I am Niamh. I was very fortunately born into a loving, Irish Catholic family of four who has a strong relationship with our wider family circle. Despite my working class background, I have never been left wanting for anything and my parents sheltered me from any financial issues they may have experienced whilst I was growing up. I have been in constant part-time employment since I was sixteen years old in a workplace that allows me to operate alongside some of my best friends. I was what one might call a straight A student throughout my grammar school education and because of this I was awarded an academic scholarship to study my dream course (English) at my dream university (Queen's University Belfast) without the worry of student debt in the years after the completion of my degree.

 

I also tried to starve myself to death.

 

The opening 137 words of this article could have been completely different. They could have been anything, really. My name could have been Ethel or Malia or Peter. I could have been from an Asian family or a Muslim family or have no idea what my family background was. I could have lived in poverty my whole life or be the wealthy heiress to a glorious estate. I could have an IQ of 70 or an IQ of 170. The fact is that none of these things matter to an eating disorder. The eating disorder does not see sex, colour, class or creed. It just sees a vulnerable human being who it can cling to and potentially destroy.

 

I have struggled with my body image and dieting from approximately the age of ten but my anorexia nervosa (restrictive type) was only diagnosed in August 2015. I was eighteen years old and weighed 34 kilos. Standing at 155cm, this made my BMI a severely low 14.1. I was consuming between 400 and 700 calories per day and spent 4 out of the 24 hours in a day engaging in extreme exercise. This behaviour had been continuous for around two years, getting increasingly worse as the days passed. I was in full-time education during this time and was excelling in my studies. Because of this, the powers-that-be whose care I was in during my time at school failed to notice the disintegration of my mental wellbeing and my debilitating body. Or simply chose not to notice. Those who knew me did not recognise my struggle because how could something as horrible as this happen to someone as clever and confident as Niamh?

 

I was not confident. I am not confident. I have worked hard to build this façade, the aesthetic defence necessary for my survival. At the time, I had a shaved head. To this day, I am covered in tattoos and piercings, have a less-than-average haircut and dress, shall we say, ‘eccentrically’. This uniform is my mask. During the darkest days of my eating disorder, this allowed me to cast out all those who would ask questions about my erratic behaviour, thus contributing to the idea that nothing could break such a strong and determined character such as myself. If only people had opened their eyes and realised earlier that I was an onion, the root of my tears hidden deep beneath layers upon layers of protective armour…maybe then I would have been saved from much of the pain and suffering that I have endured.

 

It was this thought that encouraged me to instigate change (or attempt to, at least). Therefore, it was within a few weeks of my diagnosis that I took to reincarnating my personal blog in which I had been exercising mindless writing for years in the name of educating those who were not in-the-know about the cruelty of eating disorders. High Priestess Resurrected was born. It was to this page that I opened up to those closest to me, securing a small readership of my nearest and dearest. I left no page unturned, no secret sacred…I was completely naked and exposed and proud. Despite this, my voice still remained small. As much as I adore my beloved little High Priestess Resurrected audience, my words there simply were not meeting the masses.

 

The invitation to contribute to My Trending Stories arrived like a beacon light of hope. My sole aim as a contributor is to share my experience as a young female recovering anorexic in a condemning and less-than-understanding world, and promote change, as well as encouraging anyone who is interested in my journey or has similar experiences to follow High Priestess Resurrected for my series “A-Z Of Reasons To Recover”. I am delighted to be involved with this, and look forward to educating and learning more about myself in posts to come.

 

I struggled to find inspiration for my first post as a contributor to My Trending Stories. But after a couple of weeks of deliberation, it finally hit me. It needn’t be complicated. One simple message is more striking than a myriad of intricate ones. The concept: eating disorders do not discriminate. And neither should you. So the next time you attach a stigma to an anorexia sufferer, or a bulimic, or an over-eater, or anyone with a mental health issue for that matter, take heed of my final words: if it could happen to someone just like me, it could quite as easily happen to someone just like you. 

Published by Niamh Lundy