Kerri is in her forties and suffered anorexia as a teenager…
As a person with anorexia I did not realise it had taken control until after about four months. Being very athletic both in school and at my athletic club the weight came off me very fast. It took someone from my childhood who I used to play with to tell me honestly – and he was in shock! He asked ‘what on earth’ had I done to myself.
After this I looked in the mirror and saw for the first time a skeletal face staring back. Don’t get me wrong, family, friends, even teachers tried to make me see but I thought it was not serious until this point. I think I was age 14 or 15 and doing my GCSEs.
As for triggers, with me it was an accumulation of my parents’ threatening divorce; they didn’t realise I could hear in the next room all the hurtful things that were said. I stopped eating at first because I was so upset, not because I intentionally wanted to harm myself. Then it turned into something I could control – with my parents’ arguing I couldn’t stop or control it.
After my childhood friend made me realise the shocking truth, I knew then I needed help. I asked my mum to make me an appointment with my GP who referred me to Dundonald hospital. I still remember having to get into a gown in a cubicle with my mum present; she cried because I had hidden a lot by wearing loose clothes. The doctor asked me if I knew what I had: I was able to tell him I knew I had anorexia and needed help.
Looking back, I remember I knew I needed to help myself and as soon as I put on enough pounds I was allowed home. Between this time though, only family was allowed to see me, like I was being punished. I can’t remember any follow-ups at hospital or with my GP the day I arrived home from hospital my beloved uncle died that same day. I was so angry that I was trying to kill myself. My beloved uncle was taken from everyone he loved, certainly not through choice, and I felt so selfish. I promised myself I would get better for him – otherwise I think I could have slipped through the net and continued getting worse.
I think better follow-up is definitely needed, as well as more specialist care in Northern Ireland. Maybe there is more help these days – I don’t know. Back then, I only saw a dietitian.
I also think a cardboard cut-out of a normal person, as in healthy body weight for their height, should be set beside a cardboard cut-out of an anorexic person: the same height and weight, because with this illness you see everyone else skinnier than yourself, even though people are telling you you have lost weight. It’s a trick of the mind – you never see how skinny you truly are.
It took me about two years to get better, but I also developed bulimia; I was fighting with my mind constantly. Also, it’s hard to deal with eating more, because once you start to eat normally you plump up! And since your body’s metabolism has drastically slowed down, it’s an uphill struggle for a long time to balance your weight and feel healthy. It would have helped to be aware of this!
At my worst, it definitely caused depression. I didn’t want to socialise I turned into a recluse and secretly I wished I would die in a car accident with no one else getting hurt.
As for getting better, I truly believe I aided my own recovery, through realizing I had anorexia and fighting to get better because of my promise to my uncle. If you don’t want to get better, well that could be an impossible fight because it is not easy and it is lonely. In my case I had no one to talk to about my constant battle. I definitely believe people need to see someone who understands the illness as soon as possible – the more it gets a grip of your mind the harder it is to overcome.
As a society we need to encourage our young men and women to love themselves from within and to be confident enough to talk things through.
As much as I love my parents, I just couldn’t talk openly to them; they were very private, and it’s important to have someone close you can talk too.