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Caitlyn's story

My relationship with food started going downhill at around age 13/14.

I wasn’t really sure what was happening then but I was a very anxious child and didn’t know how to express it. So I think I turned that inwards in the form of controlling my eating. I always felt so self conscious and insecure, and I often compared myself to others in school.

I don’t even remember how the “secret” came out, I think people starting noticing my unhealthy behaviours. I spoke to my school about all the feelings I had at the time and they advised my mum to take me o the doctors.

Going there I was very anxious, I didn’t really know what to expect. It was the first time I’d actually be directly talking about this subject to a professional. The DR done the usual checks (blood test, blood pressure, temperature, weight) and spoke with me a little. At the end of the appointment he told me he was going to refer me to CAMHS for anorexia.

My first CAMHS appointment was at the age of 15. I was in and out all the time. But I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Every appointment was the same, physical health checks, weight, and a lot of talking. At this time I was officially diagnosed with atypical anorexia. When I got this diagnosis I felt very invalid and I thought that meant it wasn’t serious enough. It became my disorders goal to reach the weight requirement for Anorexia. (Although if I could go back in time and give myself a hug (and anyone reading this who relates) and tell us that it most definitely doesn’t mean that, and that eating disorders are always serious, not only because the damage that is done to our body’s but because we’re in so much mental distress, I would in a heartbeat.

My mental health continued to spiral really quickly and I wasn’t sure how to cope.

There wasn’t a lot of understanding about eating disorders in my family, because no one had ever experienced one.

This made it really hard and very lonely. I used Beat a few times, for information and the support groups. Talking with people that struggled with similar experiences made me feel less like a monster and more understood.

CAMHS started adding more restrictions to what I could and couldn’t do. I wasn’t allowed to walk to school, I could only do half days so I could be home for lunch time and I had to follow a basic meal plan. I found it very hard to engage in recovery because I thought my illness was the only thing that made me, well... me. A lot of the control was taken from me and this made my eating disorder very very angry. It thrived off control and so as a desperate attempt to gain it back, I started lying to everyone around me. (Although this is one of my biggest regrets, I wish I’d have just been honest about how I felt and how I was doing at the time)

I turned 16 and Christmas of 2019 came. Still very consumed by my illness, I was absolutely terrified. Christmas and holidays were very hard for me, and I think a lot of people who’ve struggled with an eating disorder share similar anxieties around these times. It was very very hard and I cried a lot. However, it was my first sort of turning point in realising I could do it. I allowed myself to be social and join in with the games and even some food that was way out of my comfort zone. The guilt quickly crept in and I relied on my eating disorder heavily.

I’d lie in bed every night so exhausted and cold. All I could do was go to sleep and pray I woke up feeling better the next day. Early 2020, after more days of exhaustion, negative behaviours and battling with my own thoughts. One night, I literally just thought, screw this. I decided I was going to put everything I had into recovery. That I was done being trapped and misled by anorexia. I reached out for a lot of support from different services and I used their advice and encouragement rather than shut it down. I don’t know what exactly triggered that switch in my brain, but it was the best thing I’ve ever done.

The world seemed to light up again - my brain was more focused on the moments rather than the food on my plate

I won’t lie, recovery was hard: so many thoughts, tears and feelings of grief. But after a while it started to get easier. And it was the most free I’ve ever felt. I remember going to see a musical shortly after I decided to put all my effort into recovery. And it was the best day of my life. I had so much energy to do things and I could genuinely laugh and smile.

The world seemed to light up again, and my brain was more focused on the moments rather than the food on my plate. I’m 19 now. My eating disorder took away my young teenage years and I never truly knew the meaning of a “fake friend” until I was consumed by its lies and obsessions. I’ve had a few “blips” along the way, and I still think those same thoughts sometimes but I'm determined never to fall to my knees because of it again.

-Contributed by Caitlyn

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