This post was written by PAPYRUS volunteer, Soph. Soph tells us about how this year’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week felt different as she reflects on her lived experience of living with an eating disorder and how self-care helped her to truly heal…

Content warning: The following post references eating disorders and suicide.

This year, Eating Disorder Awareness Week felt so different.

I went to brunch with a lovely friend, and as we were laughing and enjoying the delicious French toast and hot chocolate, I suddenly thought to myself “Oh my goodness, Soph. look how far you’ve come.”

Only one year ago, I was in the depths of bulimia. Most days, I let the cold tiles hold me as I fell into the familiar pattern of binge and purge.

Only one year ago, I was still healing from another suicide attempt a few months prior and I held a deep soul-sadness that I was alive.

And I think people don’t often talk about how intertwined these two experiences can be.

Eating disorders not only have medical complications , but they also increase the sufferer’s risk of suicide significantly. Having lived through this for nearly a decade, experiencing both anorexia and bulimia at different points, statistics around eating disorders and suicide are truly heart breaking, and hit close to home.

I’ve been there.

Bulimia was my way of coping with trauma, dissociating from my present moment and releasing the pain I felt inside in a very somatic, body-focused way. The thought of losing this ‘protection’ through recovery was terrifying. However, the prospect of staying in the illness left me feeling incredibly hopeless, as the psychological and physical effects of an eating disorder were debilitating and I didn’t believe my life was worth living. I thought that dying was the only way to feel truly at peace.

I stumbled in this place of never feeling safe or at peace for years, and when I was in my 20s I attempted suicide 4 times. It was so painful, and I just couldn’t believe that I would ever feel okay or happy or whole again.

However, it was after my last suicide attempt that everything began to shift.

During this time, I found the support of a treatment centre that met me with a trauma informed and compassionate approach to help me truly heal from my eating disorder, cPTSD, and EUPD. Despite having just left the ICU and the crisis suite, with no fight left inside, I felt grateful for this place. For the first time I felt safe, and I felt so loved. This was a soothing balm for the immense pain I had just survived through. And while I couldn’t hold hope for myself, my team assured me they were holding if for me. I didn’t feel alone anymore.

Truth be told, I really struggled. For a while I couldn’t leave the eating disorder behind, so I was supported to gently care for my body as best as I could when the behaviours inevitably happened. I dove into engaging with therapy and practicing self-care whenever I could. And slowly but surely, the shifts were made, the seeds of hope planted. There was a distinct moment where I remember thinking – it’s time. As I sat in the therapy room, I said to my team “I just can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to be hurting my body anymore. I’m ready. I’m ready to get rid of everything that maintains my bulimia. To throw it all away. I want to care for myself fully. I’m scared.. and, I trust you”

It took everything in me.

And slowly I made my way through the healing process in a more authentic way than I ever have. It’s been tough, and I’ve fallen a few times… but I’m on my way.

And – 16 months on…

  • I have discovered my own way of releasing emotional energy and trauma memories from my body in an expressive and soul-nourishing way. And slowly this is becoming second nature.
  • I know that feeling it all is so human, and it’s okay. The feelings won’t break me – I can care for myself in these moments too, even when the tears fall.
  • I have found people I can be my authentic self around, and I feel seen and so loved.
  • I am studying at university for a degree I’m passionate about to hopefully one day work with young people in a therapeutic capacity – using my own experiences to bring a warmth and empathy into the space.
  • I am working part-time in a role that is beautifully aligned with my values, and I genuinely love it
  • I am honouring my continued healing journey, as I still attend 1:1 therapy, nutritional therapy, and a group therapy session regularly.

I went from a place of constant suicidality and eating disorder behaviours, feeling no hope at all, to living. This week, I found myself living in alignment with who I am, living by my values, and beginning to find my place here in the world. I am so incredibly thankful, and in utter disbelief.

I write this to share that true healing is possible, even when our minds tell us all is lost, even when it feels far away. Keep going, reach out. We’ll be okay x

(While it is difficult to confront, it is important information for the general public, loved ones, and professionals to be mindful of eating disorder and suicide statistics. Eating Recovery Center shared this post which beautifully summarises some key studies: https://www.eatingrecoverycenter.com/blog/treatment/Managing-Suicidality-in-EatingDisorder-Patients)

If you’re aged 35 and under and you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, HOPELINEUK is here for you. Call 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039 967 or email pat@papyrus-uk.org. Our advisers are here to support you from 9am to midnight, every day of the year.