YOUNG DEPENDANT HAZEL AITKEN SHARES HER HEARTFELT STORY OF HOW SHE DEVELOPED – AND OVERCAME – AN EATING DISORDER
GROWING up in the military is hard, no one can deny. With it comes a unique set of problems that no civilian child could ever truly understand.
Sometimes when these problems intertwine with personal ones, it can become a great struggle to see the positives military life gives you, as well as finding any happiness.
I moved to Germany when I was six and spent the next 12 years there until leaving for university. In that time we faced family problems, a deployed father, and the constant uncertainty of where we would go next – issues that I am sure all military children can relate to.
But in that time I came to develop my own personal demons, fighting with the image that I had of myself and my attitude towards food. I stopped eating in a sick desire to starve myself to skinniness, even going as far as making myself throw up when the guilt of eating became too much.
I couldn’t see what I was doing to myself. All I saw was fat, when in fact I was reducing myself to skin and bone. I looked gaunt, sickly and tired. It became my every thought.
For a long time I told myself there was nothing wrong; that I could stop whenever I got to my goal weight. What I didn’t realise – and what a lot of people in the same situation do not realise – is that goal was surpassed long ago.
I don’t recall the moment of realisation, but somehow I came to terms with the fact that there was something wrong with the way I was seeing food – and myself.
Although it was hard, I slowly managed to start eating normally again. Getting better is not the end, whether it is an eating disorder, depression, self-harming or anything like this. The thoughts will always be there, but you cannot let them take hold and bring you down. You have to fight.
As much as growing up around the Army may have contributed to my problems, it’s also the main reason why I am still here. Military life is about family. We get each other through the rough times, and we support each other every step of the way.
I realised that after everything my family had gone through together, I couldn’t just give up. They were my anchor. They were the reason I decided to get help and get healthy. So no matter how hard things may get, always remember that we are not just a community. We are a family.
WHERE TO GET HELP
NHS Choices: www.nhs.uk
Young Minds: www.youngminds.org.uk
Beat (Beating Eating Disorders): www.b-eat.co.uk; Helpline 0845 634 1414; Youthline 0845 634 7650
ABC: Anorexia and Bulimia Care: www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk; 03000 111213