At twenty years old, my 6 year battle with anorexia nervosa had finally caused my life to come crashing down.
My eating disorder had taken complete control of my mind and dominated my every thought. In just a few months I had lost over 2 stone, had drastically reduced the amount I was eating to just 200-300 calories a day and was wasting the little energy I had on excessive exercise. For so long, my ‘diet’ had given me a false sense of control and now it was apparent that, in reality, it was something that was controlling me.
I was finally forced to reach out for help when my starvation and decreasing health made it impossible to keep up with my student lifestyle. I had become depressed, was in a constant state of anxiety and no longer had the energy to pretend everything was OK. I was lost, confused and desperate for a way out, but felt unable to confide in any one.
My thoughts were so distorted by my illness; I was convinced that I was ‘much too big’ to have an eating disorder, despite being underweight, felt my friends and family would not understand, thinking I was just an attention-seeker. However, when I finally found the courage to reach out for help, the response I received was over-whelming and I could not have got where I am today without their support.
For a long time I was in denial of how ill I was, and was under the delusion that I would be able to continue at university and recover. However, it soon became clear that this was not possible and the decision was made to suspend my studies, return home and concentrate on recovery. I was diagnosed with anorexia and referred to a specialist eating disorder team, consisting of a psychologist, an occupational therapist and a dietician.
I have visited my GP many times during my experience with anorexia. He was the first person my parents took me to see and was very helpful throughout the whole process. He diagnosed me and although I felt he did not know enough about mental illness, he did his best to help and referred me straight to eating disorder specialists.
One thing I was let down by was the lack of communication between my eating disorder unit and my GP. I was left yo-yoing between them and passing on messages in some cases which was very frustrating.
My mental and physical condition continued to deteriorate and I began to binge and purge and abuse laxatives. I was trying so hard to fight my anorexia but its hold was so strong, I could not see a way out of my situation and just did not understand how my life had come to this. My depression became more severe and I often felt suicidal, I just wanted to escape from all of the pain I was feeling and to escape from my own thoughts.
However, despite how helpless I was feeling, I knew that I had a lot to live for and was determined to beat my eating disorder. I put all my effort into recovery and slowly, with the help from my team, my hard work began to pay off. Step by step I took back control off my life and my condition started to improve. Battling my eating disorder was the hardest thing I will ever have to do, but every second was worth it. I feel so fortunate that I was able to fully recover and cannot wait to return to University in January. I did not choose to have an eating disorder, but I chose not to allow it to ruin my life. Given the chance, I would not change any part of my experience, as my recovery has taught me so much.
My experience has given me something that I have never had before, an understanding of my emotions and a compassion for my own well-being. I do not believe enough people are truly aware of how they are feeling and do not realise the importance of a healthy mind. I know I didn’t before I went through the process of recovery. To maintain mental stability I know it is important for me to have constant awareness of how I am feeling and how this is causing me to think; this helps me to catch unhelpful thinking patterns or behaviour and challenge them before they can become harmful.
My occupational therapist introduced me to ways of coping with my anxiety and this is something that has transformed my life. As a child, I suffered OCD, health-related anxiety and then my eating disorder caused my anxiety to reach a new high. Anxiety has always been a problem for me and recovery would not have been possible without learning how to control it. I do daily relaxation exercises and have read several self-help books; I am constantly finding ways to deal with my anxiety and hence improve my own well-being. Everyone struggles with anxiety to a certain extent and learning to understand and cope with their anxiety is something I believe everyone can benefit from.