Stories from Sheffield: Eating Disorders Awareness Week

This post was originally published at mhmsheffield.blogspot.co.uk on 29 February 2016 by our 2015/16 Secretary, Sophie Clark.

Sophie has written a short blog about part of her experiences with anorexia and mental health.

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Content Warning: This post contains descriptions of anorexia which some may find triggering.

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A mum walks into a room to find her daughter on the running machine that she has now come to detest. She sees a young girl whose bones have become increasingly prominent still pushing herself further. She sees arms and legs so skinny that you want to wrap them up and look after them, still whirling around in an attempt to reduce themselves even further.

She sees a face that used to smile sincerely but is now in a constant state of emptiness.

‘Are you going out to the party tonight?’ she asks.

‘Yes, of course,’ the girl snaps back.

The mother looks at her. Hopeless. Scared. The word worried no longer conveys her absolute fear of what has happened to her little girl. Hatred not for the girl, but for illness that has taken her over.

‘Are you sure you want to go?’

The girl turns towards her looking hostile and angered already by their short interaction. ‘Why wouldn’t I?’

‘Ok’ says the mother and withdraws from the room.

The girl continues to run.

She runs further and further, faster and faster. But her certainty falters slightly. Even though her mother has left, the question still lingers in the room:

‘Are you sure you want to go?’

She doesn’t want to go. Even with friends, she feels alone. In social situations, every moment is tainted by the fear. The fear that someone might offer food. The fear there might be birthday cake she can’t refuse. The fear of everyone else drinking while she can’t permit herself the calories. The fear of the life she had loved.

As she came out of the shower the next morning, she bumped into her mother in the hallway, the towel almost hiding her newly childlike body. Without thinking, she commented, “When I was in the shower I kept getting pains in my chest, especially when I leant over. It was strange.”

She watched as the colour left her mother’s face. She watched her mother tightly grip the banister and slide down to sit on the stairs. Not for the first time, she watched the fear creep into her mother’s eyes.

I don’t remember the words my mum said at that point. But I do remember realising how worried she was. I remember the horrendous guilt for what I was putting her through. I remember, somewhere in my mind, starting to realise how serious the situation was and the extent of the danger I was in. Nothing can explain the feeling that you have lost control. As I watched the colour drain from my mum’s face, it felt like I was careering down a one-way street, constantly accelerating, with no way to turn around. It was terrifying.

When I look back on this memory it saddens me greatly. But it’s also an important memory to me, because it was one of the first times I realised something was wrong, and that I wanted to change it. It was the starting point of my eventual recovery.

Anorexia is a serious illness. Mental health, like physical health can take over your life. If you haven’t already please join the campaign to break stigma, fight cuts to mental health services and make sure that mental health gets taken seriously.

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