Eating disorders


Age at interview: 18

Brief outline: Maria has experienced anorexia nervosa since early teens. For years, she convinced herself and her family that she didn't have an eating disorder and has mainly overcome her problems on her own.

Background: Maria is 18 and a Sixth Form student. She lives at home with her parents. White British.

Audio & video

Maria first experienced problems with eating when she was about 14/15. Soon she became so underweight her parents took her to the GP. The GP referred her to a paediatrician and she was hospitalised.  At this point, Maria didn’t want to admit or believe she had a problem. Maria describes how she also convinced her family that she did not have an eating disorder. They worried enormously about her weight loss and thought that health professionals were overlooking this so often acted on Maria’s wishes by removing her from the healthcare system. Maria is still unsure if her family is fully aware that she had anorexia because although they are close, they never talk about it.
As the eating disorder progressed Maria became very insular. She describes how she did not feel or show any emotions and was utterly focused on not eating. In addition to weight loss, her lips became black, skin dry and pale from the cold, her eyes yellow and hair falling out and she was very susceptible to colds and coughs.
Maria was then admitted to an eating disorder unit although she still didn’t accept anything was wrong. Eventually, she persuaded her parents to remove her from the unit and went home. She describes how she, “learnt to play the game” as she kept herself just well enough to stay out of hospital and knew what to say the psychiatrics to make them believe she was fine.
While ill Maria was warned against going to school, however Maria worried about her GCSEs and continued to attend, to the detriment of her recovery. Maria was taken back to the hospital, and eventually made the first steps to getting better. Maria describes how she used her illness to gain weight, and explains how because she was an expert in losing weight, she was also an expert in gaining weight. Despite putting on weight, Maria says none of the underlying psychological issues were addressed.
It was very difficult for Maria to begin eating again as she felt a sense of loss. Gradually she realised she did in fact have an eating disorder. Maria says she had to get to know herself again as she didn’t feel like the same person as when she was ill.
Maria has had a difficult journey and would not recommend to anyone. However, she is proud to have come through it and recognises she would not be the person she is today without such challenging experiences. She feels annoyed that health professionals did not take more action to treat her. Maria is now an ambassador for Beat (Beating Eating Disorders).


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