Message of hope from anorexia survivor

A YOUNG woman whose anorexia left her close to death has given a message of hope to other sufferers after fighting her way back to health.

A YOUNG woman whose anorexia left her close to death has given a message of hope to other sufferers after fighting her way back to health.

At the bleakest point of her illness, Lauren Bailey's family were told she could die after she starved herself to weigh less than four stone and spent 12 hours a day walking the streets to burn calories.

The 26-year-old from Witham spent 18 months in hospital to try and beat the disease and is now speaking out in a bid to help other sufferers.

Lauren said: “I have always suffered from anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder since I was a child.

“What triggered my anorexia was a combination of things. I was going through puberty at nine years old, which was very early then, and I was the only one - because of that I was bigger than the others.

“I was bullied because I was different - I was into rock music and playing my guitar.

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“When it developed into anorexia, it was after someone told me I should go on a diet - at the time I was 14 and it is very young to be thinking about those things.

“It was then that my obsession with exercise started.”

Lauren began walking 12 hours a day, and when she was at home she would pace around her room.

Even when not walking, she would set up puzzles on her ironing board so she could remain standing up.

She said: “I was walking the streets from 6am in the morning to 6pm at night, or going up and down any stairs I could find.

“I really don't know how I did it, I shouldn't have been able to walk that far. It was the anorexic adrenaline.”

Lauren only realised she was anorexic after reading a magazine article by a husband speaking about his wife's battle with her illness.

She said: “I thought, 'oh my God, that's me - I do all of those things'.

“I always thought everyone else had the problem and I was doing the right thing.

“Everyone is obsessed with celebrities and diets and I thought everyone wanted to be like that. I was just the same.

“It got out of control. It wasn't about wanting to be thin, it was about wanting to disappear.”

One of Lauren's worst points was in 2004 when she was 23 and her weight dropped to less than four stone.

Doctors told her mother, Alison Williams, who now works for a mental health charity, they feared her daughter would die.

Lauren said: “I remember being transferred to an eating disorders unit and they didn't think I would make it through the night.

“My mum was so worried about me but until I accepted I had a problem there was nothing anyone else could do.”

She managed to put on weight but when out of hospital her old problems returned.

In March 2006 she was again admitted to hospital after her weight plunged once more. But even while on the wards in Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, Lauren still was not ready to accept help and continued to continually pace round and round her room.

After months in the hospital, she finally made a breakthrough.

Lauren said: “They let me dig my own grave and let me get bad again. In the end they sectioned me because I insisted on going on leave when I was too ill to do so and I refused to give up my exercise.

“My mum and my friends were great but everyone else was getting on with their lives outside.

“I got to the point when I thought 'this isn't getting me anywhere'. I was really miserable and I had no time left in my day because of my obsessions.

“I am a young woman and I was just missing out on so much.

“I thought, 'I'm living the same sad life in hospital as I was outside. Life can't be any worse. Why don't I just give it a go?'”

Lauren finally left hospital in August 2007 and since then she has been back on track. Although she does not like to talk about her weight, just a glance at her healthy figure shows how far she has come from the skeletal images at the height of her illness.

She also criticised glossy magazines sending out “mixed messages” to vulnerable teens.

Lauren said: “It annoys me that these magazines complain about size zero celebrities then the next minute they go on about slimming down for summer. It sends out a mixed message.

“I still have problems but I am enjoying life now.

“I want to give others hope that they can get over anorexia and rebuild their lives.”

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