"i found comfort in eating"
"I started trying to lose weight when a lot of things became uncertain in my life. My two best friends moved to a private school. This made me feel really separate from them. Their family had more money and it felt to me like they were special – I couldn't compare to them.
"My Grampa died around this time, which triggered lots of uncomfortable feelings as I lost my father when I was five. During this time I found comfort in eating. It was safe and familiar. Eating helped me forget how unhappy I felt at the time.
"When I gained weight over summer I was shocked. I couldn't be 'the fat one' - I was already shy, relatively poor compared to my friends, and had lost my dad. I came back to school and was determined to lose weight. This was something I could do without money, something I could do to make myself 'better' when I felt so worthless. I gradually began to lose weight by making myself eat less food and exercising too much. I lost a lot of weight but I didn't feel like I had achieved anything.
"I became obsessed with my body image. The more depressed I was, the more I hated my body. I can't remember the first time I properly binged and purged by throwing up, but suddenly it became a way of keeping my body weight the same.
"I tried to keep losing weight but again life was becoming more challenging. I felt a lot of pressure at school. I also put pressure on myself to achieve and to be the best. I became obsessed with my body image. The more depressed I was, the more I hated my body. I can't remember the first time I properly binged and purged by throwing up, but suddenly it became a way of keeping my body weight the same.
"This binge/purge cycle went on for several years, and it became too much to deal with when I got to college. I was throwing up sometimes five times a day and I was bingeing before the day had even started. I dropped out due to stress/exhaustion combined with depression.
"I finally decided I wanted to get better, and put my life into perspective when I began treatment. At the start of my eating disorder I was referred to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist (CBT) through my doctor. At first I used it as a way of keeping my mum happy, because I didn't want to recover. I only wanted to be thinner.
"When the depression began to take over my life, I decided I really needed to get better – for the sake of my family and my future. More than anything, I wanted to get better.
"I went back to my GP and was referred to a different therapist who helped me talk through my problems a lot more – I really clicked with her and what she suggested actually made sense to me. I think it's important to find someone to talk to who you trust. Sometimes that isn't the first therapist or counsellor you're referred to. I still use some of the techniques she taught me to deal with things I find challenging.
"It wasn't straightforward, and I didn't magically un-muddle my thoughts, wake up one day and stop eating/purging. It took time and lots of patience but it paid off. I don't let food or my body image dictate my life anymore.
"I wrote my feelings down and tried to make sense of them that way – I think people with eating disorders need an outlet to deal with their emotions.
"I always used to feel like I was one of the people who wouldn't recover. I thought I'd be stuck in that cycle forever – and it made me extremely miserable and frustrated. I was the only person ever in the way of my own recovery. Once I opened my mind and realised there was so much more to life than being thin and pretty, I became so much happier.
"I am thankful that I found the courage to ask for help – I really needed it, as do so many other people. Now I want to tell people what I went through to stop it happening to so many other people. Mental illness is not a life sentence - you are not destined to be 'bulimic' or 'anorexic' or a 'binge-eater'. Your life is in your hands."
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