Anxiety, vomiting and weight loss don’t automatically amount to an eating disorder, as 20-year-old Stephanie Crow explained to me.
Stephanie, from Manchester, explained a very simple but very common misconception that because she experienced quite severe weight loss ‘people assume [she] wasn’t comfortable with [her] body’.
She explained that ‘isn’t the case in the slightest’ as she was happy with her body before weight loss, but it was anxiety and depression that caused her to lose the ‘curves’ that she loved and was confident in.
Talking to UNILAD about when her mental health began to decline, Steph said:
My journey started when I was around 17 years old. I was studying Photography at college and had just started my first job working at a shoe shop.
I was very content with my life until, as if out of nowhere, anxiety and depression hit me. I found it very hard to go out of the house and to attend college.
I tried to get it across to my friends and tutors that I wasn’t mentally stable therefore I found it hard to attend some days but they didn’t understand.
Rumours began circulating at Steph’s college that she was ‘too lazy to come in’, which made her feel extremely lonely and ‘even more depressed’.
Getting out of bed some days became Steph’s biggest challenge, and her anxiety made her physically sick at the thought of stepping out the house.
Talking about how she dealt with the vomiting, Steph said:
Some days when I had no choice but to go out I would carry a carrier bag in my pocket for me to vomit in. The results of the vomiting made me physically unable to eat.
I thought that if I didn’t eat, I would have nothing to vomit up. That didn’t work of course, so not eating and vomiting up what was left in my stomach made me very poorly and gave me lots of stomach issues.
Steph was encouraged by her mum to go to the doctors who put her on an anti-depressant called Sertraline which initially made her very sick and have to take a month off work.
All of a sudden, Steph’s medication kicked in and she felt ‘much more confident’ in herself.
Talking about how she began recovering, Steph explained:
I started getting better slowly, walking to work alone, eating small biscuits and smoothies.
Eventually I was able to go to restaurants. This killed two birds with one stone and helped with my anxiety and my eating.
Soon enough I was putting my weight back on and feeling better and myself.
Steph said she now feels ‘better than ever’ and is encouraging others going through equally tough times to ‘stick with it and believe in themselves’.
Speaking to others in a similar situation, she said:
Everyone has bad days and some days are worse than others. Give yourself an hour or two to feel sorry for yourself then get back up on your feet and dust yourself off.
If anyone is on the same medication, I would tell them to keep taking it no matter how poorly it makes them.
Sertraline changed my life and although it might not work for other people, it could change their life too.
Also, find a hobby to take your mind off bad thoughts. I picked up makeup artistry which really helped me in my recovery.
Steph said she ‘never had an eating disorder’, but is so glad that she got better when she did because otherwise ‘it may have escalated into an eating disorder’.
Talking about where she is at now, Steph proudly said:
I am so confident in myself now. I feel sexy with my curves and I’m so happy I have beaten my illness and I hope my story can help others beat there’s too.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.