Eating Disorder Awareness Week – Ellen’s story

Ellen is 19 and is currently in recovery from anorexia. 

This week is NEDA week. This week is all about talking about eating disorders and helping to break the stigma surrounding them. It is believed that approximately 1.6million people suffer from an eating disorder (either diagnosed or undiagnosed). One of the most dangerous eating disorders is anorexia nervosa which I, myself am diagnosed with.

Anorexia has the highest mortality rate, with 1 in 5 sufferers dying. It’s heart-breaking but the number of people being diagnosed with eating disorders is rising each year, with children as young as 7 or 8 being diagnosed. Due to this, I believe it is SO important that we now, more than ever, talk and be open about eating disorders, so that people feel they can reach out for the help they need and most importantly deserve.

Unfortunately, 66% of anorexia sufferers don’t get the help they so desperately need. I, myself, was in denial for so long, I tried to convince myself that I could ‘fix’ it all on my own. But the truth is I couldn’t, and I ended up getting to an extremely critical state.

A lot of people don’t realise just how much an eating disorder can impact your life and change who you are as a person. There is a common misconception that eating disorders are ‘glamourous,’ ‘attention seeking,’ or ‘just a diet’. The reality however is you feel faint from simply standing up, you’re cold 24/7, you’re numb to EVERY emotion and your hair falls out. You think about food 24/7 but you can’t bring yourself to even eat a grape without the guilt consuming you and feeling like you’re not good enough for food.

You lie to your family and friends, you isolate yourself from everyone and everything. You can’t sleep, you can’t focus and simple conversations become mentally straining; concentration becomes impossible. I became so ill I had to temporarily withdraw from university and give up my part-time job, both of which I absolutely adored. Getting weekly bloods and an ECG heart trace became routine for me and sometimes it became so impossible to get the bloods I’d end up in hospital on an IV drip.

Fortunately, I have an incredible family who ensured I got the help I so desperately needed. If it wasn’t for their unconditional love and support I truly don’t think I would be here, writing this today. My mum and dad have been absolutely incredibly throughout all of this – if it wasn’t for them both taking time off work before Christmas, and mum going off work indefinitely, since January, to be with me, and support me day in and day out, I seriously would hate to think just how things could have turned out. However, I know so many aren’t as lucky as I am to have a support system like me, which is why it is so important to reach out for help.

This is extremely hard for me to talk about as I’m still in my recovery, and I’m in no way looking for pity or sympathy BUT if it helps even just one person to find the courage to reach out for help and know that they’re not alone, than I honestly believe it is worth it.

The photo on the left shows me in Disneyland Paris on Christmas Day 2016. I was healthy and happy, and I had the energy to drag my family around the park for 13 hours straight. I could eat what I wanted when I wanted without thinking twice. The photo on the right is me on Christmas Day 2017 – I barely had the energy to walk from my bedroom to the sofa and everything I ate was mental torture. I’m proud to say that while every day is still a huge struggle I have made SO much progress since the photo on the right, I’m not quite yet at a healthy weight. But I’m a lot healthier and most importantly, a lot happier.

Recovery is absolutely terrifying and by far the HARDEST thing I’ve gone through, but I know it’s going to be so worth it to be able to start living my life again.

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