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  • Writer's pictureEmma Carpenter

What would I say to my younger self?

Age 30 I look back and think how far I have come, how much i have been through but I wouldn’t change any of it as it has made me the woman i am today.

Year 6 was when the bullying started, the name calling the constant worries about not wanting to go into school. My hope was starting secondary school the torment and name calling would stop but I was wrong. The name calling continued and anything I did whether it be lose weight, change my hair style the bullying continued. I started to resent school even though I was a high achiever. I was born to stand out and not follow others however i didn’t fit into the ‘norm’ so consequently I was bullied.

Year 8 I was referred to EPUT and CAMHS. I was referred to see a dietician and to have a therapist to help with my so called ‘ teenage rebelliousness’. This helped for a while and I felt like i could overcome my demons but school life was getting worse. By Year 9 and at the age of 13 the demons and the eating disorder overtook, It felt like a stranger was in my body and I was in a dark hole and couldn’t get out. 5 days before Christmas I ended up in the Phoenix Centre, away from my family, told to eat, what to eat and when to eat. I felt relief as I was away from school but i instantly started to struggle as the eating disorder voice which i named TW came back with a vengeance. Every day became a struggle, that light at the end of that very long dark tunnel felt as if it was getting further away. I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa but also with OCD. I thought the obsessive tendencies would stop as I was away from my home which felt like the place where my Anorexia and OCD used it as a breeding ground. I was wrong the obsession came back in a vengeance.

Christmas came and went, family therapy i found overwhelming, nothing seemed to be working. The Phoenix Centre then introduced me to what i called ‘my rock’ which was my psychologist she made everything seem easier and that i was strong enough to overcome it. Bit by bit I produced an island of which I wanted to conquer the different areas of my obsessions. The combination of 1-2-1 sessions, CBT and medication that person i once knew started to come back and the voice was getting quieter.

When I was at a well enough weight I was introduced back into school, home visits and weekends at home. I felt like my life was getting back on track, little did I know that my discharge date was fast approaching and that school life would revert back to its old ways.

May came and went and i left the hospital which saved my life, gave me tools to help carry on my progress outside of the hospital walls. I was given an outpatient nurse who saw me once every 2 weeks and referred back to my eating disorder support network back home. Everything was in place for me to succeed on the outside. Little did I know the bullying would start again, friends I knew moved on, the bullies saw me as the weirdo as i had been away for so long. Little by little the stranger creeped back into my life and zapped all the hard work i had put in. A year and 4 months from my discharge date i ended up in Longview Adolescent Unit and started back at square one. Inpatient unit life was hard as it was not an eating disorder specialist unit and I lost my outpatient nurse from the phoenix centre. I found myself in a dark hole again and this time it was even deeper. I thought to myself will I ever get better, this is too hard and i am exhausted. Longview brought new tools for my toolbox which involved art/sand therapy and my therapist who ended up being with me till i was 18!

Sand therapy and art therapy I could express what I was feeling inside without having to speak or explain why, i felt it was another outlook and a hobby that soon became one of my strongest assets,  the best way to express my anxiety, fears, obsessions and slowly bring that voice/stranger under control. I was allowed to start going to the gym, get involved with trampolining, swimming all the things I loved when I was younger as i have always been and still am very sporty. I felt my identity was coming back and i could express the tough days at school and how i will deal with the next trip.

The eating disorder specialist team in Colchester brought in the best tool i could of ever asked for. That was my therapist who just listened, understood days that I wasn’t up for talking, take me out on walks and know me inside out, this was my turning point when it came to my battles with my Demons. Longview taught me to step away from weighing all my food, take more risks and prove to me nothing bad will happen, i wont suddenly balloon over night. Those obsessions would not end in something bad happening either, all because my therapist was with me every step of the way.

I was in this unit for 8 months and came out feeling stronger, knowing i would continue my sessions with my therapist and go back for sand therapy. 2 years I missed out of school and i returned half way through year 10. Yes the bullying continued yes I didn’t enjoy school however I pushed through with my new tools, new friends and came out with all A*-C’s which i worked hard for. The day my exams finished i skipped out of those school gates knowing that was the past and new beginnings was coming and a new college.

College came and went i felt happier, i knew college wasn’t for me so left and concentrated on work and doing things for me not to please others as i always did. Along came my 18th birthday and for me that was when everything changed but for the better. I was going out being a ‘normal’ teenager. I didn’t want to spend my adult life in adult units as I was done on letting TW take control of what i do in my life. Guys in town wouldn’t always look at me as i was too frail looking. This is when I knew TW wasn’t everything it says it is, it wasn’t nice looking frail, i hated feeling cold and i wanted to get on with my life.

That was over 10 years ago. I have been ‘recovered’ and to say it has been plain sailing i would be lying to myself. However this was stuff like relationships coming and ending, jobs coming and going not all about body image and how i looked. The biggest thing that sticks with me even to this day is i got told when i was in hospital “you will never have a healthy relationship with food or exercise again”. To that girl who sat there and listened to that I would say be strong and prove them wrong. I now own my own personal training business, a pre and post natal specialist and help others with their own battles with their demons. I am in a long term relationship and he is my rock, he always makes me better myself and be the best version of myself. He loves me for me, Warts and all.

Looking back I can see the things that helped me and things that didn’t. CBT, art and sand therapy allowed me to express my worries, my worst fears and get it out on paper rather than bottling it all up and not telling anyone how I feel. Finding the therapist that stuck with me till was 18, who showed me I was strong and i could overcome anything. I said I wouldn’t change what i went through and this is true, it has made me a stronger person and made me believe in myself.

So if you are reading this and you are that young person I spoke about throughout, then know this. You are tougher than you think, better days will come and that light at the end of that long dark tunnel will come. There is life after an eating disorder, it can be done, so stick in their as recovery is possible as I am walking proof.

The Stranger That Called Poem,

Look into my eyes,

What do you see?

I see a stranger,

An imposter not me.

Look into my heart,

What do you see?

I see a girl who's loved,

Broken but not me.

Look into my mind,

What do you see?

I can see hurt, loss

A person but not me.

Look at my body,

What can you see?

I can see a stranger,

A cry, but defiantly not me.

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