“Me and my best friend Anorexia” – Hope Virgo, Author and Mental Health Campaigner

IT’S Eating Disorder Awareness Week, so we spoke to Hope Virgo about her experience of eating disorders and the effects it can have on our mental health.

Read Hope Virgo’s story below:

I know how anorexia makes you feel. You think she is your best friend; you think she can solve everything. She holds you in the night when you feel alone. She walks down the road with you reassuring you that you are valued. She teaches you how to miss meals and you become a team. A team with a unique bond that no one can break. A team that you believe will lead to an amazing life. A team that completes you… But no… the team will fail! 

You won’t know when it will happen or how long but eventually you will lose control to anorexia. She will start winning on her own and she won’t care how that makes you feel and in the end there are only two options: 

1. You let her win, you lose your friends, life, most likely get hospitalised and your heart might stop 

Or 

2. You gather all your strength and fight her. Because you know deep down she isn’t worth it!  

Harsh giving you those two definitive options? 

Do you believe them? 

I didn’t! 

Someone told me that once I was 100% sure they were lying! But then after four years of being best friends with anorexia, I ended up in hospital. When I look back over the last few months of being best friends with her it was a terrible relationship. And I won’t ever forget it.

The cycle

I would get up in the morning about 6.00 work out before school either in my room, or sneak off to the gym having lied about breakfast. A day at school with no food, then spend my evening working out, hide away in my room. And there were those nights when my parents would get me to eat.

Towards the end I couldn’t even muster up arguments so I will eat dinner quickly, head up to the bathroom, turn on the shower and then spend hours making myself sick. Then tired, smelling of sweat and the smell of vomit lingering I would head in to my room for some more working out before heading to bed. Dreading the next day.

Looking back, I still don’t know how I had the energy to keep going. I hate my anorexia those last few months but I couldn’t fight her. I had no control. I had nothing in me. Those months turns into weeks before my admission and I would lay awake for hours wishing I would just die. I couldn’t fight this anymore, she no longer made me feel good but I was stuck in this cycle. 

I don’t know where you are at with your eating disorder but please read this openly minded. Know that I am not lecturing you and I am not a health professional but there are some things that I wish someone had said to me:

  1. Anorexia is not your friend: you think she is. You think she cares about you but the reality is she doesn’t. She lies to you; she reassures you that losing weight is the best thing to do but it isn’t. I know how hard that is to believe – I never used to but I do now 
  2. Talk to people: this is so hard I get that – you don’t want to let people in, you don’t want people to interfere but sometimes getting help is the best thing to do. I guarantee it helps – when I had a bad day I begun texting those round me telling them I wasn’t okay and I didn’t want to eat but I was going to do it anyway. This helped me keep going on those tough days 
  3. Ask yourself; what did anorexia ever do for you? For me I thought it was a lot, yes she made me feel better at times but that never lasted long, and then this all gradually faded away. In reality because of her I have osteoporosis, some fake teeth, I ended up in hospital missing my entire final year at school, I lost my social life, upset so many people and I didn’t get to study what I wanted to at University
  4. Know your triggers: This is something I have learnt along the way and learnt to manage. So I know that for me the main things I have to manage are exercise and when I have a bad day making sure I have people round me who support me. I monitor these by not exercising too much and if I start to slip I make myself go cold turkey for a few days. It is hard that but it works. I also find changing up my exercise helps and making it fun or working out with others helps manage this too
  5. Recovery is possible and worth fighting: recovery isn’t linear. Some days it feels like a mountain and others you don’t even realize you are fighting but it is so much better when you are battling her. Each day you do it, it makes you stronger and you really can start to get your love of life back that I guarantee! 

So, I challenge you to give it ago. Fight her, accept help and talk about how you feel. Yes, at first it seems scary but it is so much better to seek help and get well. I never thought I would be where I am now but I know that recovery is possible and I know that life now is so much better without anorexia in it! 

Helplines

If you or someone you know are struggling with an eating disorder, please know you are not alone and there are so many places you can turn to for help.

BEAT: Not only do UK Charity BEAT have an abundance of resources on their website, you can also use their helplines. Find out more here.

NHS: The NHS website has great information about eating disorders, and we would recommend booking to see your GP for medical attention. Find their info here.

Text our crisis line: If you are in a crisis, please don’t suffer in silence. Text HECTOR to 85258 today to speak to our trained volunteers.

You are not alone.

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