"An eating disorder is a powerful illness. It corrupts the minds of the most beautiful individuals and makes them feel the opposite.” Jane* has chosen to speak out about her personal battle with anorexia and bulimia nervosa, hoping to give encouragement to anybody out there suffering.
“I was always a curvy girl, chubby when I was younger, but I was completely in proportion in my teens. I loved food, I loved socialising, I loved being me. However my obsession with numbers took over my life after receiving comments about my weight. I am not saying that this was the only cause of my illness; I had several. But that was the point where I can specifically remember changing my eating habits in a desperate attempt to control my weight. I began purging (making myself sick) after meals and making excuses to go to the toilet after or during meals. I felt like I had control. But I didn’t, in fact, I had the complete opposite. I then began obsessively exercising and restricting in a bid to ‘burn off’ the little I had consumed. I felt powerful and in a sense, clever. My nails were brittle, my skin was dry, my joints suffered and the purging resulted in a ruptured oesophagus.
Anorexia had taken control
"It pulled me and everyone close to me down to rock bottom. Before long, I cut back completely on my daily intake. I went on holiday that year with my best friend, my mum and my dad. That was when I recognised I had a problem. For many months I had shrugged off comments about my eating habits from several worried friends and convinced my parents I didn’t have a problem, but that holiday confirmed everything everybody was thinking. I would make excuses to stay in at night, go to bed in the day, shiver in 30-degree heat and buy children’s meals. At this point my parents were frantic with worry; they put it down to exam stress, however this was far from the truth.
"When we returned from the holiday, I was seriously ill. I was afraid of food. I was afraid of water, of what it might do to me. I would refuse anything put in front of me, and became extremely weak. I was unable to walk up the stairs without having a break half way through. I had internal, external and emotional problems that hadn’t been addressed and I was losing myself. My sodium and potassium levels were dangerously low and I was rapidly going downhill. I knew I needed help but I was too afraid, too ashamed. I saw my dad cry for the first time in my life. He lost his smile; my mum did too.
"That was my changing point. I decided to accept the help offered to me and started day care treatment at Priory Hospital Altrincham. My first day in treatment was hell; I cried, I felt hopeless and I wanted to disappear. I was ill and I needed help. I finally agreed to commence anorexia treatment with the day care programme two days a week and create achievable goals that would help to save my life.
I will not be defeated
"My battle with an eating disorder, who I have named ‘Cruella’, has been a massive rollercoaster. Cruella and I are two separate people. She is ugly, she brings me down and she bullies me. But I am strong, I am beautiful and I am the winner - I truly believe that. Her messages are still there, they are still hurtful, but they are getting quieter and quieter. I am not fully recovered, but I will not be defeated. I am now eating three meals and three snacks a day and I am starting to go out with my friends more. My parents are getting their little girl back; they’re smiling again, and so am I.
"My message to anybody out there who is either suffering with an eating disorder or is worried about a loved one who may have an eating disorder, there is hope. I have experienced the lowest of low moods and I never believed anyone when they said it would all be okay, but I have finally realised they were speaking the truth. And I hope you believe me too. My biggest ask is that you seek professional help; it is the hardest, the bravest and the biggest step to regaining your life, even if you tip-toe at first. It might be stormy now, but it can’t rain forever. You can do it. Never give up.”
* Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.