My eating disorder started when I was 12 years old, but really came into full swing right before my first year of college. That summer I gradually began to eat less and less and restricted more and more foods. Suddenly no cereal could be had with my morning fruit for breakfast, lunch was not allowed, and the same low calorie dinner was had each night.
Through that summer I worked as a waitress, and by the end had been working mine and two others’ shifts. I had truly exhausted myself to the point where I couldn’t get out of bed. I started going to see a therapist and a doctor as my mother was worried about my weight. I thought nothing of it and was determined to go to University in September. After all, I had worked so hard for this opportunity. This decision is my biggest regret.
From that September to the end of November I had suffered with trying to control my illness as well as the stress from my studies and living on my own mounted. I now realize that this stress triggered my illness further. By the end of November, I was at a BMI of 13 (the average BMI for a 20-year-old woman is 26) and incredibly sick both mentally and physically. I didn’t know who I was, and I barely remember my time at this University now. I felt small. I felt like a little girl. I needed someone to look after me. I needed someone to notice. I was being seen by three therapists, a dietician and a care worker at this point, who were adequate at best in their way of treating as none of them even knew each other. This along with my studies took up all my time.
One night I broke down to my one of my best friends who lived in the room beside me, and I told her I wanted to go home. That night I ate a large meal of carbs and fat that my body had not seen in months, and I felt very, very sick. I began to change into my night clothes and noticed that my ankles had swollen massively. I panicked. This was something I’d read online, a symptom of re-feeding syndrome. Alone, frightened and very fragile at midnight in my tiny room, I called the NHS hotline to ask for help. I could barely remember my name. They gave me advice to call the out of hours doctor as I was clearly distressed, but that my condition was normal and simply water retention.
I decided to call the doctor, who was away, and waited for his phone call three panic attacks later at 4.30am. After calming me down and telling me that it was all normal I tried to sleep. I couldn’t. By 9am my mother had seen the distressed message I’d sent her at 3am and told me that she was coming to get me right then. I cried with happiness and thanked her.
Since then my mother has been my light, my wall, my shoulder to cry on and my knight in shining armor. She took two months away from work to take care of me and watched me day and night, made me food, and held me tight when the numerous anxiety attacks arose. For weeks I didn’t sleep. For weeks I was a constant panic. For two months I was bed-ridden, in severe pain both mentally and physically. I was on ten tablets a day, along with numerous painkillers and a constant heat pack on my belly which I still have the scars from.
That Christmas was the worst I’ve ever had, I’d longed to bake my gifts to my family as baking is my passion, though after an attempt at making biscuits and causing myself a musculoskeletal strain, I realised I was too weak for even this. That day I strained my chest and shoulder, I had a particularily bad anxiety attack and felt so ill I couldn’t breath. I hadn’t slept in over two weeks and my body was a stuffed fragile mess. I waited from 11pm to 6am that night for a doctor to see me, whom I begged to give me something to make me sleep. I was told of my strain, advised to rest, and sent home with painkillers.
I still remember the horrible mustard yellow curtains with the mismatched purple pattern that surrounded the bed and at that moment I had accepted that I had died. This had killed me. Luckily, I was not, and through severe determination I gained weight quicker than anyone could ever have hoped. Through the help of Christmas chocolate (which I was and am now obsessed with again.. yay for chocolate!), various high calorie meals and meal replacement shakes I have gone from BMI 13 to 17 in 4 months.
I am not close to where I want to be yet, and that’s ok, because I know the worst is over. I happily eat what I want, whenever I want now, and panic when I think I need to eat more! Who knew?! I take meal replacement shakes in addition, through my own choice and exercise only to gain muscle. I can honestly say that I haven’t felt so ‘me’ in a very long while. And yes I do still suffer with my anxiety and yes some days are better and some are worse, but I know how strong I am,
I know what I can do and I’m going to show the world and the illness that it cannot define me and it did not beat me.
Cara Is 20 years old and live in North Wales. Her passions are baking, painting and riding her vintage bicycle across the countryside. She posts pictures of her daily life along with her baking adventures on her Instagram page.