Eating Disorder Awareness Week

by Hannah Brown @aneartohearlb

Raising awareness  of mental illness is always a bit of a minefield, we can all read the facts and  statistics that underpin the illnesses’ existence but to actually understand what it feels like, how it takes over ones life and rules our very being- well that is something quite different.

Eating Disorder Awareness week will commence from 28th February with the sole purpose of encouraging dialogue around the issue- it’s so imperative to talk about it, to acknowledge that eating disorders effect so many, of all backgrounds. I was and am one of those many and I firmly believe that in the telling of my experiences, I’ll give insight into a journey starting in hell,  but mainly the blossoming recovery that I continue to work on.

Not every diet leads to an eating disorder, but every Eating Disorder starts with a diet and I was no exception. I was young, naive and vulnerable to the pressures around me. One day it started, the next it spiralled and before I knew it, before I had time to even realise what was happening, I had been given the diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa.

The significant effects of eating disorders are often externally apparent, weight loss, behavioural changes, the list goes on and these are paired with physiological effects such as osteopenia, hair brittle nails and hair again, the list continues. Cognitive functioning is depleted: the depression is exhausting, anxiety is constantly heightened and life is fogged.

But, like any mental illness, like any addiction-it casts a web that touched areas of my life that I certainly thought were untouchable.

My sparkle was extinguished, the light behind my smile and the warmth of my eyes was dumbed. There was nothing left inside of my soul, no fight, determination or strength. Anorexia took me away from my friends as I was terrified of social situations. It ripped my family apart as I behaved in unrecognisable ways. I lost my ability to study and concentrate- my Law career fell by the wayside and any enjoyment I had in pastimes was neglected, replaced with the addictive behaviours which I used as my crutch.

Reaching out for treatment was agonising and an incredibly long, arduous process. The initial consultation should have been fueled by my want to recover, but I wasn’t in that place. Each weigh in brought a longing for me to be sicker, to be skinnier, to tighten my control on my body. My GP in those early days had no idea, they were negligent in their comments and referral only took place once I was within the weight boundaries of being anorexic.

But why have I bamboozled you with this story of desperation, defined largely by negativity- what hope does that give you that recovery is possible?

Because, whilst I am not “there”- wherever “there” is – I am content, happy and incredibly determined on this journey.

Once I realised that anorexia couldn’t be cured overnight, I let go of that fight and now put the effort into the relationship with myself and my intuition.

From those dark days, I had to learn to trust the people around me, trust that I could take their hand and be guided through to a much brighter place- in taking their hand I’ve got everything that I had lost back- and then some!

I have established a peer support site: because I feel passionately that a peer in the recovery journey is priceless. I also do a vast amount of consultancy, public speaking and school work.

Contact because you, I, your loved ones and peers deserve to be heard.

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