A Note To Self: At Eighteen
You’re living in France. In Canet. Have been for three months already. Arrived with a year’s supply of pasta, just in case the village shop didn’t sell it. You bought those wooden dinosaur earrings from a Moroccan man on the beach and they say more about your personality than you realise. Some days you think you might study French at university, might even move to Liverpool, but there’s an equal chance that you’ll stay in France forever. The Catalan language is a challenge, but you’re determined; the people, their words and their culture all fascinate you. You work on a campsite and you give private English lessons. You’re shy and those jobs are outside of your comfort zone, but you need the money. You’re self-financing but never give yourself credit for that. You’re lonely most days, even though you’re rarely on your own; the feeling suffocates but you don’t want to go home. And you’re ill; no one knows yet. In six months you’ll be back in the UK, so ill that you’ll have to spend three months in hospital where they’ll think forcing you to eat is the way to make you better. But you’ll get through this and that and everything that follows.
I’ve been thinking a lot about eighteen-year-old me. Writing a lot about her. Hindsight's a wonderful thing, and with that there’s often regret or wishing I’d been braver, different, stronger too. That sense of taking all that I know now and wanting to change and rewrite who I was then. Another chance to beat myself up for coping and surviving in the only way I knew. And I guess some days I’m a time traveller, and back in that time, with those emotions too. But this note isn’t about wanting to rewrite that me into a new and improved version. This is about acceptance of that me and giving her credit for her strength, bravery and determination. I’m proud of her. She kept going. And, sometimes, that’s all we can do.
But recovery doesn't have to be a lonely and brutal battle with yourself.
If you need help, call Beat's helpline and speak to a trained support worker, experienced in listening and talking to people in a similar situation to you. At eighteen I didn't have the right support for my eating disorder. Charities like Beat didn't exist and my recovery was a hideously long and often terrifying experience. The earlier in the course of the illness someone is able to access treatment, the better their chance of fully recovering. And the charity Beat has resources and advice to support you to get help for an eating disorder as quickly as possible.
Like me, you might have seen Beat's appeal from Christopher Eccleston today. Demand for Beat's services has surged by 73% during lockdown and their funding is at serious risk. That's why I've donated and that's why I've written this note, choosing to put this personal part of my story into the public domain.
If you can donate to help Beat - please do.