Eating disorders

Rachel

Female
Age at interview: 24
Age at diagnosis: 15

Brief outline: Rachel was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa when she was 17. Through outpatient counselling, her mother's continued support and her own coping strategies she is now doing well. Rachel says her biggest battle now is with self confidence.

Background: Rachel is 24 and an ad check monitor. She is single and lives at home with parents. White British.

Audio & video

Rachel says her issues with food began when she was 17 as a way to punish herself when she felt sad or guilty. When she started college, the problem became more serious; she was going for days without food and losing a lot of weight. Rachel describes the eating disorder starting as a form of self harm. Rachel saw a nurse and her GP early on but they just brushed off her concerns.
 
Through her mum’s job in the hospital, Rachel saw a hospital counsellor and a child psychologist but they could only help her so much as they didn’t specialise in eating disorders. Rachel’s weight dropped to a dangerously low level; her body was starving and organs were shutting down. She was told she needed to be hospitalised immediately but there were no hospital beds available. Instead, Rachel had to stay on bed rest at home and be looked after by her mother 24/7.  Rachel describes this period of time as awful – she felt like being punished for a crime she hadn’t committed and like she lost all control over her life. Rachel says it was thanks to her mother that she survived and says that “without her I wouldn’t be here”. Unfortunately, her college was not being supportive, putting more pressure on her despite her doing extra work at home and getting excellent grades. Rachel went on to pass all her A-levels.
 
When Rachel transferred to adult services at 18 things improved. She said she did a lot of thinking and listed everything she wanted to do in life and decided to “choose life over anorexia”. Recovery hasn’t been easy though. Rachel describes her relationship to food now as “mostly healthy” and she still struggles with self confidence and self harm. She still lives with physical complications caused by anorexia. She has Osteopenia, her bones are weak and she has regular backache. She has endured nerve damage affecting her sense of touch.
 
Rachel does a lot of voluntary work with Beat (Beat Eating Disorders) and My Personal Best website who she helped set up. She says she is “not a recovered anorexic, I am just me”.
 

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