Some days are harder than others. Most days were hard back then.
I stared my mum in the eyes, and with a shallow breath said, ''I need help". After a long period of denial, I admitted that I was ill: yet somehow, I felt I could never be ill 'enough'.
A lady greeted me at the door (At the time I didn't realise, but I'd be seeing her more than I saw my best friend) and told us to take a seat. It was October, and I’d arrived in my thickest coat, thickest socks, thickest hat and gloves. I was grey. I was there for a general check-up. Dad waited in the big room, while me and mum shuffled into the smaller, cold office.
A nurse did some bloods and went through the motions, including taking my weight. My body weight said it all. That nurse changed demeanour, and someone else came to take mum, and they left me. But I'm not ill, I thought. So why am I sat on this bed, alone?
Everything then happened so quickly. When I got home, I had to eat dinner, pack a bag-I couldn't even see my brother- and I was in that hospital by 5pm. My dad had to go and that was it, for an entire week. I was monitored overnight and woken up at 6am for blood tests. Food made me extremely anxious. I was even monitored when going to the toilet, but that vision scared me: standing in the mirror, a skeleton.
It was extremely hard, and I was encouraged to push my boundaries with food. I wanted to refuse the snacks put forward to me. My Everest was two chocolate biscuits put forward by a nurse. I couldn’t see how they could make me better or help me recover. It took a while, but eventually, I persevered. I escaped those walls on the Saturday. My dad and brother picked me up in a wheelchair, and I could go home.
I've skipped through my admission and it almost sounds simple, because that was a single week. The condition diagnosis was made in October 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. I received immediate medical treatment and support from a Children and Young Persons’ Community Eating Disorders Service, and a Specialist Eating Disorder Therapist.
The professional support I received ensured I had a quick and sustainable recovery.
I was referred to The Brambles Community Eating Disorders Service in October 2020, and
diagnosed at the age of thirteen. I received treatment from the service through 2021, and was discharged from them, receiving my official discharge letter in November, of 2021. But my journey began way before, from what I remember it was April 2020. I felt that I'd ruined holidays and lost time with my brother. It felt wrong that a four-year-old had had to act in a care-giver role for his big sister. But I was weak, grey, cold and a shell of a person. My parents were losing their daughter, my grandparents their granddaughter, my brother his sister, but ultimately - I'd lost myself.
This is just a fraction of my story, but it has stayed with me. In hindsight, I know they were just biscuits. And I know someone who is battling this awful disorder won't believe me, but they are only biscuits. It's not a gun or poison and you are not weak for taking them or enjoying them.
I want change and people need more help. The Covid-19 pandemic affected everyone, in many ways. I am certain everyone can name both positive and negative consequences that they have personally had. The pandemic led to a major increase in eating disorders- and it is estimated 1.25 million people in the UK are sufferers. But this is just an estimate; unfortunately, 42% of those diagnosed feel they don't need help, or don't know where to seek it from. At Beat, people can find support, for diagnosed and undiagnosed individuals, as well as help and guidance for their families and friends. So I decided to fundraise to support Beat- on 3rd September , with my dad, we ran 10km, cycled 20km and swam 500m, and raised over £1000.
Before I was diagnosed with anorexia, I'd never heard of what an eating disorder was. Perhaps this was down to the naivety of my age- though many young people are affected every day. However, it is also evident that anyone can develop an eating disorder, and this is why I am so thankful to Beat, and why I wanted to fundraise for them. They have given me the support on days when I felt too weak to continue fighting, as well as offered a service for my family- when they were struggling to see their daughter through the eyes of an imposter.
Although I was the one diagnosed with the illness, it was my entire life, family, friends and memories, that were inflicted by its pain.
I was lucky to receive support from an Eating Disorder Clinic, but this is not always available to everyone (and even I struggled to gain professional help). But, alongside this, Beat helped me to build resilience and determination to fight. Anorexia is a horrific illness, but I am proud to say that it is no longer mine. Strength is not something that we are born with, but we simply have to work to build it. Once we have it, it is hard to lose.
If I have any advice for anyone suffering, it is to keep pushing. Not every day is easy, but equally, not every day is hard. It is important to keep fighting through because there is hope and there's always a way out. Have a journal, write it down and always: keep talking. I know through experience, that this might sound like lies to those who are victims of an eating disorder- but I also know that they are not. There is hope. It isn't easy- it is painful, upsetting and often dark. But, remember this is your journey, not the doctor's, therapist's, or mine and it is definitely not a stereotyped diagnosis. So, make it your own and be proud to keep fighting- stay strong. Let the effort you put in be your own because you want to recover for you. You must remember this, else you'll be recovering to please people and meet the right medical standards, and then it won't be permanent.
For me, when any day or circumstance feels a challenge, I think of the biscuits- it is a metaphor for my journey, but nothing for me will ever be as tough. The strength obtained through your journey, is the strength you will hold for life- to go forward and face anything!
-Contributed by Liv
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised in Liv's story, or are concerned for yourself or a loved one, you can find support and guidance on the help pages of our website.