'You can get your life back after anorexia'
Danny Keane tells of the toll the illness took on his physical and mental health and of his struggle to get help..
TWENTY-six-year-old Danny Keane, from Cork, was a world champion Irish dancer in his late teens when he first started to lose weight.
"I was 19 and I was competing in Irish dancing at world level. I put all my attention on being the best, practising lots, eating healthily," he says.
Danny was known as a bigger dancer but didn't want to lose weight. When he started intensifying his training and his healthy diet, he began losing weight: "I just couldn't stop when I started losing weight."
Between the ages of 20 and 25, Danny continued to lose weight.
"I knew I had a problem but I wouldn't admit it," he remembers.
At 20 he had to stop dancing because of muscle wastage. The eating disorder had taken over. He began to isolate himself from friends and put his dancing career on the back burner.
He was studying business in college and his concentration levels plummeted.
It would take seven hours to do the same amount of work that would normally take two hours. He was working out up to three times a day.
"I would be very professional and want to control everything," he says.
A year-and-a-half ago, he was hospitalised because his liver and heart were beginning to malfunction.
"They had to keep waking me because my heart was going so slow it might stop.
"That frightened me."
But when he was discharged from hospital and became an outpatient, his anorexia came back.
Danny says now that hospitals need a special unit for eating disorders: "I had a meeting with a specialist that I was with. I realised I was going to die."
With his family, Danny looked into clinics and found Lois Bridges in Dublin.
"My parents were incredible, they did it all," he said.
They wrote to local TDs to secure funding to pay the clinic's fees.
Danny describes the treatment in Lois Bridges as an intense process: "I was in there 16 weeks to begin with, seven nights a week. After that it reduced to four nights for two months, then three nights for two months. Nine months in total.
"A lot of people think anorexia is physical but it's psychiatric."
Physically, Danny is much healthier now. "I'd be lying if I said I was 100pc over it. It's about managing it. Every meal is an accomplishment now. It's still a challenge.
"It's very easy to skip a meal. If I was out and a lunchtime passed, you have the excuse and that's straightaway a big no."
Danny is now applying for a masters in business and economics and would like to teach.
He says he's 'past it' when it comes to Irish dancing, at the ripe old age of 26. Now he would like to be a spokesperson for eating disorders.
"I learned more from listening to other people's stories," he says. "In my first week in the clinic there were girls there who were in week eight and they were living proof that you can get past this.
"There was a time I thought, I'll either live with this forever or I'll die from it. I couldn't see any light."
As for raising awareness of the illness, Danny says, getting to people at a younger age is essential.
"The education system needs to address this," he says.
Health & Living