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"Instead of directing anger at others, I directed it at myself"

My eating disorder, anorexia nervosa, started off in 2012 when I was at university. I was having flashbacks and nightmares; I felt very vulnerable. Because of this I tried to suppress my emotions by restricting my food intake and fluid. Every time I felt something I would ignore the emotion and not eat or drink. I just did not want to listen to my body. I wanted to make myself suffer. I often felt anxious and depressed, many times angry and ashamed about everything that has happened in my life therefore I numbed out the pain. I just could not stand to endure the feelings anymore.

I was firstly admitted into an inpatient treatment centre in California, USA in 2014. There I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa and post-traumatic stress disorder. At the time I could not sleep, I couldn’t function and again could just not eat or drink. I kept fainting, my kidneys were nearly failing and my body was giving up on me. I was in America to study dance and to travel to the different states. I was told that I could not do either of these things as my health was spiralling out of control. It felt like my life was taken away from me.

It was also a way of expressing how angry I felt and a way to distract myself from feeling painful emotions. Instead of directing the anger at other people, I directed it towards myself. I also stopped eating so I didn’t develop a womanly body. I had low self-esteem; I hated myself and wanted to hide, cover up and disappear.

There was a period of my life that I blocked out certain things and began to live. I tried to not think about everything. I managed to finish my bachelor’s degree; I travelled the world and worked as a performer. But every time I settled back in to my home town, all of the events came flooding back and I felt the need to escape, run and get as far away as I could abroad. Half way through my master’s degree my health started to go downhill again. Many things triggered me. I had to drop out of the course and be taken into my second inpatient treatment facility in the UK. My life just stopped. Every day I continued to have PTSD. I had severe anxiety and would dissociate regularly. The flashbacks were frightening. I felt trapped and fearful. I was unable to breathe and would shake involuntarily. It felt like I was drowning.

I spent a total of two years at that treatment facility and am still here. This second year has been the starting point of my recovery. I began to gain confidence and feel happiness. At times it has been very difficult, and I have wanted to quit and give up, but with the help of all of the staff they have kept me going. I call this period of my life an adventure, a journey. It has not been glamorous at all. It has been a constant battle fighting thoughts and feelings. It has been hard, a rollercoaster. But I have always had that little bit of hope inside of me, a dream of what life could really be like without anorexia.

I have so much to look forward to, in terms of the future. I am hopefully moving into supported housing, I will continue to travel the world and teach dance to disadvantaged individuals and refugees. Life is bright and exciting. Even though the past has been extremely painful, I am thankful at times as it has made me the person I am today. It has made me stronger. I don’t want my eating disorder to be in the dark anymore; I want to raise awareness and help others to beat this.

Contributed by Dakotah