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Maddie's Three Peaks Challenge

Small steps go a long way

In the Summer of 2021, I embarked on a journey which seemed bigger than any mountain and in fact I couldn’t even see the end. Having to say goodbye to family every night whilst I slept alone on a hospital ward was a feeling which words cannot describe. And that’s the thing with eating disorders – they thrive off your mental weakness. Once you give in, they snowball into a storm until you feel well and truly alone.

It took very little for anorexia to take hold and wreak havoc but equally it took very little to realise I needed help. For me, Beat was my safety net. It was a place I could go to for reassurance that I didn’t need to give up, that this was not an unhappy ending - if others could do it, so could I. Although admitting to yourself feels like a weakness it is the mightiest strength in allowing yourself to accept kindness. I was lucky enough to have a support network around me, but I can’t imagine how hard it must have been on the outside to watch a family member turn their back on you.

With the help of Beat, my family and friends were able to better understand how to help

Eating disorders were once described to me like an octopus, with the sufferer at its heart and all of its tentacles holding on to all of their loved ones. With the help of Beat, my family and friends were able to better understand how to help with use of vital information and helpline access for them as well. The online support groups meant they could get advice from people in similar situations to help not to feel alone. One by one, the tentacles of anorexia were letting go.

Whilst in hospital and recovering, I had a crazy idea and said to my mum “How cool would it be to climb the three peaks!”. As someone who has always loved the outdoors, having that taken away from me by an eating disorder made me so desperate on the inside but it never seemed to show on the outside. The idea of being able to achieve something which I had always wanted to do since childhood was a huge motivation.

It took a long time before this imagined trip could become a reality. In March 2022 I decided to open a fundraiser to Beat in hope to give back to the people who had saved me from becoming a victim of eating disorders – instead I can proudly say I am a survivor. I was completely overwhelmed by peoples support and how the fundraising took off.

Although as the donations streamed in, it felt quite daunting at times. “Why was people’s kindness making me feel scared?” Often putting yourself out there can make you feel like you are wearing a clown suit and everybody will be looking at you with judgemental thoughts and opinions. But the truth was… no one was interested in anything other than coming together collectively to support an amazing cause.

The more I reflect on the experience, the more I can see how recovery is much like a mountain

July 2022 came around and me, my mum and my dad packed up the car to set off to Scotland to begin the three peaks challenge. ‘Eat to Peak’ became our slogan whilst we hiked during the hottest day of the year! 30-degree weather wasn’t in on our plan, but we adapted and enjoyed the views.

The more I reflect on the experience, the more I can see how recovery is much like a mountain. You go down, then up, then around a corner, boulders and rocky terrain get in the way, but whatever happens you will there in your own time. But you don’t finish hiking a mountain for your journey to end at the edge of the world and perish in existence. It keeps going forever, but you know you overcame the hardest part that was stepping foot on the mountain in the first place.

A big lesson which I think is important for people to know is that an eating disorder does not define you as a person. It may be a part of your history but it will not determine you for the rest of your life. Very similar to how in early recovery I learnt that weight is not a definition of who you are.

As one massive team we were able to raise more than £4,000 for Beat. The feeling of knowing you have made a difference to other people’s lives is one that words can’t describe.

My biggest lesson is not what anorexia took away from me but what recovery has given me.

I hope through sharing my story that someone can realise they deserve a world filled with happiness.

Be kind to yourself, one step at a time.

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