By Hope Virgo
I am 27 years old, a keen runner; I eat a healthy diet, work for a charity and have recently had my first book published.
To those looking on, they see a healthy, happy young girl but that isn’t always the reality. The reality is I have an invisible illness.
I have had one since I was 13 years old and I have learnt to manage this every day. My invisible illness is anorexia and it is an illness that I used to be ashamed of.
My anorexia nearly killed me. She encouraged me, spurred me on to not eat. She made me think this was better. That this was the right the thing to do. That it would give me control, help me survive and help me feel like I was achieving. But it didn’t. Instead it crushed me. I lost my life because of her, and was finally admitted to a mental health hospital as my heart got slower and slower. Had I really achieved anything? Was it an achievement to be spending a year of my life aged 17 in a psychiatric hospital?
She encouraged me, spurred me on to not eat. She made me think that it would give me control, help me survive and feel like I was achieving. But it didn’t. Instead it crushed me.
It was a tough year and I had to re-learn the importance of food, learn to listen to my body (which at times I still find hard) and learn to talk about how I felt. But I managed it, I learnt my triggers, I learnt why humans need to eat and I kept my motivations at the forefront of my mind.
I hid my illness for so long. Ashamed what people would think. Worried that I would no longer be able to get a job or that people would look at me as weak. Now I don’t want to hide it. I scroll through twitter and look at girls who are promoting anorexia, I spend time in schools with young people so afraid of their body image, and it is heart breaking to see. Instead of wanting to befriend anorexia I want her banished forever; not just from my life but from every other life she is ruining.
Last year I decided to share my story and it was the best thing I have done. It hasn’t been easy and there have been times along the way where I wanted to give up. But I know one thing for certain: I will never let anorexia beat me. Yes there are days when she makes me feel worthless, days when I feel trapped, days when I don’t even know if I can function, but she won’t win. Not now and not ever!
Instead of wanting to befriend anorexia I want her banished forever; not just from my life but from every other life she is ruining.
Wherever you are you I want to tell you a few things. A few things that you will find hard to believe but you must try to trust me:
Support is available: It is scary asking for support. I know that. You don’t want people to interfere who make you fat. But they won’t. They just want to help.
It is well worth the fight: I can stand here and tell you that now. I have come through the other side and I can confidently tell you just this. Take each day at a time and set yourself some achievable goals: this is tough but it is a good thing to do. This year I made a list of food that I used to like but had stopped myself eating because of my anorexia. If I am honest there are foods on that list that terrify me still, but I think pushing your boundaries wherever you are in your recovery is key. Learning that the fight is worth it and other relationships are much more important to you.
Recovery is possible: It isn’t easy. I know that. I have been there, battled to get well. Battled with the initial weight gain and it was terrifying. I have days now when I wake up and look in the mirror and see a whale-like figure staring back. But it is so, so worth fighting. Each day gets easier. I guarantee you that.