This is Carla’s story. Carla is 24 and has been battling an eating disorder for the past several years: she has kindly taken the time to share with us her experience and what she has been through.

“When I was growing up, I felt that there was always more I could do, more I could achieve, something else to strive for. I couldn’t rest until I had sculpted that single line in an English essay to perfection or explored every route of that maths equation. However, it wasn’t until I went to University that my need to control each aspect of my life became all consuming and developed into something more destructive – my eating disorder.”

“I tried to combat my struggles with a particular theory or essay by taking control of what I was putting into my body. My inherent desire to achieve left no option but to get the highest marks possible; anything below this made me feel a failure and a phoney.”

“As well as the pressure I was putting on myself academically, crippling hormonal and gynaecological problems were slowly taking over my life.”
“I became completely obsessed with everything I was – or wasn’t – putting into my body. While on the one hand a big bowl of vegetables made me feel virtuous, if a single jelly baby passed my lips I would suffer from feelings of guilt and anxiety. How could I have been so weak to succumb to this processed, sugar laden sweet?”

“I of course now recognise that my behaviour was fanatical and unhealthy, but my actions were being justified by so-called ‘lifestyle gurus’ who promised that ‘clean eating and living’ was the solution to all ills.”

“Perhaps subconsciously, I was using the dichotomy of good and bad when thinking about food. While chocolate and cheese were bad, unprocessed and low-fat options were good. What I didn’t admit to myself was that this black and white approach to food was denying my body the nourishment it was crying out for.”

“Before I knew it, feelings of anxiety, emptiness and hopelessness consumed me completely – my parents recognised a complete shift in my behaviour but I was unwilling to admit to myself that I was in the grips of an eating disorder.”

“I wasn’t only physically fading away but I was isolating myself and withdrawing from my life emotionally. The dangerous cycle of denial and anger at those around me, and myself, was exacerbated by my increasing need for control.”

“My relationship with food wasn’t the only aspect of my life that became distorted – an initial foray into exercising quickly turned into gruelling fitness sessions. I even avoided situations that would force me to miss an exercise class; a catch up with friends or work lunch were unthinkable. ”

“Along with my parents, my GP was pivotal in encouraging me to seek help. After being pushed through several different routes of counselling, he identified the urgency of the situation and referred me to the Cotswold House Specialist Eating Disorder Service in Marlborough.”

“I had spent a long time denying to myself that I was suffering from an eating disorder, and it was only during my initial assessment that the reality of the situation dawned on me; being told that I was dangerously close to being admitted as an inpatient gave me the impetus to face up to my condition and start living again.”

“Under the care of my fantastic Consultant Clinical Psychiatrist, I have been an outpatient for 18 months and am edging closer to being discharged. Through cognitive behavioural techniques and a lot of soul searching, my sessions have challenged me to own my eating disorder.”

“I can’t pretend that my road to recovery was easy. To be completely truthful it is something that I have to work at daily but, with time, the battle is becoming less of a struggle. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment but finding the right people to help is important, so my message to others at the start of their journey is: don’t give up.”

“I am a great believer in the adage, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. It is so important not to define a person by their eating disorder; somebody may have anorexia but there is so much more to them than being an anorexic. In spite of suffering with this awful mental illness, your loved one is still the owner of that irresistible laugh and won’t ever lose the ability to make you smile. My eating disorder is one part of my whole being, but I am now strong enough to make sure that this part does not become the starring role.”