When you are lost in the darkness of your illness, it is easy to be ‘in a room full of people but feel utterly alone’. That is how the infamous saying goes. I was in a boarding house of with 60 other girls and 20 members of staff, yet I was somehow convinced that nobody could help me.
I was 15 and 1312 miles away from home. It was the year of my GCSEs… the year where schools put an exorbitant amount of pressure on the students. Being an over-achiever, I listened to every lecture about how these grades paved the way for the rest of our lives and, to put it simply, my entire existence revolved around these ten exams. Before I could realise, I calculated my worth through numbers and the worst thing was, I was horrible at maths.
I woke up everyday wondering why I felt this way. I felt grey. What I didn’t realise was that whilst I was worried about getting through lunchtime, I had created a storm of worry within those who loved me. At the time, my eating disorder told me that nobody cared about me and that they had given up on me. I was dismissive of my Housemistress’ constant worry for my health and checking up on me three times a day and my parents being thousands of miles away with no means of physically reaching me.
Suddenly, everything I valued in myself vanished: I no longer smiled, I was too lethargic to go to lessons, and I didn’t even bother talking to anyone. I became a prisoner to my own mind. I watched hopelessly as my grades took a dive; the column of A grades I was used to was then riddled with letters I had never seen before on a report card. Before I knew it, I had a shocking attendance of 34% and being an international student, my visa functioned on the premise that I was going to attend a certain amount of lessons a year. My parents and I were both devastated when we received the news that the school could no longer facilitate me due to my situation being life-threatening. I remember begging and pleading to stay in school so I could take my GCSEs, but everyone told me I had to prioritise my health.
Although that should have been a wake-up call… one of the most monumental moments for me in my journey was going home for the first time in a year, when my dad met me at the airport. Growing up with a bipolar mother, my dad was my everything. I stood at the arrival area waving hysterically at him. In my mind, I had played this moment out every sleepless night: I would enter the hall and my dad would meet my eyes, I’d leave all my bags unattended and run up to him, we would smile at each other physically for the first time in a year… But his eyes didn’t meet mine… there was no embrace and no smiles. He didn’t recognise me. I walked up to my father awkwardly, as if I was a stranger. I saw his eyes knitted in concern and his mouth etched into a frown. The drive home was silent to say the least. He had realised that I had lied to him and to me that was what hurt the most.
The ice had thawed and spring was coming. I finally felt like I came back to life when I accepted the help around me. I never spoke outwardly regarding my anorexia with my family, but I could see their love all around me. The warmth of my grandma’s cooking resuscitated me. My dad took me to a restaurant for the first time in six months where he sat with me for three and a half hours until I was done with my meal. By March, I was physically healed and prepared for my exams. Upon returning to my school, I had found that my friends matured and grown without me: they were excited by boys and celebrities, but I felt I was still a child who didn’t know anything.
My school registered me to speak to a support team run by the NHS where I spoke to psychologists who understood me and talked to me about things I should have spoken of months ago. They introduced me to information booklets from Beat which educated my parents in communicating with me about my eating disorder. With proper psychological guidance, my mental health was repaired, and I was fully myself again. My grades returned to the way they were, and I was glad I lived to see results day.
The voices we recognise in our heads aren’t us... eating disorders take away everything that makes you, you. Often we are too consumed in our own tribulations to realise that others are pounding on your door, desperate to talk to you and help you…
...even if you feel unloved, there will always be someone, maybe someone you don’t even know yet, who wants to provide support. When you feel alone, look for the light.
Contributed by Charlotte