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I’ve learnt that eating disorders do not discriminate against anyone. It doesn’t matter what age, sex, ethnicity, location or social background you come from, eating disorders will take anyone as their victim. 


Living with an eating disorder


It’s hard to even try to express what it’s like to have an eating disorder, but from my experience they rule and destroy your life, turning everything into a constant battle and nightmare.  For me it was like an addiction, controlled by rules and conditions and driven by desperation, and a need for perfection. 


It’s difficult to find words to express the intense fear, hatred, guilt, sadness and shame you wake up to every single morning. Knowing your day will be consumed by the racing thoughts about food, weight or exercise. It’s a vicious, torturous cycle because even if you conform to these rules it’s never enough for the disorder. You’ve always failed. I use to look at my reflection at the height of my illness and not recognise the emotionless, lost person looking back. How painfully lonely I’d become, even with a room full of loving friends and family who were desperately trying to fathom what was happening to the bright, happy, ambitious girl they once knew. I was constantly envious of other people being able to laugh and smile and live life to the full, and yet here I was no longer living … just merely existing. The disorder had trapped me and gripped me tight; no matter how much I wanted to get my life back, it just seemed impossible to escape.


A person with an eating disorder not only faces the daily challenge of the symptoms, they also face being constantly judged and misunderstood. Eating disorders are not phases and don’t simply appear one day for no reason, as some still believe. Myths, that I believe are fuelled by the media, need to be tackled in order to get rid of the misconceptions. People would often ask me, “are you starving yourself for attention or to look like a celebrity?” like it was my choice. I can honestly say I’d never in a million years put my family and friends through all the pain and distress of watching me (essentially) slowly killing myself, or leave myself with life-long illnesses, for the attention it gained or if it was as simple as being able to “just eat”.


Another huge challenge for all those affected with an eating disorder is access to local support and services. This unfortunately is a nationwide problem and can be frustrating for all those involved. With little funding available for eating disorders, people miss out on essential treatment. In the Highlands and Islands there are no support groups, that I know of, to allow people to meet others in similar situations. Additionally, from my experience, if you need specialised in-patient treatment, you have to move hours away, meaning you lack the family support others have. 

Loved ones


When a child enters the world their parents imagine many occasions; like passing their exams, their first date or getting married. They do not imagine having to go through the devastating events an eating disorder will throw at them. They are shattering to the individual but also highly destructive and distressing to the family. They feel incredibly helpless as they can only watch as the eating disorder tears apart the family and robs the child. However loved ones play a crucial part in supporting the sufferer. Although it’s hard to see, through all the lies, the pain, the denial or the personality changes, your child is still in their somewhere. Knowing that I had my friends and family there for me throughout my battle was my lifeline. They had to be so patient but I knew that they would listen and help when I needed.  


Journey to recovery


The journey to recovery is the hardest journey you will make in your life. Having to let go of everything you’ve fought for so long is daunting and so scary but honestly worth it. The biggest step you will take is accepting you have a problem and that you need help. Personally I don’t think you will get anything out of treatment without this acceptance, as you will be continually fighting and lying. The journey is far from easy. It’s a long road with many twists and turns along the way. Entering therapy for me was terrifying, as I knew that I would have to explore and relive my past and the reasons that triggered my eating disorder. But I’ve discovered many new things about myself and now understand how I cope with different situations and what my triggers may be.


A key part of recovery is the support from friends and family. They cannot ‘fix’ the eating disorder, but knowing that the support is there will help the sufferer continue to fight to get better.   


Personally, I don’t know if you can ever fully recover from an eating disorder. It changes your whole life. To me recovery is being able to control my own thoughts and over-ride those given by the anorexia. It’s still a daily battle for me but getting a taste of my old life back or being able to smile and laugh again makes it all worthwhile.


Never give up as nothing’s impossible =)