An Irish woman has opened up about her battle with Anorexia Nervosa, which she said eroded every aspect of her life and left her future uncertain and without hope.
Fiona Morris (27) from Greystones in Wicklow has lived with Anorexia for more than 12 years, which she revealed manifested itself in the beginning as way to instil control in her chaotic teenage life.
“It all began for me when I was 15. Like any teenager I was quite self conscious but I think for me I was particularly body conscious. I always was comparing myself to everybody else.
“I had such low self esteem.
“Although my parents had been separated for some time, they divorced that year and I just felt like the ground had opened up beneath me. My world was crumbling. We moved out of our family home which was quite traumatic for me.
“I felt like I had lost control over everything else in my life and food was my only way to bring some order into my life.
“My security was gone from me and this was a way I began to channel order into my life. It was the one thing I could rely on.
Fiona’s eating disorder became a serious worry for her family and caused much tension in her house during her teenage years.
“My parents knew that there was something going on with me and our relationships became tense. We would argue so much and I fell out with my older sister.
“Really they were all just so concerned about me throughout those years.”
Fiona admitted that her eating disorder was the dark cloud over her life, and made her miss out of the typical college experience, which she said was one of her biggest regrets.
“This eating disorder has influenced so many of my experiences. Although I managed to get through college there were so many cycles of failing exams and it was a very stressful time. One of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t enjoy my college life. I wasn’t in any way happy, but it was the way I had been living for so long.
“Eating disorders affect every area of your life and become an addiction like alcohol is for an alcoholic.
“Your habits are so hard to give up, and to consider losing that control becomes unthinkable,” she said.
Although Fiona revealed that there were so many points throughout her illness where she was determined to get better, it was when her family began to speak about an expensive treatment in Sweden that she had a moment of clarity.
“When I graduated in 2014 I really felt the impact of what this eating disorder had done to my life.
“I looked around me and I had no friends, no job and no prospects. I couldn’t leave home because I was undergoing treatment in Dublin.
“I just felt so tired of it all. I was so tired of having this strained relationship with my family.
“They began talking about trying to get the money together so that I could go to Sweden for treatment.
“My sister is getting married next year, and my younger sister is in college in the UK and I just thought that it was so unfair that they wouldn’t be able to do the things they wanted to because of the money that would be spent on helping me.
“I couldn’t do that to them,” said Fiona.
The HR Administrator admitted that her younger sister Rebecca was instrumental in her recovery, as she helped Fiona regain focus.
“My little sister Rebecca was influential in my recovery. She is such a beautiful person inside and out and she taught me that there’s so much more value in strength and health than what I was doing. She taught me that it was so much better to be able to run up the stairs than be a size 0 or to be able to one day pick up a child, rather than be a certain weight.
“From that day on, I began to read a lot about nutrition, and at the beginning I focused completely on food and fuelling my body. My initial interest was physical. To improve my physical health. As I became stronger I began to work on the emotional and psychological side of my illness. I began to get myself out of the chaos,” she said.
Throughout the past year, Fiona has become involved with See Change, an organisation which has set out to alter the stigma surrounding mental health.
“I got involved with See Change to help keep myself accountable and on track and they are such a remarkable organisation. I’m hoping to become a lot more involved with them in the future,” she said.
"Recovery is a struggle, I think I’ll always have anorexia with me, but I’m so much better and happier now."
Although the process has been arduous, Fiona has now reached a healthy weight and has returned to work which she “loves”.
“I’ve returned to work and I absolutely love it. From there, my social life has improved and I went to Amsterdam a few months ago with a friend which I would have never been able to do before.
“I’m not going to lie, I have so many fat days where I’m feeling really low, but they are so much better than what my worst days were in the midst of an eating disorder.
Fiona offered advice to those who may be in a similar situation that she found herself in last year, and revealed that the key to overcoming the illness is to try and muster belief.
“So many people with eating disorders operate on this belief that they’re never going to get better and self-doubt is the most difficult thing to overcome. You become your own worst enemy.
“You have to remember that you deserve a place in this world just like anyone else but it takes determination and a bit of belief.”
For information and support on Anorexia Nervosa or other eating disorders visit www.seechange.ie or www.bodywhys.ie or call the Irish Helpline on: 1890 200 444
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