A Stepping Stone to Recovery

I find it hard to know when I am ill. I never have sick days off work, was rarely off school and the few times that I have been poorly, it’s usually a friend who has had to tell me to go to the doctors or rest. I think this is the same with my eating disorder. It crept up on me without me noticing. By the time I registered I wasn’t ok, I was in my mid-twenties. If I am honest with myself, I can see that the problem had started when I was 17 at Sixth Form. 

So, going back 13 years…… I made a friend who wanted to lose weight and I helped her. We went on walks, ate light lunches and were generally ‘healthy.’ I basically went on a diet by mistake and of course lost weight when I didn’t need too.  As a result people around me were worried.  But I felt the happiest I had ever felt. I had a new friend, a social life and thought that I was being really healthy. I liked the idea that I didn’t need to eat much to get by. I liked the ‘feeling light’ sensation.  I associated it with being free, not having to follow a routine of having lunch or a proper tea. Less eating meant more time. Seemed logical to me then, but looking back I know I felt tired and cold a lot, hated shopping as no clothes were small enough to fit. I want to go back and challenge that person, help her eat properly.  

This behaviour continued until I went to University. I remember my flatmate saying that if she hadn’t seen me eating sometimes, she would have thought I was anorexic. I didn’t associate anorexia with me.  

In my second year of Uni, I went to America for the Summer and put on weight due to the portions and type of food. When I came back, everyone said that I looked healthy and nice. I sort of believed them but it was the comment from a family member when I got off the place…. ‘Look how much weight you’ve put on!’ that really affected me. I felt guilty and started running more and I halved my portions and lost weight.

Restricting and exercising continued into my twenties. Then I became bulimic. The process of this happening was slow, and again, I was in a lot of denial about it. I was working in a demanding job and I felt that the only way I could get through a day was to binge and purge multiple times. That was about 5 years ago and I think of those times as the darkest, but I think that they needed to happen to give me the wakeup call that I needed. Things couldn’t get worse, so I began to contemplate getting help. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t living in Sheffield and couldn’t find a support group in the area to attend.

Just under four years ago, I moved back to Sheffield. For the first few months’ things just seemed to get worse. I am an optimistic person and thought that change and the move would somehow stop my bulimia. Of course it didn’t, the problem followed me, developed and adapted to the move. I lost all interest in the things that I loved before, went quiet and saw less of my friends. I felt a shadow of myself and lost sight of idea of help that I had begun to think about previously. I don’t know what it was, my friend who I had told or a good day, but I googled support services in Sheffield and found Syeda and decided to go to my first ever support group. 

I had no idea what to expect and was so pleased with what I experienced. I discovered that there are other people with eating disorders, trying and achieving recovery. The group made me realise that I could also get better and through going to that meeting, I had made a step in the right direction. I liked that I didn’t have to go if I didn’t want too, it wasn’t a clinical environment and best of all, not judgemental. I came away (and still do) from the support group feeling more motivated and aware of myself. 

The support group at Syeda was the stepping stone for me to go to my GP and ask for more help to recover. I got referred to Sheffield Eating Disorders Services and after a long time of me backing away from the idea of CBT and trying to do anything but commit to weekly appointments, eventually engaged with it and have completed it. I now feel more equipped at dealing with my eating disorder and happy to know that each month I can still access Syeda.  The support group for me is a place to check in, have some dedicated, uninterrupted time to reflect, listen and if (I want too), speak up. Time goes so fast in life and I don’t leave enough space to contemplate. I find those two hours in group very valuable. 

Thank you Syeda for being so welcoming and helpful and for providing such a friendly environment. All the staff are so lovely and I couldn’t have wished for a better place when googling help in South Yorkshire years ago!

-    Anonymous,  2016