I developed anorexia at 16 and went on to develop bulimia at 19. In total, my eating disorder spanned almost 13 years. I am now 31.
If I could go back and speak to myself at each of the pivotal moments in my illness, starting from when my anorexia developed the summer after my 16th birthday, this is what I'd say.
You don't feel like you fit in, you don't feel good enough but you are.
Don't define yourself by what you are but by who you are.
You are not the numbers on a scale.
You are not your body shape.
You are not your dress size or the clothes you wear.
You are not a mere object.
You are not the mistakes of the people who hurt you.
You have value.
You have worth.
Please don't seek validation from others at the expense of yourself.
Life will be difficult. It will challenge you, break you, hurt you. Feel that, allow yourself to feel life. Don't channel your feelings through your eating. Don't restrict. Don't purge.
When you are 16 you will feel that the only way you can be happy with yourself is by shrinking yourself. Don't.
Don't shrink anything about who you are.
You are enough.
Again, when you are 16 the limited relationship you have with your dad will also break down; he will become a stranger to you. You didn't do anything wrong. You are not the adult here. Don't cope by starving yourself.
When you are 18, health professionals will fail you; you are not equipped to handle your changing body. Talk to someone, tell them you are drowning. You need help.
You are also allowed to be angry. Angry at being hurt. Angry that you slipped through the net. Don't ever apologise for being angry. You have a right to be.
When you are 19 you will purge. It won't make you better. It will hurt, it will keep hurting. It will be the heaviest secret you carry for the next 10 years.
At 20, tell someone.
At 21, tell someone.
At 22, tell someone.
At 23, tell someone.
At 24, tell someone.
At 25, tell someone.
At 26, tell someone.
At 27, tell someone.
At 28, tell someone.
At 29. You will tell someone.
The breakdown of your relationship will feel like it has shattered you. You will question your sense of worth. It was not your fault. Someone else does not define your worth. Don't restrict, don't purge. You can be healthy. You will get better. You have people who value you. Value yourself. You have never felt worthy, so you gave away part of yourself in your relationship at the price of your sense of self.
You always have been and you are enough.
When you are recovering, you will discover how capable your body is. It will heal, it will grow, and so will your mind. You will run because you love it. You will learn to lift more than double your bodyweight. Your strength will define you more than your size. You will tell friends when you are struggling. You will cry in front of them. You will learn to believe you are enough.
You and all your one million broken and healing pieces are enough.
You have to learn how to live again and, like with any lessons, you often have to fail to learn the best way or the right way...
In the past I’ve wanted to hide the eating disorders that are part of my history, but I want to shout from the rooftops: I'm proud of how far I had come!
When lockdown came into force – what seems like a whole lifetime ago – I struggled. Like many people who experience eating problems, I felt so threatened by the changes in routine, the limited availability of certain foods, the massive uncertainty of it all