‘Like the level below Hell’ - speaking out about eating disorders as awareness week starts
- Credit: Archant
'Like living in the level below Hell'. That is how 23-year-old Stacey Taylor described her experience of anorexia and bulimia.
Now Miss Taylor, from Dereham, has shared her story to help raise awareness of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, which starts today (February 26).
She said her own disorders became 'all-consuming illnesses' when she was 16.
Miss Taylor said: 'It made me believe I was fat, useless, unworthy, unlovable and weak. But I was fighting for control I never seemed to get.
'It made me believe that losing weight would somehow make things better and anyone who contradicted this became the enemy. I turned into someone who lied, cheated and manipulated people so I didn't betray my eating disorder.'
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Miss Taylor said the disorders developed from self-harming and depression, which she had struggled with from an early age. She was also a high achiever at school - completing much of her GCSEs two years early - which added to the strain. Miss Taylor said: 'It was a lot of pressure and I felt that I was not good enough to be in this group with my peers.'
Miss Taylor said that while her disorders were now manageable, she still had relapses.
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The awareness week comes as eating disorder charity Beat has revealed YouGov research showing 34pc of UK adults cannot name any signs or symptoms of illnesses such as anorexia and bulimia.
The charity's chief executive, Andrew Radford, called on the government and NHS to do more to increase awareness of early signs and symptoms.
Mr Radford said: 'Eating disorders are serious mental illnesses and when people are treated quickly after falling ill, they are much more likely to have a fast and sustained recovery.'
Miss Taylor agreed, saying: 'Recognising symptoms is important. I often wonder if my eating disorder would have ever got as bad as it did if the people around me knew what to look out for. I think the earlier the illness is picked up on, the easier it is to treat.'
To find out more about the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and what is being done to fight them - including a support service for men set up in partnership with Asos, visit www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk
When she was just 12 years old, Chloe Baugh was put into an eating disorders inpatient unit for treatment.
Now 18, she said she had recovered from anorexia, which has had a major impact on her life.
Miss Baugh, from Harleston, said: 'I had been suffering from other mental health issues since I was seven. I didn't like who I was so I wanted to change it. It was very much a control thing for me as I felt unable to control other aspects of my life.'
Miss Baugh said the illness meant she missed a lot of school because of appointments, and needing bed rest because she was in such poor condition.
She added: 'I also was unable to go out with friends and family as I was too scared of eating in public. It consumed my thoughts and because of this I found it very difficult to interact with people. I argued with family which put strain on relationships as I felt they were trying to go against me when they were trying to help.'
Miss Baugh said it was crucial to get the word out about eating disorders to help save others from similar experiences.
She said: 'When people are aware of signs and symptoms and the stigma surrounding eating disorders is reduced then people will have easier access to support.'
Some signs of eating disorders
The main eating disorders are anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder.
Signs of anorexia include: Saying they have eaten earlier or will eat later, or that they have eaten more than they have; not being truthful about how much weight they have lost; and strict dieting and avoiding food they think is fattening. People with anorexia often have a distorted perception of their body shape or weight - for example, thinking they are much larger than they are.
Physical signs include difficulty sleeping, tiredness , stomach pains, weight loss and loss of muscle strength.
Signs of bulimia (binge eating then purging) include secrecy, hoarding food, irritability and self harm.
People with bulimia often feel anxious and tense, especially around meal times or when eating in front of others. They may sometimes develop calluses on the backs of the hand if fingers are used to cause vomiting, and go through regular chances in weight.