Below is a piece I wrote for ITV Granda Reports during Mental Health Awareness Week about my personal battle with anorexia. The original piece can be found here.
Media coverage of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia is commonly associated with women and very rarely connected to men. September 2013 was the start of my eating disorder. I had just started university and was thrown into the ‘big world’ with no clue of what I wanted to do, why I was at university and what was going on. I pulled through the year and it fully hit me that summer. Summer of 2014, I went through personal difficulties which impacted my time at university. This was when anorexia got fully hold of me. It acted as though it wanted to destroy me.
I didn’t know what was happening, I never wanted food, was always tired and disengaged – I was losing the battle and it was happening rapidly. I tried to battle it on my own, but I couldn’t. Each day, I was getting more and more worn out and started noticing a drop in the size of my clothes. I went from a 32inch waist to 26inches in less than a year, it might not seem a great deal, but it is. I thought I was being stupid, I was just losing weight, that was normal? Or so I thought. In the end, I ended up seeing my local GP who didn’t know what to do. I went through months of keeping a food diary and had to report back to my GP.
Months later, I saw a different Doctor who sent me home so she could chat with a colleague. Within an hour, she phoned me and told me she was referring me to an eating disorder clinic. I didn’t know what to think, I laughed it off thinking it was a joke. How could I have an eating disorder?
A few weeks went by and I saw the specialists at the eating disorder clinic. My Nan came with me to the appointment and I remember every word Jane (the specialist) said to me. “This is a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa – if this had been left any longer, you would be admitted to hospital. Your BMI is scarily low.”
Following this, Jane informed me that I was unable to fly and drive due to my low BMI and the condition I was in. At the time, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I thought I looked great, looking back at this picture – I cannot believe how ill I looked. My legs look as though they’re about to snap.
I vividly remember going to London to meet up with a few friends and go to a gig. Everything seemed fine to me. We went to grab some food and having eaten before I boarded my train (around four hours before this) I decided not to eat as I didn’t think I needed to. The whole two days I was in London, I ate one meal, which wasn’t even a meal. It was a child’s Happy Meal.
After seeking help and opening up to my family and a few friends around me, I finally began getting back on track – I’m not going to deny it took a long time because it did.
Admitting what you’re going through is the toughest and best decision you will make. I decided staying in University was the best option for me – I wasn’t going to let anorexia take over my whole life. It had a hold on my mental and physical life, it wasn’t going to affect my education. I was determined.
I started going out with friends for dinner gradually, I may not have eaten a lot but it was a start. I started eating more and more each day, I knew I was on the right track.
However, due to the lack of nutrients and calcium to my body, still to this day I takevitamins and a calcium booster because I damaged my body that much.
Being told I wasn’t allowed to fly was horrible because I was in the process of booking my first holiday with a friend. However, I still booked that holiday and I was determined to be healthier for it. I was in no way the healthiest, but it was a start.
I worked on my mental state for months to ensure I would be well enough to go on holiday. Sure enough the holiday came around after what felt like years, I was so happy with the progress I made. Even just looking at pictures of my face on that holiday, I look healthier and have a ‘glow’ back, where I’d previously looked lifeless. I was almost me again. There was still a long way to go but I was getting there.
Speaking now in 2017, four years after my diagnosis of anorexia – I am so much healthier. I’m currently writing this and struggling to put a pair of jeans on. My waist size has gone up to 30inches, two inches smaller than before. I feel healthier and happier than ever. I go out for food a lot of the time and I’ve never felt more comfortable and relaxed.
In sharing my story, I hope to at least help one person fight this cruel beast. You may seem trapped now but trust me, in time it will get easier and you will realise just how strong you are. You can do this. No matter how old you are, if you’re a man or woman – please speak up. Nobody will be judging you, help is there and it will make your life so much easier.
If you or you know of anybody who may be suffering from an eating disorder, below are two charities who can offer help and advice.