Diagnosed with anorexia and depression at 30

By Kerry

At the age of 30 I was diagnosed with anorexia and depression. I had suffered with depression on and off since I was a teenager but just before I turned 30 I seemed to be feeling really low, hopeless, and unable to function properly.

It seemed to get progressively worse rather than better, I had low self-esteem and didn’t feel good about myself at all. I didn’t know how to control my emotions or how to make things stop. I would constantly tell myself to get a grip and that I had nothing to feel down about. I had a loving family, two amazing children but nothing seemed to help.

Finding things difficult after the birth of my first child

I had my eldest child at 16 and when he was a few months old I was referred to a counsellor as I was finding things difficult. After attending a few sessions, I felt a bit better and no longer felt the need to go back. The counsellor at that time had said to me that I should take my issues and place them on a shelf (in my head obviously) and deal with them one at a time when I felt ready so that was my intention.

Losing one of my best friends and coping with bereavement

I then fell pregnant with my youngest child when I was 25 but a few months into my pregnancy I lost one of my best friends which I found extremely hard to deal with. I got on with things but was really struggling to come to terms with it. When I had my daughter this kept me occupied but I was still feeling very alone, sad and generally depressed. This went on for some time but I didn’t go for help, then the following year I lost one of my other close friends and again found this very difficult to cope with.

The layers that had built up to 30

By the time I was 30 I was really struggling with life, I was angry, sad, tired and had so much mixed emotions but no clue how to deal with them.

I couldn’t concentrate and felt as if everything round about me was in slow motion. I was there but I was somewhere else in my head and it was the worst feeling I have ever experienced. I did things with my children, I went on holiday but in my head, there was so much going on that I couldn’t fully appreciate the things that I was doing. Looking back at this now really breaks my heart because I feel I missed out on so much.

When colleagues started to notice I wasn’t okay

I must have been showing signs of some sort at work because eventually one of my work colleagues asked me to see a doctor and also talk to my family. I agreed that I would do this and I arranged an appointment with my doctor and my mum came with me.

Breaking down to my GP

I broke down at that appointment and explained to the doctor that I was struggling to cope and felt exhausted. She asked if she could weigh me and take my height which I found strange considering I was telling her I was depressed but she then asked me if I thought I was anorexic, which I answered no to.

Being in denial about my anorexia

She asked a colleague for a second opinion and the other doctor agreed. I was under 7st at that appointment and I remember how upset my mum was having to hear this. I was completely in denial and just wanted help to make these thoughts and feeling go away as I didn’t feel like I could cope with it, it was all beginning to get on top of me.

They did blood tests to ensure I hadn’t done myself any damage and thankfully I hadn’t. I tried medication a few times throughout my life for depression, but it wasn’t for me, I didn’t like how it made me feel.

Finding the support particularly hard

I attended counselling, a dietician and a psychiatrist on a regular basis to try and help, but this process was particularly hard for me. I found it challenging to talk through things from my past and I felt that things got worse before they got better. It did eventually give me the strength to work through some of my issues that I had put on that “shelf” over the years.

Some days I just didn’t want to wake up and I know talking like that really hurt my family, but these thoughts and feelings were constant, I couldn’t sleep and when I did, I had nightmares so it was like I couldn’t get away from it at all.

Feeling self-conscious and isolated

This was obviously a difficult time for my family too as they had to deal with me which I can imagine was far from easy. I struggled to go out, I suffered from anxiety especially when it came to food and it made me feel isolated. People would comment on my appearance but I would just dismiss it and to be honest it only made me feel worse because my confidence was already low.

Looking back at signs through my childhood

When I look back through my childhood now, I can see that I have had issues with eating (throwing food away, avoiding food or certain types of food and finding ways to make myself sick) since I was very young, but I suppose the more this became a habit, the more normal it was for me.

When I hit my teenage years, it became more of an issue and I would skip meals, eat very little and at times make myself sick. I hated eating in front of people at school and felt fat. I always compared myself to other girls and generally didn’t like myself.

How bullying at school made things harder

I was bullied quite badly at secondary school, so this again only made things worse for me and as a result I missed a good bit of school. My exam results were pretty poor too, due to the fact that I was hardly there and didn’t revise.

The learnings over the past three years

The last three years have been extremely challenging and a very difficult process to go through, but I have learned a lot. I have learned that it’s ok to have bad days because every day is a new day, its ok to talk to people when you’re struggling because it’s better to talk then to bottle things up.

Initially I didn’t want to tell people because I felt they might judge me or think that I was a bad mum but my children are my world and I would do anything for them.

The ways in which my anxieties still impact me today

I still struggle with my eating, especially the anxiety relating to food and sometimes this influences things such as going out to restaurants or over to other people’s houses for food. Apart from taking my children out I very rarely socialise on my own with others and this has become more of an issue because I have allowed it to continue, purely out of fear of feeling anxious or uncomfortable.

I feel more equipped to deal with my emotions now

I have bad days, but I feel more equipped to deal with my emotions now than I ever did in the past and continue to see health professionals when I know I’m not feeling great. I never refuse help that’s offered to me, I would do anything to avoid being back to where I was three years ago.

I have such supportive family and friends and I know I’m not alone if I speak up when I’m finding things difficult.  I know that I will always have blips in life because life can be challenging, but if I can use the techniques I have learnt and follow the advice I’ve been given, I can get through things one day at a time.   

Eventually I would like to be able to help others with similar issues to me as I think this is a worthwhile thing to be able to offer and everyone should have the opportunity to talk to someone.