Anna is a student in her early twenties. Since she was fifteen, Anna has battled with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder which affects 1.6 Million people in the UK. Here, in honour of Mental Health Awareness Week, Anna shares her story.
An attractive and intelligent teenager, Anna comes home from school, tired and worn out. She hasn’t eaten all day. She hasn’t eaten anything since the biscuit she had for dinner the night before. Anna dumps her bag in the kitchen, before tipping the toaster upside down, collecting crumbs on a plate. This way, her parents will believe her when she tells them that she’s eaten a sandwich.
Several different factors played a part in Anna’s illness, none of which can be pinpointed as the sole cause. The pressures of a difficult relationship and grief over her grandfather’s death are two situations Anna strongly believes contributed to her issues.
As a child, Anna was taken to weight-loss classes by her mother. Consequently, she learned from a young age that weight loss was positive and praise-worthy; something deserving of congratulations. In primary school, Anna became self-conscious, convinced she was overweight and larger than the other children. Looking at photos today, she is able to recognise that she was actually the same size as her classmates.
‘It started as a normal diet and exercise regime, before it spiralled out of control. Because of difficult situations I was struggling to cope with at the time, calorie-intake was the only thing I had control over. It was the only certainty in my life. If I exercised, I would lose weight. That was certain.’
It was the only certainty in my life. If I exercised, I would lose weight. That was certain.
Anna’s exercise regime and rapid weight loss snowballed as weekly weigh-ins went from achievement to necessity. Losing weight became essential, which translated to failure when the task wasn’t accomplished.
Like the majority of individuals suffering from anorexia, Anna hid her illness well. She wore baggy clothing, took food to school only to throw it away, and told her parents that she had bought lunch. ‘I bought food. Buying it and eating it are different things. I didn’t lie to anyone.’
The only person who was aware of Anna’s condition as she rapidly lost both weight and confidence was her boyfriend, who actively encouraged the disorder.
Now a healthy weight, Anna has recovered from her illness, but still shows signs of being an individual who has suffered with anorexia. ‘It doesn’t ever fully leave you. I’m better now, but I still think about my weight, I still worry about how I look.’
For more information, help and support with eating disorders, see the links below: