I was 16 years old when I was diagnosed with Anorexia and Depression. The depression part of the diagnoses I agreed with- the anorexia, I refused to accept. It was a friend at school who realised I wasn’t eating enough and took me to tell the head of pastoral care. That same day school called in my mum and explain to her that they had concerns about my weight loss. I remember sitting in that office holding my mums hand sobbing my eyes out. I felt like I’d let her down so bad. But she was so supportive through the entire thing. She took me to the doctors who referred me to a psychiatrist who diagnosed me pretty quick. I’d had the eating disorder for a year when I was diagnosed and I was in a pretty bad place. Not far off from sitting my GCSEs, my life was just falling apart around me. I was losing almost all of my friends who just couldn’t deal with my obsessive dieting and who just didn’t understand it. To be totally honest, I don’t remember everything about what life was like living with an eating disorder. Because my memory at the time was pretty poor as a result of the illnesses- I was unable to recall things that had happened the previous day. But the things that do stand out in my memory are as follows. I remember the pain every morning as I tried to get out of bed and my muscles just couldn’t take it. I remember the awful pain I endured every time I had to stand up and walk anywhere. I remember having to regularly hold onto furniture to stop myself falling over from dizziness. I remember the negative thoughts running through my mind 24 hours a day 7 days a week telling me I was useless and a failure. I remember the complete fear that gripped me every time I had to go anywhere or do anything because I didn’t know if I would be expected to eat. The Anorexia completely took over my life. I lived like this until I was 17. By this time, I was about to drop out of school, I was terrified of leaving the house and things were not looking like they were going to get better anytime soon. I had hit rock bottom.
I’m not sure what the turning point was exactly. I had tried to get better a few times before, but these attempts only lasted a couple of days at a time. The reason all previous attempts had failed was because I hadn’t been trying to get better for myself- I’d been doing it for my family, my close friends and my boyfriend. But doing it for them wasn’t enough. I needed to want to get better, and want that for myself and only myself. Wanting to get better is extremely hard, because you have to actually believe that your life is worth something to want to make it better. And I didn’t believe my life was worth anything for a long time. But one day, for some reason, I stopped blaming myself for being ill. I realised that actually it wasn’t my fault that I was anorexic. It wasn’t my fault that this had happened to me. It hadn’t happened because I was a bad person and needed punishing, it was just one of those unfortunate things. My councillor helped me a lot with realising that. And then I realised something really important. I wasn’t my fault that I had the illness, but it was fully in my power to get rid of it. And I was so sick and tired of having my whole life controlled by anorexia that I knew it was time to say goodbye to it. I wasn’t prepared to die to be thin. My eating disorder was all about having control, but I realised that it was the anorexia that was controlling me. For a few months in the autumn of 2009 I began putting on weight and trying to eat more. It was difficult, I’ll admit, but I tried so hard. It was Christmas time 2009, the lead up to the new year when I made a promise to myself. I wrote down all the bad things that had happened to be in 2009 and swore that next year would be better. I also wrote down all the good things that happened to me in 2009. For example, I got 5 A*s, 6 As and a B in my GCSEs despite battling with anorexia at the same time. I had fallen in love for the first time with my wonderful boyfriend. I had actually had some good times that summer thanks to him. I looked at these lists and had more bad things than good things. I decided that at the end of 2010 I wanted to have more good things than bad things. 2010 was going to be my year. And it was.
I drew myself up an eating plan, with rewards for myself if I stuck to it e.g. a DVD I wanted or a new CD. It was a plan based on getting myself gradually used to eating three meals a day. I had a whole new attitude, based on the idea that “everything will be ok.“ And I actually stuck to my plan. Every month I stuck to all my goals to the point that by March my psychiatrist was happy to discharge me and pronounce me ‘cured‘. Although I knew I still had a way to go, just having that label off my head made me feel so free and encouraged me to keep getting better. As I began eating more, everything else took care of itself. I didn’t feel the need to self harm any more and just stopped. Eating more didn’t actually get me down, it actually made me feel better most of the time. Because eating=good. It meant I was getting better. There would still be those times when I got really down and overwhelmed. But I had to fight through those times and just keep going. And in those tough times I turned to my boyfriend and a couple of close friends for help to get me through. After a couple more months I didn’t need my eating plan anymore. I was at the point where I could eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full. I began developing a shape again and became a healthy, stable weight which I maintain still. And gradually, with the help of my boyfriend, I grew to begin to accept my new shape. I know I look so much better than I did. Because I have life in my face and I’m not skin and bones anymore.
Over the last three or four months I have hardly had a single negative thought about food or weight. I look in the mirror now and actually like what I see. I love the shape I am, and I love the way clothes fit me. I have never been so happy. I’ve had depression and self harm problems since I was 13 so I’d forgotten what it felt like to be happy. When I was stuck in my cycle of anorexia and depression I was convinced I’d never feel happiness again in my life. I thought I’d never get better. But now, I truly am feeling great.
The hardest part about recovering was taking the first few steps into deciding that I wanted to get better. But once I took those steps things just got easier and easier. Now, I love going out to eat. I love cooking and enjoying new foods. I spent this summer in Vietnam and had so much fun trying out all the food over there- it was all so delicious! I have always been a competitive swimmer and during my anorexia swimming stopped being a hobby and became an obsession. I am now able to enjoy it again, without the physical pain and without the need to never miss a session. I am now 18 and have a place at university for next year to study psychology and am predicted high grades in my A-levels. It is my dream to one day be in a position to help others who are lost like I was. I also have a new set of friends who I get on with great. My relationships with my family are so much better than they were before. I will admit that my boyfriend helped me through a lot of this. We’ve been together for a year and a half now and I am so grateful for everything he’s done for me. But I know that actually I would have been able to do it without him. Because at the end of the day the recovery was about me getting a better life for myself. And I have achieved that. I have the life that I wanted.
Life is life, and things will get tough from time to time. But I have such a positive attitude now. And I really believe that you have to go through the darker times. Because that way, you can truly appreciate the good times. Eating disorders make the world seem like it will be perpetually dark. But I’m telling you now that you will see the sun again. How many months or years of your life have you lost to an eating disorder? Maybe now is the time to take those first steps, so that you don’t lose anymore of your life to the illness. Recovery seems like such a long and hard road, but it is the most worthwhile journey you will ever take. Trust me on that.