Eating disorders

Steph

Female
Age at interview: 23
Age at diagnosis: 14

Brief outline: Steph started restricting what she ate when she was 13. This developed into anorexia nervosa which she struggled with for about 8 years. She is now fully recovered.

Background: Steph is 23, she is in a relationship and lives at home with her parents. White Scottish.

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Steph says she was always a sensitive child and very close to her Mum. At the age of 9, Steph lost her older sister to meningitis, and didn’t get to speak to anyone about it when it happened. When Steph was 13, she decided to start losing weight. She became very driven to eat less and exercise more, and liked it when people complemented her on her appearance. At 14, Steph’s Mum took her to the GP who eventually referred her to CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service). Steph received Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), which Steph found helpful in dealing with her grief.
 
However, she still had issues with eating and Steph saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed her with anorexia nervosa and agoraphobia. First, Steph had outpatient treatment, followed by several lengthy hospitalisations over the years. During this time, Steph had relapses and her weight fluctuated and she had to be fed through a nasal gastric tube. At one point Steph was so ill she was only days away from organ failure. 
 
The turning point for Steph came as she was at home and had another relapse. She had a ‘light bulb moment’ when she realised that she wasn’t getting anything from her eating disorder and she had “nothing left” of her life. From that moment on, Steph became determined to get better. She remembers feeling sad that she was leaving her eating disorder behind, frightened of the unknown, but mostly excited that she would become the ‘real Steph’ again. Recovery was slow and gradual, and at times “hellish”, but Steph never looked back. Steph found it helpful that throughout her illness, her parents always distinguished between Steph as a person, and the anorexia as an illness.
 
Steph loves music and is learning to play the organ and teaches piano lessons. She used to play the piano whilst in hospital, and also took her flute in to play. Steph is a B-eat Young Ambassador, and wants to let people know that you can get better from being very ill with an eating disorder. She says letting go of her anorexia is the best thing she has ever done, but that nobody can force you to get better, you have to want to do that yourself. Steph says that it is important for a person to feel that everyone is working together against the eating disorder, and not against the person. 

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