Amy's Story

In September Amy ran a half marathon in aid of The Retreat and the Naomi unit on which she had previously stayed. She wanted to share her story in the hope that it and the money she raised, would help other people in their recovery journey. Warning- contains a very sad story with a real life happy ending.

So the bottom line is that I pretty much hate any form of exercise that is not Dancing. If you are lucky I might run to not be late to a party, but that is pretty unlikely; no one wants a sweaty red faced guest. I would not run for anyone else apart for The Retreat, they are such a worthy cause, changing and inspiring lives for the better; and here's why:

So I have had a pretty damn good life: a loving family and great friends, decent grades and lots of laughter. I don't really know how it happened so fast, or why it happened at all. My mum first noticed the changes I think, I was kind of in my own little bubble for 3 months until she convinced me to go to the doctors for a "Diabetes" test because of the INSANE amount of water I was drinking per day (We are talking 10 pints!). We got to see the doctor and was asked what the problem was and mum said "Shes got an eating disorder and doesn't realize!". Now, I was pretty shocked, I had been on a diet to loose weight before Christmas, but I had not noticed the extent that it began to rule my life. The first time I really noticed it was at Phils 18th Birthday buffet (He is doing the full marathon!), I had a glass of diet coke. That was it. 

The thoughts began to consume me, I was haunted every meal time by the potential guilt I might feel if I ate something and put on weight. Eventually it controlled my whole life, I just couldn't fight the feelings anymore and submitted completely to every Anorexic thought that popped into my head. I spent my life baking but not eating, doing but not thinking and talking but not feeling.

I was numb on the inside and out: my body couldn't maintain its temperature at all, i had burns on my legs from the scalding hot water bottles I had to clutch to stay warm. My fingers and toes were always blue from the poor circulation and I wore Ugg boots in summer. 

I had no feelings. Imagine blurring out everything so you had no use of your senses- I was doing that with my Anorexia. I had blazing arguments with my whole family about food, I promised my mum that I would get better, I even ate half a digestive in tears proving that I would try my very best to get well, but I just couldn't. I would remain forever loyal to Anorexia and she would reward me with the weight dropping off relentlessly, religiously, 1kg per week. It was a miserable existence with a ridiculous reward. 

My 18th Birthday was amazing, everyone turned up in Wheres Wally Fancy Dress and there was a bouncy castle ad an amazing cake! I felt nothing. I knew I should feel things, so I pretended to, but I felt nothing. Those were my most ill nights, i had to sleep in my Mums bed because she was afraid my heart would fail. I had boils on my legs from infections I couldn't fight and fine hair all over my body to try and keep me warm. 

The day after my last A Level exam, I was admitted as an Inpatient on Naomi Unit in The Retreat. My first 10 hours were just sobbing. Partly because I had let it get so bad, partly because I had nearly killed myself, and partly because I knew it was now or never, I might have to let Anorexia go forever. 

It was a long, hard journey and honestly I cant remember much of the first 3 months. I just had lots of physical observations done every 2 hours or so, and I was not really allowed to walk around. not fun. My family visited me at least twice a week and extended family and friends visited me too (Thanks guys- you have no idea how much it helped!). It was almost impossible to stop hating myself for eating so damn regularly - but my dietitian kept reassuring me. I was on a very small meal plan to begin with so I didn't get Re-feeding Syndrome, and to make sure my weight gain was slow and manageable. It was manageable now I look at it logically, but to maintain my weight independently was a big step-let alone gain it! I remember an intense conversation with a Nurse, trying to convince her that 1) I wasn't actually Anorexic and 2) I was probably allergic to macaroni cheese so should skip that meal.

One of the most reassuring things was that it didn't feel like a hospital. I could decorate my room and the lounge had a big TV and amazing squishy sofa; it had a gentle, accepting atmosphere that I know was crucial to my recovery. In my first week we had some pets visit the unit, and eventually we got some guinea pigs as permanent residence in the OT shed (nothing like a bit of pet therapy).

No only did I get my own individual Therapist, I had a team who worked with me throughout my treatment. gradually, when I was getting stronger I was introduced to group therapy sessions on CBT, DBT and Life Skills which all helped me learn to cope what I was feeling. This is such a big strength of the Naomi Pathways Program- because it is group based, on the days when you can't do it for yourself, you can do it for the other people in your group. It is an endless network of support built on a foundation of friendship and recovery. 

The program encouraged you to slowly develop your skill to be able to live well once we were back in the "Real" world. There were Shop and Cook sessions where we would cook as a group and help each other through our different struggles. After about 7 months I was able to move from the unit into a house on site where I could cook independently and eat my dinner when and where I wanted without the help of staff.

Gradually I became able to recognize myself again. I remember the first time I laughed and didn't feel guilty and I remember the first time someone told me I was funny. I remembered how to be sarcastic and how to have fun. I rediscovered my likes and dislikes, and realized that it was okay to treat myself. I learnt that your weight does not define who you are and it is not important in the grand scheme of things. I found out that it is great to be loved, but it is even better to love yourself. I live my life to the full every day, because I just managed to cling onto it.

I want to raise money for the Unit who saved me and let me become who I was meant to be. Who saw through the illness and helped the person to be discovered again. I need people to realize that eating disorders are not glamorous, not fun, and is never a choice, I had to drop out of University and put my life on hold for over a year whilst I got well. In total, Anorexia has stolen 2 years of my life, and nearly took the whole thing from me.

But one things for certain, its not taking any more of it.


You can donate to Amy's fundraising page here:

Comments (1)

  1. Rosemary Lovell:
    Sep 25, 2014 at 03:16 PM

    Amy, so proud of you, I know what a wonderful place The Retreat is - how you girls have made wonderful recoveries. Glad to have met you through Rosie

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