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Anorexia and me…

Our latest guest blogger is a mental health campaigner, author and an ambassador for the Shaw Mind Foundation. Hope suffered with anorexia for over 4 years, before being admitted to a Mental Health Hospital in 2007. She lived in the hospital for a year, fighting one of the hardest battles of her life. Hope is now at the stage of 'ongoing recovery' and wants to use her experiences of mental health illness to champion the rights of others, inspire them to get well, and help break the stigma of mental illness.​

When I was growing up I always found it hard to feel any sort of emotion. My Mum put me in therapy when I was 9 but I thought it was a waste of time. The lady would make me write down my feelings or bad memories and put them in an empty tissue book. So instead of learning to process things I kept doing what I knew how to do. And as the years passed my mum would try and get me talking but I would stare blankly like her. Empty and soulless. 

Then when I was 13 I discovered the best way to process emotion - dieting and exercise. I loved the feeling those thoughts gave me; feelings of value, feelings of self-worth. I loved that my mind could wander to exercise when I was in a bad place and it would make me feel okay. I would lay awake for hours at night and instead of letting myself feel things I would begin planning my meals for the next day, and what exercise I would be doing.

Over the next 6 months these feelings progressed. And that voice in my head that used to talk to me about my dieting would now give me that sense of value and worth. I was good at this, really good at it. I knew all the tricks of the trade and I felt proud of myself that I was succeeding in something. Every time I missed a meal I felt like I had won a medal. It was amazing how little I could live off.

I carried on for the next four years of my life without a care in the world. All up until my parents started interfering. I knew they were just jealous that I was losing weight and feeling good. 

But when I was 17, my dieting and exercise had gone too far and instead of getting value from this anorexia voice I was losing everything. That value had turned in to beating me up. I wasn’t good enough for my best friend, anorexia. Instead I was making her angry. I wasn’t running quite fast enough.

It all stopped in November 2007, I came so close to dying and losing everything and then spent the next year of my life battling to get well in hospital.

Now 14 years on from that first meal I skipped life has been interesting to say the least.

The frustrating thing with anorexia is her need to never quite let you go. When I have a rough day I know that voice could jump on me at any time. Yes I manage it now and I know one hundred percent I want to stay well but there are times when I have to monitor it more. Recently due to a number of circumstances and the way people have treated me I have felt like a complete failure and no good for anything. My tendency in the past would have been to stop eating and start to exercise a lot again so that I got value from anorexia, so that I felt able to process these emotions. But instead I am learning to process how I feel, this included recently after a really tough day I sat in the toilets at my gym and cried and cried. I am not telling you this for sympathy but telling you that you might see that it is okay to feel things. And it is one hundred percent okay to cry, get angry... I have learnt that whilst in those situations if I worked out or missed a meal yes I might feel momentarily better I definitely won’t feel better long term.   

Sharing how you feel can be hard at times and I know it is scary but it really does help. Why not next time you have a bad day and you feel tempted to shut yourself off from everyone round you try and tell someone you trust how you really feel.

I am no expert but I assure you that it will really help.