Altmann struggled with Anorexia Nervosa when she was 18 years old. She has now mustered the courage to write about this experience and self-publish a book on Amazon, titled (Not) A Piece of Cake: A Journey to Eating Disorder Recovery.
  • The premise of the book is to illustrate that recovery is possible for everyone.
  • We share an extract from the book, and in doing so, echo the young author's words in saying; "Please keep in mind that everyone’s eating disorders are different." 

About a year ago, I decided to write about my experiences with my eating disorder.

This story has been within me for a while now and I feel like I am ready to share it. I hoped that I could write about  my experience and show people that recovery is possible for everyone, and this was the way I wanted to start.

Please keep in mind that everyone’s eating disorders are different, and if these kinds of topics are triggering for you, it is okay if you prefer not to read this for now.

I only wish to raise awareness and give hope to others.

Without further ado, this is my story:

Chapter 1 

Brown. Gooey. Thick.

It lay on the table in front of me.

I could smell it from where I sat. The scent made my stomach queasy, bubbling with anxiety.

My friends surrounded me, smiling and laughing. They weren’t concerned about it. I dared not join in. My hands shook, so I hid them under the table.

I tried to smile along, failing miserably. I couldn’t concentrate on what they were saying. 

Only one thing was on my mind. How on earth was I supposed to eat this?

READ MORE: Covid-19 anxiety and stress causing body image issues  

You might be thinking, what the hell was on that table? What disgusting, foul, nauseating thing did I have to consume? You’re probably thinking of something along the lines of what your dog plants on your living room floor when you’ve kept him inside for too long. 

I could absolutely, positively, 100% NOT eat this slice of cake. No ways. I’d rather write every single exam of my life over again, without studying.

In my opinion, what lay in front of me was far worse than anything your dog can produce.

It was a piece of chocolate cake.

You read that correctly. A slice of dark, rich, moist, potent chocolate cake, adorned with icing and all. It even had candles on top. Why did it have candles on top?

Well, I was turning 18 you see, but that wasn’t important. What was important is that I could absolutely, positively, 100% NOT eat this slice of cake. No ways.

I’d rather write every single exam of my life over again, without studying. I’d rather stand in front of the school and sing the national anthem backward while spinning on one leg. I’d rather — well, you get the point.

Irrationally, this was my biggest fear.

What, chocolate cake? Come on, how can I be scared of that?

If someone had told me, just a few years before this moment, that I’d be having a minor panic attack because of a slice of cake, I would’ve told them to shove it. I was a strong, fearless, independent woman. And cake was delicious. Why on earth would that become my biggest fear?

Enter the reign of Anorexia.

READ MORE: The truth about thin privilege and the controversy around skinny shaming 

Dun dun dun.

But perhaps we should start at the beginning. I implore you to grab a coffee, a snack, and get comfortable. This is going to be a wild ride.

So if we start at the very beginning, then you would know me as Hannah. The fit, athletic, impatient, smart, worrying, perfectionist young girl.

I played all the sports there were to play, from hockey to running to swimming to gymnastics to horse riding to basically anything that required two functioning legs and a semi-functioning brain. I had friends, went out to parties, did well in school and fought with my parents a lot. Your typical teenage girl.

Being a swimmer, I naturally had a muscular body. But that didn’t bother me. After all, if I was kicking butt in the water, what did it matter if my arms were a bit larger than those around me, or my thighs touched? I had a passion and a purpose and I was not about to give up pizza on a Sunday night to look like a Victoria's Secret model who wouldn’t be able to complete one lap in the pool (no offense to Victoria's Secret models). 

READ MORE: 'I can't marry you until I tell you something' - Woman on overcoming a life-long eating disorder

But, over time, somehow and someway, I lost sight of this.

I’d be lying if I told you I wouldn’t change the past. If I could, I would go back in time and make sure Anorexia was buried so far underground, it would come out in Australia.

But I’m not a time traveler and I can’t change the past. So for now, I look at it as some kind of a blessing in disguise. What disguise? I haven’t quite figured out yet, but perhaps someday I will. 

eating disorder recovery
Image supplied on behalf of author 

You can buy (Not) A Piece of Cake: A Journey to Eating Disorder Recovery here.

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