Out of the dark: beating anorexia

Undergraduate student RACHAEL STEVENS opens up about her struggles with anorexia and severe depression.

There's that old saying that "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". To be honest, I never really understood what it meant.

It wasn't until I nearly lost my life that I discovered that overused cliché had some truth to it.

When I was 15, I collapsed at school. I was rushed to the emergency unit and placed on a set of scales. It was then my secrets began to spill out, secrets I had been hiding since I was six years old.

That day at the hospital I was told that I wasn't just physically sick.

That was the day I discovered I was suffering from a mental illness; severe anorexia nervosa.

Living with an eating disorder was like living in a prison. Internally I was trapped in obsessive routines driven by guilt and self-hatred.

Despite how dangerously low my weight became, I would look in the mirror and feel disgusted and repulsed.

I desperately wanted to become invisible and fade away into nothing. Starvation offered me that, but came at a great cost.

In hospital I was placed in a wheelchair, threatened with a feeding tube and told my organs were shutting down. I was at risk of going into cardiac arrest.

Yet, the things that didn't kill me somehow made me stronger. Hospital was my opportunity to stop pretending and receive the help I desperately needed.

In the psychiatric ward where my situation was at its ugliest, I made the decision I wanted to live.

After I was challenged by the words of another dying patient – "You must have some reason to get out of bed in the morning?" – I became determined to live. I discovered my faith and began to hope for the future.

This hope carried me through the next four years of intensive outpatient treatment. I put on 20 kilograms, finally reaching the healthy weight range.