Like many other young people her age, 23 year old Ffion Jones from Carmarthenshire loves travelling, reading, listening to music and spending time with friends and family. However, in our latest blog, she reveals how she has battled with an eating disorder for most of her life and how it has had a devastating impact on her from which she may never fully recover.
Ffion is now using her harrowing experiences of mental illness to positive effect as a champion for Time to Change Wales, a campaign funded with over one million pounds by the National Lottery Community Fund which aims to end mental health stigma and discrimination in Wales. Here she explains how she is trying to use those experiences to help others who are going through the same.
I’ve done lots of things with my life so far – been on holiday, seen the Vatican in Rome along with Michael Angelo’s ceiling, visited the Pyramids in Egypt, climbed mount Snowdon, been Paragliding, swam with dolphins and seen my fair share of music concerts and theatre productions.
In addition to these wonderful experiences, I have also been sectioned under the mental health act three times, been pinned down and fed via NG tube, spent months at a time in both general and Psychiatric hospitals, become Psychotically Depressed – leaving me with hallucinations of dark shadows being sent to harm my family, and pushed my body to such horrific extremes I nearly lost my life on several occasions – all due to the firm grip my Eating Disorder has had on me since I was 11 years old.
Despite the belief of many people out there, I did not choose to become anorexic. There was never one moment where I suddenly thought, “I know, I’ll just destroy my life for the next decade, this seems like a great idea.” And I did not have a traumatic childhood, I was never abused. I’m very lucky as I have an amazing family who have stood by me in a way I never thought possible. My brother was only 6 years old when a fellow pupil came up to him in the school yard and said, “My mummy said your sister’s going to die.” He has grown up visiting his big sister in psychiatric units, played cards with me while I had a NG tube up my nose and witnessed me being driven into casualty when the burden of living with my illness seemed too much and I tried to take my own life. And the saddest thing of all is that he doesn’t remember me well. The guilt I feel over this is something I don’t think will ever leave me, but all I can do now is be the big sister I have always wanted to be with the time we have left together.
When I first became ill I didn’t know what hit me, I underestimated the strength of my illness. I never wanted to lose weight, I wanted to ‘be better’, and I hated myself and just wanted to change, and to feel accepted, to be ok with myself. And the obvious starting point for that (just like the movies) is usually a clean diet and exercise, then the girl gets the guy and all the cool friends and lives happily ever after, right? I’ve seen a lot of films and it happens in all of them – Legally Blonde, Bridget Jones, Miss Congeniality, it seemed like a fool-proof plan at the time.
But just as I thought I was gaining some control over my life, I realised I was not in control at all. The first six months of me getting ill were like some horrific car crash, I was like a tidal wave of destruction and went from being a perfectly healthy teenager, to being on deaths door, phobic of everything to do with food.
There have been times when strangers in the street have shouted at me. You name it – they have called me it – “Vegetarian toothpick, key hole Kate, eat a burger, skinny cow, **king disgusting.” Someone actually threw a pasty at my head from outside Greggs once. The other thing people like to say is how intelligent I am, “She’s so clever, why is she doing this?” The answer is actually relatively simple – I’m mentally Ill. There is no logic in mental illness. If it was as simple as eating a Big Mac and having my illness disappear, I would have done it 12 years ago.
The damage done to my body has left me with severe Osteoporosis, which at the age of 23 isn’t good. I am also yet to find out if I am fertile. At this moment in time I am better than I have ever been, for the first time in my life I am healthy, for the first time since I was 12 I am at a healthy body weight.
To suffer with an Eating Disorder is to fall under the clutches of a severe psychological cancer that’s sole aim is to destroy the lives of its beautiful and unsuspecting sufferers. My message is a simple one – never lose hope, never give up and never feel ashamed of being ill. Not everyone will understand what you are going through and many may cast unnecessary judgments but take it from the millions suffering out there – it is not a choice, it is an illness and like any other illness – it can be treated.
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