My name is Hope Virgo and I am 26 years old. To those looking at me they will know me as bubbly, a healthy eater, very chatty and a good runner. But those who know me better will know who I really am… a girl in recovery from anorexia. A girl who still occasionally has to battle with her mental health, someone who has restaurants that she struggles in and someone who has at times got so close to giving up on life altogether. Those round me who know me best know that at times I walk in to a restaurant and panic about the food, I look down at the food frantically adding the calories up on my plate. Someone who occasionally needs a pat on the back when I have achieved what to me seems like the unimaginable. Most people don’t see this internal battle and if I am honest I like it that way. But having a mental health problem does not make me weak.
I was diagnosed with anorexia when I was 16 years old having lived with it since I was about 13! Throughout my teens I thought she was everything! I thought she was my best friend and the one person who understood me properly. But she wasn’t! She lied to me and the self-worth she gave me didn’t last long.
I know that recovery is hard work and you might think it isn’t worth it, that at times giving up is easier, but trust me when I say it isn’t! Being well is 100% worth fighting for. I was 17 years old and having to relearn how to eat! Relearn that putting milk in my cereal was normal or that running on the spot secretly for hours after meals is silly. And seriously what is the point of letting calories, controlling food, consume you?
After a year in hospital that literally saved my life, I have not given up the fight. I know my triggers, my reasons for staying well and I keep talking. I used to hate talking about how I felt and I used to hate feeling any sort of emotion but now I know it’s okay to not always feeling fine. And on days when I feel like this I talk. It’s hard at first but you should give it a go!
Now aged 26 (nearly 27!) I have been out of hospital for over 8 years and I have managed my recovery. I recently wrote a book about my experiences, Stand Tall Little Girl, which tells the whole story of my recovery from anorexia. At times when I was writing it I felt like a fake, or like I wasn’t an expert but I realised I shouldn’t feel like this. Eating disorders aren’t about what weight you are or how thin you get but they are about how you feel in your mind. Don’t feel like a failure for fighting your anorexia but feel empowered and proud of yourself for not letting her win.
Every time I feel like befriending anorexia again, every time I think I would be better off dead and every time I feel like I have failed those round me something stops me giving up. And I am so proud to stand here and tell you that I won’t ever give up fighting.