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Rhodes Farm saved my life

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and we will be sharing four blogs by our Young and Parent Champions about their experiences. 

In the depths of a disorder I didn’t know I had; I possessed only one fear. Most twelve-year-old girls are scared of ghosts or spiders or maybe even the dark. Yet at the age of twelve, I was afraid of only one thing: the one thing that was needed to keep me alive. Food.

It wasn’t a conventional fear, in the sense that I would avoid it. It was, perhaps, more than a fear. It fogged my every thought. It was a shadow in every mirror. Looking back it wasn’t food at all. After all this time, I have come to realise that my true fear was losing control. And I lost control. I most certainly lost control. Not over my eating, but I lost control and handed it over to the figure in my brain: a woman called anorexia nervosa.

The more control I thought I gained, the more control I handed over to her. The more control I lost to her, the more weight fell from my body. The more I cried. The more I screamed. The more life didn’t seem worth it. She was my best friend and my worst enemy.

So when it came to March 2016 and the doctors told me I was being admitted to the strictest Eating Disorder Unit in the country, anorexia was not happy. That meant less control for both of us. I was terrified. Inpatient didn’t just mean gaining weight and eating, it meant waving goodbye to my false friend anorexia and saying hello to a new friend. Myself.

The day arrived, my bag was packed and I set off to Hertfordshire. To Rhodes Farm. It was a prim, pristine, pleasant building yet something about it was far too much like a prison for my liking. I was greeted by the ward manager; a woman of foreboding demeanour. And the indoctrination began at the door: “Food is your medicine”.

It wasn’t long until the never-ending list of rules began to be drilled into my head; diluting the poison of my disorder. Do not cross your legs. Do not sit on the floor. Do not talk about food unless in therapy. Wear your hair tied back, wear a smile on your face, but wear your heart on your sleeve. Do not swear. Do not talk back. Do not argue. Sadly. The list only got longer at meal times. Do not cut your food too small, but do not keep it too large either. Don’t swing your legs. Don’t wipe your mouth. If you drop something it is replaced. Yes. Everything. A grain of rice, a single pea, a splash of juice. Your plate must be scraped, until not a single crumb or smear is left. Personally, I think it was to save money on buying a dishwasher.

So the rules were introduced and so were the patients; a dozen gaunt faces smiling through the pain, yet each beautiful in their own remarkable way. I could see the figures in their brains, but some I could see life peeping through their eyes and that gave me hope. Now, I call them friends. The Rhodes family. Because every day we fought similar battles alongside each other, hand in hand, gathered round the table six times a day. We’ve been to hell and back. Together we lost control and got it back.

Three months went by. Each day filled with 3100 calories, over fifteen different kinds of therapies and the occasional prank on the nurses. With every bite, anorexia got more and more angry. So I screamed. I dropped food on the floor. I threw plates at staff. But at the end of the day, I had no choice. It was food or nothing. Anorexia’s voice began to be silenced and mine got louder. I got my life back.

Rhodes Farm may have forced me into recovery, but it’s something I’m thankful for every day, because now when I look at the world, it is far more vivid. Life is worth living. Anorexia left a space in my mind that could be filled with love and laughter and everything I wanted to do. I was free.

If you or someone you know needs help right now, you should, if possible, try to talk to a parent, carer or trusted adult. If talking to an adult is not possible, visit our urgent help page which includes organisations that are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

You can also find free mental health support services for young people aged up to 25 on the Youth Wellbeing Directory.

We also have contact details on our urgent help page for BEAT – BEAT provides support to help young people beat their eating disorders.