Georgia, from South Wales, describes her journey with her eating disorder.
My name is Georgia and I’m 18 years old from South Wales. I am studying Psychology at university with a dream of becoming a psychologist and to travel the world. However, for the last 5 years I have been living in the shadow of my eating disorder, Cruella (named after Cruella de vil by my mum). Cruella has slowly gained control over my life to the extent that I am currently writing this from an Eating Disorder Unit, far away from home. It is certainly not what I expected my life at 18 would be like.
At the age of 14 I set myself a goal to eat healthier and lose some weight with one of my school friends. I think I was at the age where you start to care about how you look and start comparing yourself to others. I remember when I first weighed myself and seeing that number on the scale. I never felt so ashamed in my life, I actually felt disgusted. With hard work, I was able to stop eating all of my favourite “bad” foods and exercise as much as possible. To begin with, people envied my ability to stick to this diet and complemented my weight loss. It got easier and I never went back to my old eating habits. Instead, I continued to restrict my intake and exercise more. It was at this point where I seemed to be the only person who felt positive about this change. Everyone else expressed concern about my rapid weight loss and that it had gone “too far”. But I didn’t want to stop. Seeing the number fall on the scale and being able to resist so many foods gave me an amazing feeling I had never experienced before. It almost made me feel like a superhuman, with a special skill making dieting easy and in fact…addictive.
I thought I was getting healthier but little did I know this was the birth of Cruella, who was slowly getting stronger and making me weaker.
I began treatment for my eating disorder at 15 after one of my teachers at school suspected that I had an eating disorder and contacted my mother. I was already on a waiting list for CAMHS to receive treatment for anxiety after experiencing childhood traumas. While waiting for support, my anxiety got worse, with my panic attacks becoming more frequent. I found that as I restricted my food intake, it actually numbed my emotions and my anxiety improved. So although I initially engaged with treatment for my eating disorder, it wasn’t long before I reverted back to my comfort zone which was listening to Cruella. This cycle went on for a few years with times where I was doing really well and motivated to recover and other times where certain events would trigger a relapse. It almost felt inevitable that I was going to keep relapsing because I just felt like I needed Cruella in my life and it was impossible to imagine myself without her.
Cruella kept getting stronger, causing my body to become so malnourished and weak that she almost killed me. It has only been in the last few weeks after starting my first inpatient admission that I realised that Cruella is not my friend. She promised she would make things better but in fact, the opposite happened.
Thanks to Cruella, I had to leave university, stop driving, miss opportunities for volunteering and worst of all, I’ve missed creating so many memories with the people I love.
I will look back at this time of my life and remember how I was so unhappy, isolated and completely consumed by lies Cruella was telling me. Nothing else and no one else mattered. I was thinking the other night about all of the times I have seen my mother cry begging me to make this stop, and it breaks my heart. Cruella didn’t only affect me, but so many people around me too. So I am now in the process of starting my recovery journey again. For the final time.
I have realised now that I am just afraid, afraid of losing something that I thought was motivating me to improve myself. However, an eating disorder will never be happy with you and will continue to push you further. More rules, more restriction, more guilt. You are constantly fighting a losing battle. But, we all have the ability to reverse unhelpful habits. But no one else can decide to, only you. I have to fight through every meal, snack, drink every single day and it is exhausting. But I am doing this because I believe that there is a better life out there for me to live. Continuing to live like this will entail a life of misery with endless hospital admissions, constantly feeling fatigued, being away from my family and just watching the world carry on without me. I can and need to let Cruella go. If you believe you can, you will.
People of all genders, all ages and all sizes can suffer with an Eating Disorder but there is little awareness made about them. This is so worrying.
Few people know of the dangers that can result from an eating disorder, how to realise they may be suffering from an eating disorder or don’t know where to reach out for help. Throughout my recovery journey I have begun volunteering for several mental health charities in the hope of using my experience to help others. I have been volunteering with Mind for the last 2 years where I have been provided with a platform to share my story and to help shape the work Mind is doing to help other young people who are struggling. It’s really important for anyone who is suffering from an eating disorder that reaching a crisis point is prevented and treatment is accessible before this point. A mental illness can have profound and long-term consequences to peoples lives which is why early intervention is crucial. This would involve more awareness shared about eating disorders in places such as GP’s, universities, schools and workplaces and quicker access to treatment. This is some of only a few things which need to change to help a society in a mental health crisis.
It’s been so amazing to be able to turn something which has impacted me so negatively into something positive by using my experience to help others. I am excited to continue volunteering when I am better, along with all of the other exciting ambitions I have for my future without my eating disorder. Travelling, university, family, friends and endless memories. Sometimes there's no better way, only the hard way and hard work eventually brings success. I have noticed that the more I have challenged my eating disorder, every meal is becoming a little bit easier. Although the thought of full recovery is very scary, I am striving everyday for the light that shines really bright in my future living my life, without Cruella.
Georgia is 18 years old and lives in a small village in South Wales. She is known for her smiley and bubbly character. She has big interest in mental health and enjoys volunteering in her free time.
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