Name: Chandni Bhanderi
Location: Harrow, Middlesex*
Occupation: Studying at Metropolitan University*
“My main diagnosis is for anorexia nervosa – restrictive type. I have always had issues with food and my perception of myself. I remember being as young as 6 years old and having eating disordered thoughts. I went through a few years in my early teen years where I emotionally overate as I had a negative view of myself and felt that I was not good enough and so I used food as a comfort. This only made me feel worse about myself as I started to gain weight and became overweight as a result thus my self-confidence and opinion of myself dropped further. This was a vicious cycle that I was stuck in for a few years.
At the age of 15 my family and I moved to the other side of London where I currently live and I went from a private girls school to a public co-ed school. In order to be healthy and feel my best for my new start, my mum and I decided I would join Slimming World. I lost weight healthily and began to incorporate exercise into my life. I reached a healthy weight that I was genuinely happy with at the age of 16 and maintained that for about a year and a half. I was popular in school and was always complimented on my character and physical appearance. I did not see anorexia coming and neither did anybody else.
At age 17 I began to put a lot of pressure on myself. I had always been “the smart one” and “the helpful one”. I was someone people wanted to be around and people genuinely enjoyed my company. However instead of seeing this as a positive, the negative core beliefs I had somehow twisted this and I began to think that I wasn’t helping enough and that I wasn’t smart enough. I was always a problem solver and when things began to happen that I could not solve and that I had no control over, I began to blame myself and feed into the negative thoughts I already had buried within me. Long-term family issues, a horrible break up and finding schoolwork harder all made me feel like I was not good enough and that I needed to be better. I began to control my weight in order to cope with the sense of loss of control. My weight dropped drastically over the summer of 2012 and when I returned to school people began making comments and expressing concern. I brushed them off and carried on doing what I was doing. I wasn’t eating very much and was exercising compulsively. I felt guilty if I ate over a certain amount or if I hadn’t burnt a certain amount of calories in the day. My weight kept falling and my mother took me to the GP. He monitored me and took the steps needed to refer me to a psychologist where I was diagnosed and I was put under the care of a specialist team. With anorexia I was also diagnosed with severe depression.
I did not engage with treatment and my weight kept dropping. My mood became worse. My body was failing. I couldn’t concentrate on anything and my grades were suffering. I pushed all my friends away. This all made me feel worse and it again fed into the negative thoughts and made me want to lose even more weight to somehow make it better. I was admitted to a specialist eating disorders unit as my weight was critically low and I could have died any minute. I gained a bit of weight and my mind clicked. Something inside me came alive. I now know that it was Chandni finally making an appearance after all this time. I began engaging with therapy and really putting my all into recovery. I learnt so many techniques and learnt so much about myself that after the 11 months I spent there (4 months inpatient and 7 months as a day patient) I emerged a new person. I had cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, occupational therapy and group therapy all of which combined together to really help me with my recovery.
Through my experience I have learnt to value what I am and realised that there’s always a positive to look at. I’m now able to look at situations from a whole new point of view and can really pull myself through situations that would have previously got me down and fed into my eating disorder. I am happy with myself, not just my body and my face as it were but my mind and my heart too. I wanted to speak out and share my story in order to raise awareness. Society has many stigmas about anorexia and I want people to know that it wasn’t a diet gone wrong or me just wanting to look good. I struggled internally for a very long time. My weight loss was just a side effect you could say. Finally, I want to give hope to anyone suffering with a mental illness, be it anorexia or any other eating disorder or mental health problem. There is always hope. You have to fight it because nobody else can. I was getting the best therapy possible and because I didn’t feel ready and I didn’t want to take it, I couldn’t get better. Once I decided to, it was still incredibly hard but I made it. And you can too!”
Inspired by Chandni’s story? Leave a comment below!
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