Amazing story: How anorexia almost ruined a teenager's life
What started as a drive to lose weight ended with a devastating battle to overcome Anorexia Nervosa for Yapton teenager Lucy Fenneymore.
Here the 17-year-old St Philip Howard student tells her amazing story in her own words.
Gosh you look skinny,” said my distressed mother as we were waiting to depart from the airport after a two-week holiday in Rome.
Looking back, I know this was meant as an insult, but at the time it felt like the compliment I had been waiting for. Skipping meals and resisting the temptation of indulging in Italian ice cream had clearly started to pay off.
I loved the way my clothes no longer fitted, but instead just hung off my skinny, skeleton frame, and the fact my ribcage and hip bones were becoming more and more visible by the day.
I felt so proud of myself; my new ‘healthy diet’ was working and having the desired effect of boosting my self esteem.
However, what started off as just a healthy diet was soon to take over my life, with food and excessive exercise becoming the focus of my every thought.
Losing weight turned into my only goal and reason for living.
Over the next year, my ‘healthy diet’ started to become more and more intense. Just eating sandwiches at lunch turned into just eating an apple, and an apple then turned into only drinking a low-calorie smoothie, which eventually turned into eating nothing at all.
By the start of the summer I had cut out all carbohydrates, fats, most proteins and anything I considered to be ‘fat girl food’ from my diet. I even refused to drink water out of fear of gaining weight.
The only way I allowed myself to receive water was through cleaning my teeth so I would brush them for about ten minutes as often as I could as I was desperately thirsty and determined to make the most of every drop of water that entered my mouth.
At my worst, my diet consisted of just a few beans, peas and about half a teaspoon of tuna. I would try to resist all fluids as I read somewhere that ‘cutting out fluids was the easiest way to lose weight’. I had no proof to support this claim, but at the time I was so desperate I would have tried anything if it meant losing weight.
Other than a fear of food, another reason as to why I didn’t want to eat was because anything I ate or drank, even a tiny cupful of water, made me feel so guilty – this little voice in my head would constantly tell me I was a fat, fat, fat girl. Eating just wasn’t worth the shame and guilt the voice made me feel.
I named the voice in my head Annie, and soon Annie was the only person in my life I loved and cared about. I felt the need to constantly obey and please Annie, as if I didn’t, I believed she would leave me and that, I thought, would result in my worst fear, gaining weight.
I knew my friends and family were concerned from my mother’s daily remarks about the size of my decreasing waistline and my friends’ constant queries about why I never ate.
But I was in denial. I refused to believe I had a problem despite the fact I had to wear two pairs of tights, three jumpers and a coat during the school day as I was constantly cold.
I lost all motivation to do anything other than lose weight. I could no longer concentrate on my school work as my mind was always preoccupied with trying to work out how many calories I had eaten and how much exercise I would need to do to burn them off.
My anorexia also made me very deceitful. I would throw away most of my food, but I would always make sure I put the empty wrappers back in my lunch box so it looked as if I had eaten it.
I also became very good at hiding food. I was able to put whole potatoes up my sleeve without anyone noticing.
Simply not eating wasn’t enough to please Annie, though. Annie made me feel the need to do excessive amounts of exercise any time I got the chance.
I became obsessed with going to the gym and I couldn’t sit still, I always had to be running or walking or stretching. I wanted to burn off every evil calorie that had ever entered my disgusting, fat body.
But the truth was I wasn’t happy, and I had become a pathetic version of my former self. I was depressed, miserable, tired, cold and unsociable as I dreaded going out because of the fear of food temptations.
Annie had become my best friend, my only friend, as Annie was the only person in the entire world who understood my fear of food and my dream of losing weight.
However, no matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough to make Annie happy. Annie made me believe I was a repulsive fat, fat, fat girl and because of this I felt I didn’t deserve to eat.
At my lowest I weighed a tiny 33.2kg and had a BMI of 13.2 (a healthy BMI for a woman is usually between 19 and 25), but even at this minuscule weight I still did not feel satisfied and was determined to continue losing more.
My anorexia also caused me to suffer from severe OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), which is very common with sufferers of anorexia.
My life became obsessed by routines and rituals I had to carry out every day in a certain order.
If I ever forgot to do a certain ritual or if I performed a particular routine in the wrong order, I would become very anxious and sometimes angry, even experiencing panic attacks if I felt something had been changed too much or got too out of control.
Some nights it would take me more than two hours to get ready for bed as I had accumulated so many set routines.
On May 27, 2010, I was admitted to Chalkhill Hospital where I stayed for more than three months.
Those three months were the toughest of my entire life. It took being separated from my home and family to make me realise how alone and unhappy I was.
Overcoming my fear of food was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It was over a month before I felt able mentally to complete a small meal at the hospital.
I don’t know what suddenly made me want to get better, but it seemed the more I ate, the clearer my thinking became. The fog that was clogging my brain with anorexic thoughts was finally starting to lift.
I also remember thinking ‘what will it be like in ten years’ time if my whole world still revolves around anorexia?’
It was then I realised I didn’t want to be worrying about calories and weight for the rest of my life, but instead fulfil my dreams of getting my A-levels, travelling to Italy and becoming a successful journalist.
It was these goals and ambitions, along with the continual support from my family, friends and all the staff and patients at Chalkhill, which have ultimately given me my life back.
I am now happy and healthy and although I still have bad days where eating seems terrifying and difficult, I am determined not to let Annie and anorexia stop me from living my life.
Now it is my mission to try to help others who are struggling with an eating disorder because it really is an evil illness that ultimately wants to kill you.
Everyone deserves to eat and everyone deserves to be happy.