I can still recollect the day I made a conscious decision to
embrace my ever-evolving eating disorder: it was New Year’s Eve
1997. Somehow I had become enmeshed in a web of self-destruction.
Two months later my weight had plummeted to 5 stone 9lb and I was
admitted to hospital. I spent four weeks on a children’s ward, on
strict bed rest, fed six times a day, and monitored constantly by
I was released in April 1998 a stone heavier. I was 14 years old. I
was taken straight to the local children’s home feeling
self-conscious and in despair about my body image. For the first
month I was alienated and became withdrawn. The residential social
workers’ knowledge and understanding of eating disorders were
Being among the other residents compounded my anxiety. At least 75
per cent of the young people displayed challenging behaviour and
food would often be hurled across the room and spat out. Outwardly,
I appeared emotionally unscathed despite the mealtime commotion.
Inwardly I was completely despondent and could no longer find the
strength to starve myself; food was the only constant element in my
life. It was at this stage, nearly one year later, that bulimia
reared its ugly head – my escapism repackaged. I would disappear to
the toilet after every meal to vomit. Initially, the sense of
relief afterwards was pleasantly overwhelming.
The volume of food I consumed increased daily until I was eating as
much as 5,000 calories a day and regurgitating. My life was being
dictated by a culture of secrecy. As my weight increased, Irealised
that vomiting was failing me. So I started taking 20 double
strength laxatives a day. I had eroding teeth, dehydration and
constipation. Quashing the eating disorder seemed impossible. I no
longer possessed the mental energy to cover my tracks and the
residential social workers acknowledged the severity of my illness.
They were highly supportive and suggested that I seek advice from
the mental health team. I surrendered and accepted the fact that I
I felt insecure and alarmed by the mental health professionals’
approach. They explained that I was now a recipient of an adult
service and I was allowed to have free rein over my therapy and
care plan. At times the prospect of taking control was frightening
but both the social and mental health professionals remained
patient, even when I attempted – frequently – to abandon the
Leaving the care home at 18, I struggled to cope with independent
living on top of my disorder and decided to undertake intensive
therapy at an in-patient unit called Kimmeridge Court. The staff
had a no holds barred approach and tackled the root of my eating
disorder and put me on the road to problem-solving and recovery.
The eating disorder has limited my opportunities, destroyed my
friendships and continues to be an unyielding trespasser in my
life. To this day I continue to struggle, sometimes sinking and
sometimes swimming, but ultimately I am winning.
Heidi Emma Osborne is from Dorset and was formerly in