Six years ago, aged 17, I was admitted to a mental health adolescent ward with anorexia. I spent a year living in hospital, fighting my eating disorder. It was by far the hardest year of my life, but without it I would not be here anymore. It was hard work, and every meal was a battle. I would sit there: a plate of food placed in front of me, and be told I had 30 minutes to eat it. With tears streaming down my face I felt completely lost at the thought of eating, but after the first few meals, things did get easier. I began to concentrate on what I wanted from life; a family, to travel; university; when I had bad days I would concentrate on this. I began to realise that if I ate a meal, the nurses, and my family wouldn't automatically think I was okay. I began to talk about things, about how I felt after a meal and it did get easier. My family and friends began to understand that having anorexia is not just a physical thing and about putting on weight but there is so much more to recovery.
I had an incredibly supportive group of friends who were understanding
After hospital it wasn't always easy, I was discharged and two weeks later went to university. When I left hospital I told myself I could lose weight and it would be great. But somehow I stuck with my recovery. I had an incredibly supportive group of friends who were patient, understanding and without them I am not sure what would have happened. I stuck with it through the three years, worked in London and went traveling. Whilst I was away I heard that one of the girls I was with in hospital had passed away. After I heard about that girl, I felt even more determined to stay well, fight my anorexia, and to inspire others to keep going.
Taking anorexia out of her comfort zone helped me to move on
Six years on I look back over my time in hospital, and the last six years of my life. The traveling, universities, running a marathon: all things I would not have been able to do with an eating disorder, all things I would not have been able to do had I not gotten help. Six years ago I couldn't imagine a day without my eating disorder being central to my life. But I have done it! It hasn't been plain sailing and, yes, I still have bad days but these don't throw me anymore and I know I can deal with them. Taking anorexia out of her comfort zone helped me to move on with life.
It is still hard to open up about my eating disorder
I don't often tell people about my anorexia; it's a bit of a taboo subject, and when I do tell someone I wash over it quickly as if it wasn't that big a deal. In all honesty I think if I tell people then they will watch what I eat, they will judge me or it will hold me back in my career. But it shouldn't! As soon as I begin to consider opening up, I panic… “What if people look at me and judge my weight?” “What if people start to judge what I eat?” “What if people think I am weird?” The questions flood through my mind and I close up.
The few times I have begun to talk about it with people around me I have not told anyone quite the extent of it. The amount of times I have wanted to tell someone and gone over the conversation in my head beforehand of exactly what to say especially to those who close to me, but this is something that is still so possible to do. In my working life I don’t want people to change their opinion of me and I certainly don’t want this to hold me back in my career or from making friends. Shutting down and not taking about my recovery and my anorexia isn't going to help anyone! In reality I don’t know what would make it easier to tell people. Rationally I know people are not judging me or thinking I am weird, but it still is hard. Strangely I feel able to open up to people I barely know but to those around me even those trust I find it so hard. Six years on I thought these feelings would have changed, but they haven’t!
What we need is for people like me to change attitudes
People need to know that I recovered from anorexia and having it doesn't make me weird. It isn't who I am, but it will always been a part of me. I want my story to inspire people to stay well, and to realise that you can recover from eating disorders. I want it to help people realise that having anorexia doesn't make you weird but a fighter. What we need is for people like me, people who have had mental health problems, to change these attitudes through feeling confident in opening up.