For years I struggled with an eating disorder. It all started from several stressful events in my life, which I dealt with by exercising and controlling what I ate. Prior to the development of my ED, I was a happy, loud and approachable character whom friends or family would turn to in their time of need. However, I started to become more and more distant and eventually became someone my family and friends no longer recognised – I had lost my identity. I found it very difficult to explain to people what was going on and how I couldn’t control my actions.
Having an eating disorder isn't vanity driven, it's a mental health disorder where you have no control over your mood, feelings or actions. Where outsiders can rationalise the health implications and methods of recovering, we cannot. Our minds are constantly toying with us, creating feelings of anxiety and guilt. We panic if we are exposed to a situation we are not used to or cannot control – even something as simple as a meal out. But I don’t need to tell you what you already know, right? Well, that’s the point. We know exactly what we’re feeling and how hard it is to change, but why?
It took me four years in total to recover (regaining FULL health) – I was lucky to have amazing support from my family and friends who stood by me the whole time. However, it was understanding the reasons why I was feeling the way I did that made the most impact on my recovery. I started to look at my life and highlighted the stress that was contributing to my negative habits: starting a degree I had no passion for, losing a family member, parents splitting up and losing a home of 18 years etc. From this I decided what I could change: my degree – I left university and took time out for two years and focusing setting up a new home that was ours with my mother. I am not going to lie – the two years I took out of university was full of ups and downs. I felt I would take five steps forward and two steps back, but I persevered.
One thing that helped the most was being open and honest. My mother, who is my rock and hero, listened to me every day. We talked through how I was feeling and why, and where we could make minor changes each week, such as limiting my exercise to a certain time period or going to a family/friend event. These conversations slowly created a behavioural change, and as we eventually did get our own home I felt more in control and settled in my life. In addition, I found my passion; as a Pilates instructor of six years I have always been interested in the human body and so developed an interest into physiotherapy. To be a physiotherapist and help people heal I had to set a good example/be a role model for good health therefore I was even more motivated to get my health back.
It was not an easy journey, but I managed to gain weight and my life back. I am now back to the loud and happy character I once was and people now turn to me for advice like they once used to do. I am not writing this to write specific details on how I recovered, but to help people understand an eating disorder is not solved by a simple equation of eating more and exercising less (as often is stated) it is a psychological driven condition that should not be overlooked but talked about. There is a massive drive for mental health awareness in recent years, and therefore if yourself or someone you know is experiencing this, please don't shy away from them because you cannot cope with the way they act – they cannot help it. Instead, help them understand their thoughts and feelings and support them to regain their health – it will be so worth it. It's a long journey but I can honestly say I'm a better person because of it and the happiest I have ever been.