Joanna's Story Anorexia & Bulimia

I hope that my story will give some hope to anyone suffering from an eating disorder - I suffered from both Anorexia and Bulimia from age 16 (I'm now 32) and I truly didn't think I could ever get better, even though I never gave up hope - even when I took an overdose, I didn't really want to die, I was so desperate for help but didn't know how to ask in a constructive way.

For the past 10 years, I have been stable - although I have come to accept that I may never be able to eat like I did before all this started- and am no longer beating myself up about it, like I did about everything else, continually punishing myself if I failed to reach whatever ridiculously high target I set myself. I was my own enemy, I hated myself. Today it's not always easy but I respect and like myself. I also respect my body for the amazing machine it is (and I do have fat days still), and the fact that despite all my abuse, it hasn't given up on me. I am still careful about what I eat but I never skip meals as I know this is one step down a slippery path which I cannot afford to take.

About a year and a half ago my boyfriend split up with me - it was awful, and I did cut back on my food and started losing a lot of weight - I got to that dangerous point where suddenly you are not in control anymore and the anorexia within you takes over (that part will always be there I think but I manage it now and keep it at bay). Fortunately, my friends were fantastic and I saw a therapist again for a while. It took me nearly a year to get back to where I am now and it was very scary to think I could lose control again so easily. For me, having an eating disorder goes hand in hand with low self-esteem and wanting to be something unobtainable - a perfect person, in a perfect world - life isn't like that and this is something I still struggle with, but I'm trying to be more relaxed. I have for the first time, stopped worrying what other people think of me and can stand up for what I want, regardless of anyone else.

I have had issues with my mother that I think contributed to my eating disorder - constant criticism and feeling controlled by her, but as an adult I can be powerful and stand up for what I want and what I believe. I wouldn't have got where I am without the support of all my amazing friends - I value them above everything - I may not even be here now if it wasn't for some of them. Life for me now is very, very precious - I don't take anything for granted and I appreciate everything I've got. I know if you are in the grip of anorexia my words may fall on deaf ears but I wasted too much time in my life already - recovery is possible - it's the hardest thing you may ever have to do - I can still remember now the day I was told I was going to be forced to put on weight - my whole world caved in - but if you can get through that then it does get easier and easier and eventually you can enjoy life for the wonderful thing it is.

I am no different - no stronger than anyone else, I guess somewhere part of me wanted to survive, and thank God I did because I can say I wouldn't want to have missed the last ten years for anything. Joanna