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"It is in no way a sign of weakness asking for help"

I have suffered from an eating disorder from the age of 12. It was severe during my time at high school – I had to visit an eating disorder clinic 2/3 times a week until I left school at 17, and it continued during my Musical Theatre training after that.

However, having therapy for many years on and off gave me the strength to fight it. Everyone who is suffering with an eating disorder or any mental health issues should not be afraid to ask for help and get support. It is in no way a sign of weakness asking for help, especially during this time. There is access to online therapy as well as many amazing podcasts from all over.

However, I am now past many obstacles and I am extremely close to becoming fully recovered. I used to exercise obsessively but never refuel my body enough. Now I have found a new balance to life through determination, training my mind to fight the bad thoughts. I will be honest: I do love exercising, but I do it for enjoyment now and to build strength and muscle, which I lost through many years of under-eating and constantly punishing my body.

I now let my hair down and socialise. This used to be a huge fear – I would make up any excuse to not go out with friends to avoid having to eat nice food in fear of the guilt later on or during that social situation. It ruined everything for me from friendships to family life. I then experienced severe OCD, bad circulation in my hands and feet, loss of hair etc. It took over my life, even to the point of having no energy to sing, dance or act, the things I adored and could escape to focus on from the eating disorder.

My rule now is that whenever I choose to exercise, I ALWAYS refuel with good food pre- and post-workout, because I need that energy. And when I tell you I love a midnight treat in the evenings, my housemate knows! What once was a huge fear is now an enjoyment – I love pasta dishes, roast dinners, Thai food – the list is endless.

In the last few months with not being able to perform on stage and having to stay at home (no gym, my routine and daily life changing constantly) I have noticed my attitude has changed towards food and my body in a positive way. I am stronger and I can fight the thoughts even at times of stress and the unknown. Whenever I was stressed or upset previously I would perform intense exercises to ease the pain and punish myself constantly by not refuelling but I would feel disappointment in myself for doing so. With the long physical hours at drama school on top of all these destructive thoughts and behaviours it became all too draining. It was a whirlwind of emotions – even when I was happy it would still be there in the back of my head. That’s when I had to go to my head of year and ask for help.

I have overcome a HELL of a lot since then.

Now I have days where I may accidentally slip into an old habit, but I can talk myself out of the guilt and refuel my body. I challenge the voice in my head every single day and I get stronger; it gets weaker.

Every day is a new day. Every day is a new challenge. At the moment during quarantine I have learnt to deal with my mistakes. I have grown stronger mentally and physically.

'It's better to take many small steps in the right direction than to take a big leap forward only to stumble backward.'

Contributed by Hannah