Langford woman speaks about her struggles with anorexia

PUBLISHED: 08:36 27 February 2018 | UPDATED: 10:02 27 February 2018

Hannah Brown set up a peer-to-peer support group called An Ear To Hear to help those with eating disorders, having struggled with anorexia herself. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown

Hannah Brown set up a peer-to-peer support group called An Ear To Hear to help those with eating disorders, having struggled with anorexia herself. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown

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With Eating Disorders Awareness Week launching yesterday and running until March 4, Langford woman Hannah Brown, 27, has opened up about her struggles with anorexia – and how frustration brought about the founding of her own support group.

Hannah Brown with her mum Alison, who she said was her rock throughout her recovery. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown Hannah Brown with her mum Alison, who she said was her rock throughout her recovery. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown

It’s odd to give so much away about my struggles, my history and the distorted relationship I harboured with myself.

I feel a little exposed but, by being brutally honest, I hope that I am able to help give just one person the courage to reach out for the help that they so desperately deserve.

At 19, I was that naive and vulnerable young woman who thought life would be perfect if I lost a few pounds – that a size 8 body would bring me all the happiness in the world.

Slowly, though, I lost my vision. I became obsessed with eating less, exercising more, and being smaller and smaller.

Hannah has said the biggest loss from anorexia is not weight, but the loss of life. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown Hannah has said the biggest loss from anorexia is not weight, but the loss of life. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown

The comments that had started so positive, turned to concern and then to utter bewilderment at what I had become capable of doing to myself.

I don’t recall the day of diagnosis, but I do know that having that label of ‘anorexia’ gave me an identity that I oddly felt proud of. It gave me a sense of gratification and a level of attention that I secretly craved.

Honestly, my memory of that time is hazy, I just recall being trapped in a cycle of restriction and confusion.

Every morning I would vow to change, make another plan to recover, to eat more and get my life back.

Hannah Brown, who was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 19, has spoken about her struggles with the eating disorder. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown Hannah Brown, who was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 19, has spoken about her struggles with the eating disorder. Picture: Courtesy of Hannah Brown

Each day, though, that inner dialogue would resort in me returning to the comfort of my anorexia, the best friend that never let go and that I thought kept me safe – how wrong I was.

Dramatic weight loss is almost the typical association with anorexia, but the biggest loss is life.

Anorexia was a manipulative and destructive illness that destroyed me and took every precious facet of my existance. Friendships crumbled as I lost interest and my family unit became strained. Exhausted by my behaviour, my aspiring law career also became a desolate dream and my personality was sapped.

I was withered, and it was at this point that I was admitted into hospital to get the life-saving treatment to restore my frail body.

Recovery isn’t linear, and the internal dialogue is still there. Only last year, that dialogue became deafening and I needed to reach out for help. Unfortunately though, the wait was in excess of four months and as my weight wasn’t low enough.

I cannot emphasise enough how essential early intervention is, not only for diagnosis but for relapse prevention also. I wasn’t given this opportunity and, because of that frustration, I vowed to make a change.

This gave birth to AnEarToHear, a peer support site that I am so proud to be able to have founded.

But that was just the start and now I can say with restored pride that I am starting to make small but significant changes. I deliver recovery workshops and talks, am invited to guest blog, elected as a governor for East London NHS Foundation Trust, lead charities and am in the process of creating an incredible venture with other equally as incredible professionals who recognise the need to improve holistic services for those suffering with eating disorders.

It’s been a roller coaster, that’s for sure. One of euphoric highs and then periods of deep depression, plummeting to truly terrifying depths.

Now, instead of being on that roller coaster, I like to think I’m on more of a lazy river – it’s relatively safe and stable, with a few surprises!

Learning about myself has been so integral, learning about my illness and listening to the internal dialogue with more understanding and clarity.

I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for some of the amazing people I am blessed to have in my life, and I owe the NHS everything – but there has to be change, there has to be discussion around why there is still that stigma, why there is still such a wait for treatment, considerable reduction in all mental health funding and that lack of understanding.

To anyone reading this, who is worried about themselves or a loved one – please reach out, speak out and scream until you get the treatment you need.

You can email aneartohearhlb@gmail.com, visit aneartohear.co.uk or follow @aneartohearhlb on Twitter – where there is also information on Hannah’s YogaEd sessions held in Letchworth on Thursdays.

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