Sunday 25 March 2018

Anorexia survivor Aoife (18) opens up to Ryan Tubridy: 'You can recover and things do get better'

Aoife Hayes (18) from Cork revealed that her eating disorder was born from a life-long struggle with anxiety
Aoife Hayes (18) from Cork revealed that her eating disorder was born from a life-long struggle with anxiety
Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

An Irish teenager has opened up about her struggle with Anorexia Nervosa, which took over her life for more than two years.

Aoife Hayes (18) from Cork revealed that her eating disorder was born from a life-long struggle with anxiety, which manifested itself in an obsession with exercise and restricted eating regimes.

“This day last year I was dragged into hospital and didn’t come back until almost six months later,” Aoife said speaking to Ryan Tubridy on RTE Radio One.

“I’ve always suffered from anxiety. I had a little sister who was stillborn and since then I have suffered from anxiety and social anxiety.

“At the start of fifth year in 2013 I was really sporty. I was doing karate, swimming and soccer but you see in the media that you’re not fit until you have this perfect body and I started to think about that.

“I think it started with exercise. I would go five times a week and if I missed it I would get very upset and start crying or I’d do double the amount of exercise the next day because I’d missed it.

“In about January of fifth year I started cutting out sweets. I had had so many over Christmas that I started feeling guilty about it. That progressed to cutting out carbs and certain types of meats and by May I was only eating chicken, fruit and vegetables,” she said.

Aoife revealed that her parents became worried when she accompanied them on a family holiday where they noticed her dramatic weight loss.

“I went on holidays in July of 2014 and that’s when my parents started noticing and I didn’t treat myself or go out for meals and they got very worried.

“My mom got in touch with my GP. I had lost my period at that stage and my weight was after getting very low. She diagnosed me with Anorexia. I didn’t believe I was thin enough to be anorexic. There was a little voice that everyone has but it kept telling me to avoid certain foods and that I needed to exercise all the time.

“I didn’t feel like the weight loss was profound and I became obsessed with it,” she said.

The Cork teenager revealed that she reached one of her lowest points when she fainted at an Ed Sheeran concert because she had so little energy.

“I went to see Ed Sheeran in October 2014. I went with my boyfriend and two of my friends. We were standing at the concert and I felt really weak and I continued on as normal because I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s night. I can’t really remember what happened after that because I fainted. I think it was the hunger and I didn’t have the energy to do anything really.”

In December 2014, Aoife’s condition had deteriorated so much she had to leave school and soon after was admitted to CALM Unit where she began treatment for her eating disorder.

“There were people there that were my age and even though I did still suffer from social anxiety but everyone knew what everyone else was going through. But it wasn’t a holiday camp either. It was very hard. We weren’t allowed mobile phones and we had to ask if we needed anything and every door was locked. The therapy side of it was very hard.

“I met with a dietician and they gave me a meal plan and I had to stick with that no matter what but I was determined to get better at that stage.

“Anorexia had been in my life for too long,” she said.

Aoife revealed that she is in a “much better place” than this time last year and has regained control of her life.

“I just wanted to show people. I know a lot of people suffer from mental illnesses and that they’re ashamed to show it.

“As I put on the weight I realised there was more stuff I could do. I coped by writing down how I felt and showing it to somebody or keeping it to myself. I began doing yoga and I realised that I was only able to do those things when I had reached a certain weight that I wasn’t able to do before.

“Some days I have very down days. I’m still on medication and in therapy. There are still certain foods I struggle with but I’m doing much better".

The teenager returned to school in September and plans to resit her Leaving Certificate in June with hopes of becoming a psychiatric nurse.

“I want to do Mental Health nursing. When I was in hospital I wanted someone who had been in my situation to tell me that things could get better and I want to be that someone for someone else.”

For information and support on Anorexia Nervosa or other eating disorders or call the Irish Helpline on: 1890 200 444

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