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Young People - Real Lives

The section of the website is for young people who may have an Eating Disorder. We hope to fill this site with many accounts of other young people’s experiences of managing and recovering from their eating disorder. We hope that reading about what happened to other young people will be useful for you.

1.The first story of an experience with Anorexia comes from a young person in Glasgow who came out of recovery a few months ago and has written a recovery story with a message in it to encourage others to not give up:

"Focused on my main aim, to lower the 2 figures on the scale, this tiny little electronic box that had no feelings, emotion, love for me or care, but it controlled my life and meant more than my family, friends, everything. The aim to feel thinner and feel like I was able to have so much control and power for once became obsessive. I thought I was the envy of people, you always hear people talk about diets and wanting to be thin and I thought I had it, what I didn’t know was I looked gaunt and frail. People didn’t look with envy but with shock or worry. I was seduced into a world unlike reality, where there were no worries or many emotions the lower the digit that’s all that mattered. What was a trustful friend that filled me with pride when I pleased her, became no longer good enough. I was scared of the consequences that I would become fat. I was isolated, felt lonely and worthless. Ana was a coping method for problems I didn’t want to face, but hiding and running away from problems in the real world was never going to help me, they were still there. I also didn’t know if it was worth getting better because I felt so far from the point of getting everything back that I had lost. I realized that obeying “Ana” takes away everything and the only thing that she can offer is being thin, but when that’s the only thing you own is it really that special? When you’re being forgotten by friends and missing out on the fun you see others have in life. I would question why I am doing this to myself? With help from therapy and my strength I started to eat foods I was more comfortable with and tried to socialise with my friends. They were considerate as I told them how I felt so nervous being around food because I would think of the calories and consequences. Now I know the fear of getting fat and ugly, is only a fear, nothing more. I felt alive when I ate It was like stepping out of a bubble and I was able to giggle and have energy to socialise with my friends. That feeling felt 10x better than lowering the digits on the scales. When coming back into the real world where other things mattered like relationships and school, it was daunting as I had excluded myself from a lot of things for so long. Eventually days weren’t planned around what I’d eat and how many calories I would burn, Instead I lived life in the moment and things in life became more fun when getting out of a regimented exercise and food plan, I felt free. I must tell you if your recovering I know at first you’ll be totally against it, half way through you might not be sure and you’ll have your bad days, but you will see that you are happier when you’re eating. By the end you don’t want to ever turn back. I promise you it’s completely worth it in the end. The only thing Ana can offer you at your lowest weight is either a bed in hospital or a grave 6ft under. But recovery can offer you a life that you wanted to live, what you dreamed of doing when you finished school or university, having friends and people who care about you, having a relationship. We’re only on this earth for a short time, why waste any more time living by restrictions and rules that take away things you enjoy. I have recovered and I have a completely new life that I much happier in, I fought Ana, sat my Highers and I am going to university next year to study Law, I would never of had made it before, don’t let Ana stop your dreams. Ana is a like a prison built in your mind. Break out and let yourself free, I did, you can too.” 

2. The second story is about a young person discussing her experience of a Multi-Family Group which is part of the treatment process you get when you come to the Connect-ED team:

Hi, I have suffered from Anorexia. I started to lose weight when I had recently turned ten. It started off that I was restricting my food and swimming about 40 lengths three times a week at Parklands swimming pool. The amount of lengths I was swimming slowly worked its way up to 60 lengths three times a week then to 100 lengths three times a week until it reached its peak when I was swimming 100 lengths four or five times a week. That year we went on holiday to Israel and I asked my mum if she could get me help because I was feeling particularly down. At the time I thought it might have been depression since my grandmother suffers from depression but obviously it was the anorexia working its way into my life. I eventually went to the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) team and they diagnosed me with Anorexia Nervosa. For a while I continued to lose weight and I reached about 30kg before I made what I call my recovery road. My recovery road helped me to get motivated to start putting on weight and increase my food. As I made my journey down my recovery road, many things helped me along the way. Like the Multi Family days. At Multi-Family days I enjoyed getting to meet the other girls that had the same problem as me. It was fantastic to go on a journey almost with them because every Multi Family Therapy day I go to see most of the girls getting better and better. The Multi Family Therapy days made me feel less isolated and it meant that I got to talk to girls I understood. It was interesting getting to hear the other parents and girls stories and it was fun when Charlotte took me and the other girls out to do something arty or play a game so that the day did not seem so dragging. On the first day I have to admit I was quite sceptical about the Multi Family Therapy but they really worked well for me. It was amazing to see each of the girls personalities grow as they got better, all of us became different people. The journey through anorexia is definitely a hoard one, but with the help of the CAMHS team I managed to get to the right weight. I still have issues to deal with but I know that I can depend on the CAMHS team to help me every step of the way that I have left. You might be feeling terrible and it might seem like this nightmare will never end but trust me it will eventually. The journey through Anorexia is probably one of the hardest things you and I will ever have to do, but with determination and motivation, we can get through it!

3. The poem below was written by a patient of the Eating Disorders service which captures the emotional aspect of Anorexia.

ANOREXIA I hate you You know who you are. You know yourself so well; you’ve made me forget who I am.  

You tell me that I am you, Mock me when I say I am not you. You claim that I will always be you, that it is impossible to ever be free from you.  

You control my every move, a dictator to the extreme. You came uninvited at a time when I was young. Now it is clear you are not wanted, yet you refuse to go away.  

You hurt those I love the most, this is my greatest hate.  

You have no limit, you can never be satisfied. You demand my full attention, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You are one long list of restrictions.

Never failing to deal out punishment when disobeyed.  >/span>

I fear I will never make it out, out of this black hole you have dug for me.  

I HATE you and all that you stand for.  

Anon, age 17  

4.This is piece written by a young person who was treated in Greater Glasgow and Clyde Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), she shares her story and hope for everyone affected by an eating disorder:  

Anorexia I would just like to write this to hopefully help and influence other young people who are suffering from an eating disorder to let them know from a (recovered anorexic) that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  

The first thing I would say about an eating disorder is that you feel very isolated and alone. You are not alone there are many others out there just like you suffering from the same problem.  

I was lucky that I had a family that cared so much about my health and welfare that they never gave up and eventually that is what got me through (and my own determination to succeed in life.) Although my family tried to help me I kept pushing them away making myself more isolated. Now looking back on it all I know that was the worst thing for the eating disorder because it just dug a deeper hole into my life. I had a strong relationship with both my sister and father but my obsession with food and weight loss caused a great strain on the relationships and broke my family to pieces at times. For any young person who might read this, don’t make the same mistakes I did. Although it might seem like your loved ones are just getting on your nerves or upsetting you by forcing you to eat, or always commenting on how you look, they are doing it to try and help you move on from the eating disorder because they love and care about you and don’t want you to ruin your life with the illness. The next time you skip a meal or throw up in the bathroom think about what that is doing to the people you care about. It’s ruining their lives and killing them as much as it is you. The eating disorder controls their lives as much as it does yours.  

One piece of advice I would give to anyone with an eating disorder is you think you are fine and that you don’t need help and that everyone is out to get you. I know I have been there and felt those same thoughts but you are fooling yourself and deep down you know you are. I know that it is not an easy thing to admit that you have a problem and that you need help. It easier to pretend that nothing is wrong and that you are fine but you are not. Most of you reading this probably think like that at the moment. The best thing that you can do for yourself is admit that there is a problem and that you need some help. Don’t push away the people you love. Don’t make yourself isolated, because it’s only going to make things worse for yourself. I will tell you of a few family breakdowns that happened in my family due to my obsession with food. When I was 15, I came home from school one day to see that my little sister at 13 years old had written up on a whiteboard size piece of paper a weekly meal plan of what my mum, dad and family ate and what I ate and the calorie intake of what I ate and they ate. I read it and asked my sister to get rid of it cause I didn’t want to know. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was go to my room and get on with my homework. I walked into the study a little later to find the poster stuck onto the wall. I asked my sister to take it down she said “no she wanted it there”. I said “I don’t care I don’t want to see it.” She said she wasn’t taking it down, So I pulled her hair to make her. She screamed but still didn’t take it down. I got upset and told her she was horrible and a terrible sister. I ran upstairs crying to my mum and dad telling them what an awful thing my sister had done. They looked at me with great sadness in their eyes and they said she did it cause she is so worried about you. I gave the classic anorexic excuse. “What’s she worried about I’m fine”. My parents told me that she had told them what she was thinking of doing and they said that they didn’t think it would work. However she thought that with us being close she might be able to get through to me with it to show her concern. I went back downstairs and cried in my bedroom. I eventually couldn’t take it and I got angry I went in to the study, I pulled the poster off the wall and I picked up a stapler and threw it at the wall I continued doing it shouting at people to leave me alone and let me live my life and stop constantly getting on my back. Eventually I made a dent in the wall and broke a chair. The poster got taken down and my sister went to her room crying and my mum and dad went back upstairs and they don’t know that I heard them also crying and arguing over what they were going to do with me. Later on that night I went into my sister’s room and she looked at me as if she hated me. She said she was sorry for what she had done. I felt so selfish at that moment and I said to her that it was okay I knew that she was just trying to help me and that she was worried about me. I sat her down on her bed and told her that I loved her and that I was going to be okay, that she didn’t need to worry, but she looked at me and both she and I knew that what I had said was a lie. Neither of us thought I was okay and neither of us knew that I was going to be okay. She just looked at me and said what happened to you. You are not okay and I don’t know if you ever are going to be again. I left her room and I just felt so selfish and isolated and guilty that I had hurt my whole family and I was killing them as well as myself yet the only thing I did was cry. I didn’t do anything about it. At that moment in my life I felt incredibly isolated and vulnerable probably the same as a lot of you are feeling. I was so angry and frustrated with people (my family and friends) always going on at me about food. I was so far into an eating disorder that I couldn’t see their side of it and how they were trying to help me. That incident changed my views; that was the moment in my life when I realised that things were bad. I had had a nervous breakdown because I couldn’t cope with it anymore. At that moment I just wanted everything to go away.

With my experience of anorexia, I used it to control other things in my life that I couldn’t deal with. I used food to block out other things in my life that had hurt me and the emotional pain was too difficult for me to deal with. I used eating as way to forget about these other things as I was constantly thinking about food and my diet instead. For me, not eating made me feel better about myself and gave me more confidence as I felt I looked better. I would go on the scales and be 7 stone and feel good that I had lost a few pounds. I would go into a shop and be able to fit into size 6 clothes. There were days that eating just an apple and doing 2 hours of exercise felt worth it as I had achieved something in my eyes. As a recovered anorexic I know now that there did feel like there were a lot of benefits. Even today I still believe that there are a few parts of an eating disorder that can be good. It made me feel better about myself; it gave me more self-confidence and determination. I was more driven and had a set goal and due to the amount of exercise I did a day I was fitter. Most of you probably think that the way you currently eat is better. Maybe you feel some of the same things I did. However, I remember at the time that I felt that there was nothing wrong with me. I felt good and I thought that the eating disorder I had was great and that it just made my life so much better. Now though I know that I was just fooling myself. I know that there was nothing good about it. It gave me so many different health problems. Due to me not eating, I didn’t have a period for 5 months and when I did finally get them back the were irregular and hurt a lot more than they had previously. I often felt faint and dizzy when at school. I was constantly drinking diet coke to stay awake and give me energy. I had terrible constipation and basically couldn’t go to the toilet because my body didn’t have enough in it. I often found it difficult to sleep. I constantly felt angry and irritated by people. I was tired and moody. People used to annoy me a lot. Often I would shout at people and got very techy when they talked about food. My hair became very thin and straggly. I had bags under my eyes often and was very boney. You could at times see my ribs etc.; however I did not think this. I was always cold, complaining about the cold or shivering. Finally I was often in and out of hospitals getting my blood taken and my heart and pulse and blood pressure checked. I am sure that many of you reading this may have felt a lot of the same things recently or possibly worse. Yet you are still saying to yourself I am fine, there’s nothing wrong with me. All these health problems are caused by your diet and eating. There maybe the odd few advantages to your current diet but there are so many more negatives. It took me 2 and a half years to realise that there was more to life than just food and my obsession with it. Although I am now a healthy individual doing well in life, some of the health problems that I contracted due to my eating disorder will take me a long time to recover from. I know that food will always be something that I keep a watchful eye on. However now, I am a lot happier and healthier and really enjoy life. Looking back on my time with anorexia I know that I was miserable. I was killing myself and my family. I know that for anyone reading this.

You can get better and life is much better once you overcome you’re eating disorder. I know it is not easy to do; in fact it is the hardest most difficult challenging thing you will ever have to do in your life. However it can be done and life is so much better afterwards.

I hope that anyone reading this will take the advice that I have just given them. Stop now whilst you can. Don’t give in to the eating disorder. Don’t let it kill you. Believe in yourself that you can do it. The next time you starve yourself think of all the problems you have due to your diet and lifestyle. I hope that some people reading this might have been given some hope from my experiences that you can recover from your illness and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem and that you need help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it as you will regret it if you don’t. Think what you are doing to your family and friends, you are killing them as well as yourself. Don’t push your family away, believe in yourself. Believe that you can overcome your illness.    

5.Read the experiences of Harriet Brown an American mother whose daughter suffered from Anorexia Nervosa. The treatment that she refers to "Family Based Treatment, often called the Maudsley approach", is the main treatment offered in NHS GGC. There are clinicians trained within all child and adolescent mental health teams in this approach, in addition to two Specialist Family Based Treatment therapist working across NHS GGC.   Download the story by clicking on this link or see the story on this link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/26/magazine/26anorexia.html?pagewanted=all    

6.This is a piece from a young person around ‘Relections from a young person of how it feels to have anorexia nervosa’:

‘I am Not Invincible’

'Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practise and the coaches who have pushed you..Is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back...Play for her.’

Mia Hamm Sadly, that little girl was lost, somewhere in the blur of the present. Scared, alone and broken by the devastation; what I can only refer to as a disease; brought to me and the ones I hold dearly. It bulldozed my illusion of invincibility and shattered my humble bubble. That is what shocked me the most.   'Anorexia' is a term loosely thrown about, almost in a disrespectful, fun poking way. I can assure you, it is in no way a 'fun' experience. In fact it's quite the opposite. ‘It doesn’t’ happen to people like me. I play sport. I can’t get it.’ I couldn’t have been more wrong. Believe it or not, I am not invincible. Although not fully diagnosed, the tone in which the doctor muttered 'We can go to the psychiatric family unit' said it all. I needed help and quickly before my health deteriorated to a point of no return. Unfortunately, at this particular point in time I saw nothing wrong with the way I looked, or my eating habits in fact I saw it as normal. Normal for my trousers (once fitting) to constantly slip down, normal to be able to grasp my collarbones like handle bars on a bike, normal for my ribs to protrude through my frail skin like cold metal railings running along a tired building. It all seemed normal to me. Sitting in the doctor’s surgery, it never really hit me. That place always just seemed to creep me out more, if that was possible. It wasn’t until my parents threatened to send me to Sky house , a psychiatric residency for young people with 'eating disorders' that I took notice. However, to me, it’s not a 'disorder'. It's not controllable, which is what shocks a lot of people. It's not a life choice, it just seems to be your body's way of saying 'Enough, I can't take this anymore.' The stress, fear, anxiety, it all amounts into something, and in some cases this is an 'eating disorder'.  

The road I was heading on is one which I rarely think about. Perhaps because what I can now only imagine was in fact, at one point, hand in hand with reality. A dark, twisted road, no lights,  no other passer bys. Just me, on my own, was what was lying ahead. That split second decision to have that packet of chips was probably that one trigger that ultimately saved my life. I’ve never spoke truthfully and honestly about this with anyone which is probably another contributing factor to the proliferation of this mind shattering illness. The place it puts you in is horrible. One which I never wish upon anyone. It’s like crying when no one can hear. Inside your kicking, screaming, squealing for help yet outside..Nothing. No one notices. No one cares. Horrible. The place I once found myself is a corner. It’s in a dark, cold room and you are backing into this corner, except there is not a wall behind you. It’s..Nothing. An empty space. You become so caught up in everything else around you, trying not to stand up to this possessive mind controlling demon that you begin to accept the fact that you’re heading straight for the empty space. The corner with no wall. You know the feeling you get when you wake up and it’s raining and nothing is going right for you? That is the feeling you experience all the time. Every minute of every day. Relentless in its attempt to overturn you and control you. Anorexia can’t be treated with tablets, it’s up to you to make yourself better which again adds to the pressure. You have a distorted view, not only of yourself, but of the world. Nothing is pleasurable. Nothing at all. This brings me back to Mia Hamm.

My love of football has been molded into a way of life throughout my high school years. I live for it. It was when I began finding football, a chore and a hassle, that I knew something was seriously wrong. I no longer found the fun in it and started to see only the one dimensional side of life. It was hard to see something I loved so dearly be snatched away from me by the disease. This is what hurt the most. My love, my passion, my whole word for ten years crumble beneath me. Helplessly, I grasped on to the hope things might change. I might be free of this..some day. It was this, last grasp, that aided me in my ongoing recovery.

To think this only happened just under a year ago shakes me. I think of it as a thing of the past, something that’s locked away with all my childhood memories, in the distant part of my mind when really it’s still a huge part of my life today. However, it has taught me many life lessons. I realised the strength of my mind both good and bad. How my mind was near able to drive me to a psychiatrist yet it was also that very same mind that saved me. Ever since I was a little girl my father always used to say ‘Your mental strength is amazing. Watch out for that, it could kill you one day.’ I always thought he was trying a Martin Luther King moment. Pondering me with his wise words yet the truth behind them is fascinating. It was in fact my mental strength that did, not kill, but caused severe damage. Miss-directed but still as strong, it ripped my world apart. This disease however also taught me how life is short. We don’t get second chances. Everyday gone by is one less you are here. Take every day as it comes. If you want to have a packet of crisps, have them and don’t look back. As pathetic as that sounds, that is the point I found myself. Near tears over having one individual crisp. Helpless. When you’re in that dark place you realise the sheer importance of love and family. No one else in the world matters at that point, apart from them. Without my dad throughout this whole disaster I would no doubtly be very far down that long, twisted, lonely road. He was the wall behind the empty corner. Just when I was accepting the empty space, he was there. It was him. No one can go through life letting everything bounce off them, having nothing go further than their surface. We are human. We make mistakes. No one is invincible.'

If you have a story to tell, e-mail Scott Wilson who will be able to upload your experience onto this page.  

Please keep on checking this page for more input from young people.