Then when I went to primary school I got picked on for being chubby. By the time I was eleven I was already dieting, vomiting and starting to self harm. I didn’t know anything about eating disorders. I thought that making myself sick to lose weight was my own clever idea.
When I went to secondary school I started to eat better – but I also started doing loads of exercise. I wanted to excel physically because I never got good marks in my school work. I was terrified of being a failure. Being in control of my body was something I could get really good at. I suppose on some level I hated my body though, and was determined to change it.
I was stressed about the exams and began dieting, vomiting, and doing more and more exercise. By this time, I was definitely aware of eating disorders. But I refused to believe there was anything wrong with me. I thought I was getting more and more perfect but really, I was falling apart. I ended up hardly eating at all. I was completely exhausted. I couldn’t focus on anything or even hold a proper conversation. At night, I was constantly awake, either feeling anxious or exercising. I withdrew from everyone hiding in the school library, locking my bedroom door. I never went out. I started cutting myself. And I was being picked on again at school -this time by boys calling me names like bony and anorexic.
I lost loads of weight and it was pretty obvious that people were worried about me. My mates tried to make me eat, but I just felt they were getting in my way. I suppose I tried to alienate everyone around me because I couldn’t face what was happening.
I was finally approached by the dance teacher at school. For the first time, I admitted I might have a problem. She referred me to the school counsellor and then I saw my GP. Things happened quite fast after that. I started seeing psychiatrists and spent some time in a psychiatric hospital where they focused on my anorexia. It did help me deal with the eating problems, but I still didn’t talk about the abuse.
Like a lot of people, I think my eating problems and self harm were a way of expressing desperate feelings that I couldn’t express in other ways. Gradually though, I’ve been finding the courage and support to deal with all those layers of pain. If there’s anyone out there going through similar things, I’d tell them to really try to find the courage to speak out as soon as they realise something is wrong. There really is a way out of the tunnel, and things are a lot better on the other side.
Jo is 18, when she was 15, she was diagnosed with anorexia.