Talking about how I felt saved my life – Hope’s journey of recovering from Anorexia
Talking about my feelings was something I had never done. Throughout my childhood and teens, I concentrated more on fixing others and switched off my emotions. This wasn’t easy at first but as I stopped eating more and became fixated on anorexia it got easier. Because of this, I ended up in a mental health hospital when I was 17 years old. My hair thinning, my skin a yellowish colour and my heart close to stopping.
Since coming out of hospital I have had ups and downs with telling people about my history of mental health. It definitely got easier as I stayed well for longer. Everything was going well, all up until March 2016 when my amazing Grandma passed away. She had left us after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. I felt so guilty about her death. And felt like I had let her down. I was consumed my emotions and I hated it. I felt lost, empty and alone and it was at that point that my anorexia drew me back in. And it helped at first. Helped me feel better about everything. But then the constant battle began in my head again. The guilt of eating, and not eating. The guilt of not doing enough exercise. I felt trapped in the cycle of self-hate and feeling like a failure. As I struggled more I did try to open up but it was hard.
It hadn’t even occurred to me that anyone would have noticed my weight loss, or thought that my usual bubbly-self was disappearing.
Nikki, one of my best friends, suggested going out for brunch one Friday morning and after the initial gossip, she plunged right in to it. I was shocked
that she had noticed but really touched that she had cared. She asked me how I had felt. She wanted to know what was going wrong, and asked direct questions about calorie counting. For some reason, I couldn’t lie to Nikki. I trusted her with the truth. I knew she wouldn’t interfere, but would be there for me if I needed her. After that, Nikki decided we would have a summer of fun to help get me through that ‘hiccup’. All my friends rallied round me and we had a fun summer.
Opening up can be so hard but it is well worth it and it does help. Anorexia is so secretive and it can be hard to feel able to trust others. I decided to write a book about my experience of anorexia. It was terrifying at first. I was afraid people would judge me, it would impact my career but opening up has helped massively. Not only have I been able to share my story and inspire others to fight to get well but it has also opened up so many conversations around mental health with my friends and people from work. Yes, at times it is hard, at times it can be scary feeling so much and opening up. And at times I was worried that people would think I had let them down with my mini relapse. But it has helped so much opening up.
I can confidently stand here and tell you I am an eating disorder survivor and whilst I fought it, it definitely helped me stay strong by sharing my story with those around me.
Hope Virgo has written a book about living in the grip of anorexia since she was 13: ‘Whilst your anorexia seems like your best friend, she knows everything about you and is always there, she is also your worst enemy and not someone you want to know’.
For four years, Hope managed to keep her anorexia hidden, keeping dark secrets from friends and family. But then, on 17th November 2007, Hope’s world changed forever. She was admitted to a mental health hospital. Her heart nearly stopped and her skin was yellowing; she was barely recognisable. Forced to leave her family and friends, the hospital became her home. Over the next year, at her lowest ebb, Hope faced the biggest challenge of her life – somehow finding the courage to overcome her anorexia.
In Stand Tall Little Girl, Hope shares her harrowing, yet truly inspiring, journey. Through her letters and diary entries, Hope tells us how she fought from rock bottom to beat the friend that had controlled and nearly destroyed her life. The story of Hope’s recovery will inspire countless others.”