I was first diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 15. I am now 37. I have spent over half of my life (some periods worse than others) fighting this illness. There have been ups and downs, highs and lows, but it is still always there. I feel like I have lost years of my life when my obsession with food, exercise, my weight, my appearance and other people’s opinions have completely taken over my mind. I don’t want to go into much detail. Not only would it take far too much time but it’s thoughts and experiences that are still hard to share. I have learned to talk about it more over the years and am now able to be more open with my close friends and family, but some things are just between me, myself and my therapist. I have also found that at times when the eating disorder has really taken hold, I read about others’ experiences, taking inspiration to introduce various strategies into my own regime. Their stories often fed my motivation to restrict, exercise and lose weight.
The thing I would like to talk about is the support that I have received from my family and close friends. At times I have tried to hide everything from everyone, but I did a terrible job because the problem became clearly visible when my weight plummeted. It’s not just me that has been on this journey but my family and close friends. My family especially have been a constant in my life that I don’t know where I would be without. My mum and dad started fighting this long before I did, before I even realised there was a problem.
My parents I know felt helpless during a period where they watched me deteriorate each time I saw them. They tried to talk to me but I wouldn’t listen. It took a long time for me to let them help me. Over the years they have provided not only financial support (they had to pay privately to see a doctor and get a therapist when the NHS failed me) but so much emotional support. Just being there for me, encouraging me, listening and being patient with me (mostly) despite their desperation for me to get better. There were arguments along the way when I was reluctant to change and didn’t want to do what I needed to get healthy. But they were always there through all of the ups and the downs. For over a year I even went to live with them when things got so bad I had to give up my job and the independence (and isolation) of my own flat. I still battled with them the whole way but there was someone there every day to encourage me, and I suppose fight with me at times, to get better. It was a hard time for m,e but it was also hard for them.
My mum and dad sought help from Beat. Here they found support groups for carers and found them really helpful. Beat helped me too with help seeking support groups at times where I needed the additional help.
Generally, we have always found that there is not enough support or awareness for eating disorders, even now. He has always been there for me, but I think my dad always felt a little helpless in my fight. Over the last few years, after the help they gave him and my mum, he has tried to help and raise awareness with Beat. He raises money through sponsorship in various events and awareness by taking information to local schools and volunteering. He has also tried to learn more about the illness through research and attending seminars/talks. This allows him to help others but also improved his understanding of my issues and encouraged us to talk more. I’m closer with him now than I ever have been in my life.
My dad recently took part in the British 10k with me. Running has been something we can bond over recent years and taking part in events like this together is great. He wore his Beat vest with pride, and his energy and enthusiasm shines through in this great picture of him on the course.
He is 71 years young and can still blast out a 10k in style and with a smile on his face. Things like this fill me with pride and it means so much to me that he puts this kind of effort into supporting me, trying to help others and raise awareness. I don’t have the strength yet to run or raise money for Beat. As much as I would like to get help for others I am still helping myself and am not ready to put myself out there like that. So I feel like he does it he does it for me and helps give me and others strength. I appreciate and admire him more than he realises.
You just have to remember to be there for them when they need you and gently nudge them in the right direction.
I feel very lucky to have found a support group – but it would have been wonderful if this had been available more locally.
The right support and information helps family and loved ones understand, so they can provide the love and care needed for everyone.