Mental health. We all have one, but no two are alike. Whether you like it or not your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It's a symbiotic relationship and disregard for the health of your mentality can have serious detrimental effects on your physical health.
A particular example of this symbiosis is Eating Disorders - Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder, just to name a few. These disorders can severely affect an individual physically, mentally and socially with over 725,000 men and women in the UK being affected. These illnesses can develop at any time and at any age. Although diagnosis is more common in women during their teens, eating disorders among men have become increasingly more common over recent years.
As part of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017 (Feb 27 - March 5) I wanted to discuss one eating disorder that particularly hits close to home - Anorexia Nervosa. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to not have experienced an eating disorder but my sister, Channon, was diagnosed at a young age and has kindly agreed to contribute to this blog.
When I asked Channon if she had known she was ill she responded with, "looking back I knew I was ill, I can remember googling my symptoms and everything was pointing in the direction of Anorexia,"
"I didn't want to believe it, I thought I was different and had control over something in my life for once."
In reality, we all knew she was ill but she refused to admit it. Losing weight to my sister was an achievement in her eyes, even if it did have life-threatening consequences.
B-eat is the UK's main eating disorder charity which helps to support people suffering from an illness related to their eating. They aim to not only change the way people think and talk about eating disorders but to also improve the way services and treatment are provided.
On the website, B-eat explain that anorexia often stems from low self-esteem which is something Channon said she suffered with.
"I'd always had low self-esteem issues ever since I was a child. I was 13 when I became a victim of Anna (as she likes to call it) but I honestly believe it was buried deep inside me long before that."
In the UK, young women are more susceptible to developing an eating disorder, particular between the ages of 12 and 20 meaning many girls have an extremely difficult time with their education and bullying.
"It all started with a diet, I wanted to lose weight for a summer holiday and it was actually working. I was actually getting attention from the opposite sex for a change and it was a huge confidence boost for a girl of my age. I continued to lose weight over the summer and when I went back to school in the autumn people were shocked when they saw me."
"I can remember walking down the corridor and a group of girls whispered "she looks anorexic", it saddened me because I went from being bullied for being 'too fat' to being bullied for being 'too thin'. It felt like I couldn't win."
What many young girls don't realise is the serious and potentially permanent damage an eating disorder does to your body.
"Anorexia changed my body in ways any young girl would view as their worst nightmare. My periods stopped completely, resulting in my ovaries shrinking which gave me a severe chance of infertility later on in life."
"My blood pressure fell extremely low, giving me heart palpitations and many times I would faint or feel light headed and dizzy. My bones became brittle and I developed Osteopenia - the reversible stage of Osteoporosis."
"My hair began to fall out in clumps, leaving bald patches and becoming so thin I had no choice but to cut it. My breath also started to gain a metallic smell from where I wasn't consuming enough iron in my diet."
"My doctors had no choice but to feed me through a nasogastric tube, had they not done that I wouldn't be telling you my story today."
Channon spent over a month in hospital waiting for a bed to become available at a private practice, in which she eventually spent 5 long months continuing to be fed through a nasogastric tube.
This is all just a small insight into the life of someone suffering with an eating disorder. Hundreds of thousands of people suffer with this pain every single day in the UK and we need to continue spreading awareness for these silent killers.
If you know somebody who may be suffering from an eating disorder, find help. Refer to the B-eat website and visit your local GP.
Please share Channon's story to help those who may feel like they're suffering alone.