• Julia Sidwell

So desperate to be skinny, I wanted to DIE

We spoke to Lauren-Leigh Richardson who wanted to open up about her 13-year struggle with the eating disorder that nearly killed her. We got her story published in The Sun newspaper and new! magazine.

Lauren Anorexia New Magazine

Here she reveals all:

I woke up and hauled my weak body out of bed, before measuring my arms, legs, ankles, wrists, waist, hips and neck with my hands to check I was skinny enough.

I preferred to do it this way and made sure to keep the mirrors in my bedroom covered with towels, so I didn’t have to look at myself.

For years I’d had a problem with my body image. I was sure I was fat and that everyone thought I looked disgusting. I restricted my food intake so I was eating barely anything and wore baggy clothes to hide my body.

Thing is, I didn’t care if anorexia killed me. I’d never been scared of dying. In fact, death was a desire.

I craved death.

My obsession with being thin began when I was just eight years old. I was getting undressed to get into the bath when I caught sight of myself in the mirror and was horrified at the reflection looking back at me.

The size of my stomach and thighs repulsed me and when I looked down at my toes, I was disgusted at how much my tummy stuck out.

If I think I’m fat, what on earth do others think? I thought.

I realised that if I reduced the amount I ate, I’d lose weight. It became my new mission, all while hiding it from my family and friends.

At the dinner table, I became skilled at hiding food down my sleeves and in my pockets. I also stored it in a large brown envelope, which I hid at the bottom of my wardrobe. If I had to eat, I’d run up to my bedroom and throw it all back up into plastic bin bags.

By the time I was 12, my anorexia started becoming very apparent to the people around me - and also to myself. I always wanted to be athletic and have an athlete’s physique, so by this point I was also exercising.

My weight was dropping at an alarming rate and my family, including my twin sister, Jodie-Leigh, were concerned. We weren’t identical, but people still made comparisons about our looks. I realise now it must have looked extremely odd me standing next to my beautiful, strong and healthy twin sister.

“You’d look much better if you looked like your sister,” they said.

But it wasn’t my sister’s fault I had issues with my body image, it was all in my own head. I was fat and needed to lose weight.

I’ll be happier if I’m skinny, I thought.

In 2012, when I was 15, I did a school project on eating disorders. The women in the photos were skeletal and in the grips of a serious mental illness. I knew they were at risk of dying, but I didn’t care. Instead, I looked at their bodies and fantasised about being just like them.

I continued to reduce my food intake, lied to my mum Joanne about what I’d already eaten each day, and hid food in my pockets or pushed it around my plate. I survived on herbal teas or black coffee with sweeteners, or chewing gum and sugar-free mints.

When I was 16, Mum dragged me to the doctors and I was officially diagnosed with having anorexia nervosa.

I was 5ft 4ins and my weight was 7st.

I had to admit, hearing the words was scary and I worked hard to get better. I tried to eat more and stop exercising so much, but I just couldn’t keep the demons in my head away. I started resisting eating again until I was so weak and frail that I was admitted to hospital in January 2013.

The nurses put a chicken sandwich in front of me and wouldn’t leave my side until I’d finished it. I went from eating 200 calories a day to a strict diet of 1,800 calories, eating breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Then in the April, I was admitted once again and sectioned – I was put on a section 3 under the mental health act.

It took until September before I had gained enough weight and was allowed to be discharged.

Life carried on with me fighting against my demons to try and be healthier. But in 2014, when I was 18, the eating disorder gripped me like never before. I tried taking my life three times, which led me to move in with my dad and step-mum.

They did everything in their power to help me recover and I started eating more bit by bit. I managed to restore my weight and although I was physically well, mentally I wasn’t, and I tried taking my own life yet again.

In 2015, I took a leap and moved seven hours away from home to work as an outdoor activity leader. But I relapsed. Little did I know this relapse nearly cost me my life – this time I hit an all-time low and weighed just 4st 8lbs and was a dress size zero.

I was admitted to hospital where doctors told me if I hadn’t become an inpatient that day, I would have died due to malnutrition and severe low weight.

My parents were fighting against doctors to have me sectioned as I was too ill to function, and I was deteriorating by the day. Because of my long-term emaciation, I started bingeing, which meant my weight gain was rapid - I despised myself, so I turned to another eating disorder…

I was bingeing before my 9am therapy appointments and then purging at the centre where I attended them. I would then binge again when I left and purge in Cafe Nero where I then left to head to the gym - where I spent two hours on the treadmill to burn any calories I hadn’t managed to purge.

In 2017, I started restricting food again and found myself back to square one with anorexia. Then in July that year, I took every pill I could find in my house and started knocking back glugs of alcohol, until everything went black.

When I came around I was on the living room floor surrounded by paramedics – one of them had injected me with an adrenaline shot.

I had attempted suicide again and this time, it was the closest I’d got to actually ‘succeeding’.

Afterwards, I was deemed unsafe to be in public, so I was admitted to another inpatient unit where I stayed for a few weeks before being discharged.

I carried on living my days under the grip of my mental illness, until October 2017 when I met Hannah, then 24, on Tinder.

That’s when everything changed.

I’d come out to my parents when I was 18 and found myself being really open with her.

Hannah, who lived in Durham, and I started chatting and there was just something about her that made me feel good – something I hadn’t truly felt for as long as I could remember.

I found myself being really open with Hannah and I started telling her about my struggles. I couldn’t believe it when she didn’t judge me.

We met in person and she was even more incredible than I imagined. It wasn’t long before I realised I was falling in love with her and, to my surprise, she felt the same.

We became an item and I realised it was time to stop restricting food for good. I was not prepared to sacrifice what we had for anorexia.

Hannah never tried to fix me, she just supported, motivated and inspired me to be my best self, and still does to this day. Falling in love with Hannah has ultimately saved my life.

Since then, I have been gaining weight steadily by eating healthy, balanced meals and snacks, and I’ve fallen in love with the gym to discover fitness. I now weigh just over nine stone and wears a dress size 8-10.

I’m starting a health, fitness and exercise course ay college and I’d like to go to university one day. It’s my dream to be a PE teacher.

I can honestly say I now love the way I look. I have my bad days, but I’ve learnt a lot about self-love and wear a smile on my face every single day. Hannah has helped show me that food is not the enemy and that it’s okay to eat what you want, when you want.

I want to tell others suffering with anorexia that recovery is possible. Anorexia won’t be happy until you’re dead.

She may act like a best friend but she is not. She is the enemy. There is a life outside of anorexia – I’m proof.

You are beautiful, and you don’t have to be a number or a measurement. Thanks to being open and honest, and receiving love and support, I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I refuse to let anorexia control my life anymore.

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