Tuesday, June 25, 2024
HomeWellbeingAnorexia: Going from rock bottom to helping others

Anorexia: Going from rock bottom to helping others

Hope Virgo is the author of Stand Tall Little Girl and a mental health campaigner.

Lying in bed, the smell of vomit and sweat lingering over me I couldn’t help feeling completely trapped. Worthless, and lost I no longer felt happy. I didn’t know what to do.

I knew that I would rather be dead than keep living like this. I thought back over the last day. I had managed to survive off next to nothing and whilst most days were like that I still got a feeling of success from it.

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I had felt great as I walked home after netball practice, knowing that if I kept ambling at this speed I would miss dinner. The cold wind hitting my face. It had all been good, all up until I had got home and my Mum had made me have some dinner.

Was I in control still and if not when had I had lost it?

At 5am my alarm went off and I knew the same pattern would start again. This had been my life for so long but recently things had got more out of hand…

I met anorexia when I was just 13 years old. And it was my everything for so long. She kept me company at night when I felt sad, she held me close not letting anyone else get to me. As soon as I felt any distressing emotions she would pull me in.

I loved everything she gave me those first few years of our relationship. It was exactly what I needed to get through life. The anorexia gave me this real sense of value and purpose over my life and I loved it. I thrived on what she gave me.

Anorexia wasn’t actually a long term solution (even though I thought doing what it told me to do was); instead it was this short term fix to life. But I never saw that. To me, it was the coping mechanism for everything. It gave me what I thought I needed out of life and as soon as anyone tried to interfere I would get angry. Blaming them for how I felt and saying they just wanted to make me fat.

My recovery from anorexia

In November 2007 my life got put on hold and I was admitted to a mental health hospital where I had to spend the next year of my life recovering. In the run-up to my admission I had felt so sad and out of control. Trapped in my own head. So many evenings I hated what anorexia did to me, how it made me feel but instead of talking about things I buried myself deeper into it.

Looking back, I know that without that year in hospital I could have been dead. There are no wishy-washy facts behind that but the reality is it could be over. I don’t want to lie to you and tell you it was easy and it has been plain sailing ever since. But I am going to tell you that recovery is possible and it is so worth it. Please do give it ago.

I don’t have all the answers to recovery but what I can share is a few things that helped me:

  1. Thinking about my motivations for getting well; when you have anorexia you think you are invincible but the reality is you aren’t. I had to remind myself all those things anorexia was stopping me doing by having any sort of relationship with her; traveling, university and having children.
  2. Remembering that what I see in the mirror isn’t the reality
  3. Talking – and lots of it! This is so hard at times and sometimes it is the last thing we want to do but the more we do it, the better it is!

Where am I now?

I now campaign for people with mental illness leading the #DumpTheScales campaign, a campaign changing diagnosis when it comes to eating disorders so that everyone can get the support they need.<

I have gone from being that absolute rock bottom to working to change services and policy. When you have a mental illness you may spend so much of life being embarrassed about it, but once you start talking I guarantee it gets better! And we are in an exciting position to share our stories to help others and make long term change happen!

Remember… Anorexia is not your friend

She doesn’t really care about you and she doesn’t understand you. You think she is your best friend but she is a manipulative bitch and I promise you that life is so much better when you realize this. When you realize she is your enemy and you can then start living, and enjoying food again.

Find out more about the #DumpTheScales campaign here, and for more on Hope Virgo, visit: www.hopevirgo.com


Charlotte Harding
Charlotte Harding
Charlotte is a journalist and the co-founder of The Women's Work Collective.


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