What I Wish I'd Done Differently

Friday, 16th March 2018

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When I was 13 I met anorexia and she was brilliant. She gave me this sense of value, she filled my mind with positive things and she made me feel things I had never felt. The sense of belonging she gave me, the feeling when I missed a meal and I felt like I had won a gold medal. It was great. I didn’t feel that I mattered much to anyone and was definitely nowhere near good enough to be with anyone but she gave me something that made those feelings all okay. She gave me something that I longed for.

Years passed and our friendship deepened. No one knew about this deep rooted friendship we had and it was best that way. I didn’t want anyone to interfere with it. I carried on living my life like I wanted. I went out a lot, didn’t really eat, exercised a lot and drunk heaps. I turned to guys to feel good about myself and rebelled more and more. Just before my parents and school intervened I remember turning up at my Mum’s Outreach project in the centre of Bristol. She worked with an organisation who had a double decker bus in town. They were there on Friday and Saturday nights talking to drunk people, giving out cups of tea. I clearly didn’t feel like I was destructing my life enough so I turned up one evening drunk, loud, flirting with everyone on the bus. I knew my behaviour was upsetting my Mum but I didn’t care.

Nothing mattered anymore apart from my friendship with anorexia.

Over the next few months’ things got worse and I started to attend the Child Adolescent Mental health services in Bristol. I had weekly weigh ins and counselling sessions. Whenever I was there I acted like a bratty teenager. I didn’t want their help, they didn’t understand. No one understood. No one understood that anorexia actually made me feel good. That voice in my head distracted me, distracted me when I was lying in bed at night, distracted me when I was mulling over life worrying about the future, worrying about ever feeling good enough…

You read the above and you imagine that anorexia is literally the best friend anyone could ever want but the reality is my body was slowly dying.

I had ignored the warning signs from doctors, nurses and my family. I just thought everyone wanted to make me fat.

But then November 2006, my heart nearly stopped and my life changed forever. I was 17, stood in the doorway of a mental health hospital where I was about to spend the next year of my life fighting to recover.

Now 10 years on, I manage my anorexia. It hasn’t always been plain sailing and it definitely hasn’t always been an easy fight but I manage it and I know that anorexia is something that I don’t want in my life.

If I could turn back time to when I was 17 and admitted to hospital or even 13 I would have done things differently. And I urge you to read these and think hard about your mental health and whether you do need support.

Talked

Talking is so hard, I get that and there are times when I still find it hard. There are times when I feel the need to be strong for others, the need to show I am ‘fine’. When I was at CAMHs my doctor used to say when I said fine it actually stood for ‘Fucked off, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional’ and he was one hundred percent right.

I know we don’t always want to talk about how we feel but simply by saying ‘I am not okay’ can do the world of good. I have learnt the importance of talking and I guarantee it really does help.

Not be ashamed of the sexual abuse

When I was 13 years old I was sexually abused. After each time it happened I was left with so much guilt. I felt lost and so afraid but instead of talking to someone I hid it from everyone. I hid it from my family and friends because I was so ashamed I had let it happen. I felt weak for letting it happen.

I didn’t start to talk about it for years and years. But how I wish I had talked about it earlier, begun to deal with it when it had happened instead of bottling it all up. Pushing those scars further and further down.

Please never be ashamed of how you feel, or ashamed of things that have happened. If you are struggling, worried or feeling a certain way please do talk about it.

Therapy

I have had so much therapy my entire life with my first session at the age of 9. My Mum signed me up to it as I was this emotionless child. I had loads in hospital and then had some a few years ago again.

When I first started every single time I acted like a spoilt brat. But therapy helps. And it is actually really good. A whole hour to talk about whatever you want to talk about and to tackle issues with no judgement. Yes, it is hard work, and sessions can be scary but it is so worth it.

Wherever you are at in your mental health journey please know you are not alone and you should not feel ashamed of feeling certain ways.

Stick with that fight to get well and reach out for help before it is too late.

You can see what Hope is up to on her website: www.hopevirgo.com and by following her on twitter: @HopeVirgo

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