I can’t pinpoint the time or the day that I handed over control to my anorexia. The time that I would let the scales plummet as well as my happiness. And I suppose that’s what makes this illness so scary. Its symptoms somewhat textbook, yet each and every one of its sufferers has their own unique story.
So here’s my story. Although I can’t remember the exact time, I remember beginning to change around the age of 15. I became obsessed with being perfect and perfect in my head meant eating healthy, exercising daily and being the top academically. I got a buzz of being the ‘best’, having the most control and willpower over those around me. I was referred to as the doll-like robot, a name which only served to fuel my perfectionist personality. In the beginning, my friends and family praised my healthy habits, but little did anyone know that it was the beginning of a dark and slippery slope that took control of my life for seven years.
As my habits became more and more extreme I started to achieve more and more. At school I was the top student and was the first to secure a spot at Cambridge University to study law. In my head it was as if I had subconsciously linked my academic success to my ability to control my eating and exercise. So kilo after kilo I began to shrink. My anorexia and my grades gave me an identity. I was in control…so I thought.
Once I got to university things got worse. I avoided all social situations and I would spend my days obsessing over food and how many hours of exercise that I had done. It was a competitive environment and I was a competitive person, but when you play such dangerous games with your body, it’s never a game that you will win. I would go to the nurse each week, attempting to fool her and myself into thinking that I was okay, a rookie move for an intellect. Yet I was in denial. I continued this lie to myself, to my family and friends for the next seven years.
I never did this on purpose. I was smart enough to know it wasn’t healthy, yet I couldn’t stop. Crying to my parents, I would promise to change yet each day, but with each week and each year that passed I couldn’t do it. So much willpower yet not enough to change. I ended up having to leave Cambridge, something which to this day still plays on my mind. I had let it win; everything that I had worked for was taken away from me.
You would think that as a result it would have finally kicked in that I needed to get better, but it didn’t. I still at this point had never admitted to those around me or to myself that I did have an illness, although my frail frame made it blindingly obvious.
Everything finally began to hit home when my dad had to take me to the hospital one evening. I hid in my room in excruciating pain, but I was so scared I couldn’t hide it anymore. I ended up spending the night in A&E with my dad. I kept my tear-filled eyes closed as I watched him cry when the doctor said that if I carried this way that his daughter would not be around much longer. This was when I started to try and fight against my dark thoughts. I made the decision to completely leave university to work on recovery.
Slowly but surely, I started to get better. There were days that anorexia won, but those days became less and less. Then at the age of 22 I studied to become a personal trainer. This gave me the knowledge and control of how to stay healthy and take care of myself, but it wasn’t until I joined The SCI in Kent where I handed over the control of my diet and exercise into the hands of two very talented trainers that I started to become free from my previous restrictive thoughts.
I now have a successful career in IT, I have competed and placed in bodybuilding competitions, and most importantly I am here to share my story. From merely existing to now living, I finally can be Amy again.
This journey has taught me many things. It has made me stronger and more determined to make the most out of life and to share my story to encourage others to come forward and seek help.
Now at the time I never thought I would recover, yet today I can’t even remember the true darkness of my eating disorder. I was lucky enough to have my support system, a family unit that stuck by me after every failed recovery attempt. But if I can do it and stand here strong, then I believe you can too.
You are more than a statistic; you are unique. Don’t let your story end letting anorexia win.