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Read Rebecca’s story below to give a perspective on what it can be like for a person who has an eating disorder when others around you are celebrating a feasting holiday time such as Christmas. (First published in BEAT December newsletter).

Rebecca writes: Christmases of 2008, 2009 and 2010 were all spent in hospital.These were incredibly lonely and sad occasions – all the talk of food and eating that caused so much stress, just wanting to be left alone to do as I wanted. However it is the Christmas of 2010 that stands out. I had been in hospital since the end of June 2010 and I was being tube fed, suffering severe daily panic attacks and had not had any time out of hospital. For Christmas Day I had been told I could go home for a few hours in the afternoon. But when my mum came to collect me I became very nervous and panicky – the eating disorder had made me a nervous wreck. Eventually I calmed down and got in the car to go home.

When we parked up on the drive, I looked at my home and I felt terrified. I associated my home with how it had been when I left it – full of worry, tears and exhaustion. I stood at the front door and burst into tears. I couldn’t go in. I so wanted to be able to go in, to look at our decorations, to sit by the tree with my family – everything most people do without a second thought. But for me it was a task too great, too difficult, too scary, so my mum had to take me back to hospital where I felt safe. My parents and sister visited me in the evening where we opened presents. And I have never felt so sad. Christmas is meant to be a time of happiness, of having fun, spending time with your family. But anorexia ruined this. I was lonely, scared and overwhelmed with sadness.

That was my turning point and when I started to hate anorexia.

It had caused all this, made me a broken person. As I sat alone, thinking about my family at home eating Christmas dinner together, playing games, watching TV, I so desperately wanted to be there and join in. I was tired of anorexia. I decided I had to get more from life, that I couldn’t run back to anorexia immediately on discharge. I wanted to be able to eat a chocolate from the boxes that always pop up around Christmas time. I wanted to be able to enjoy what should be a special occasion.

I started consuming calories for myself, having been solely tube fed since the end of June.

Since being discharged in June 2011, I have spent all the following Christmases at home. And I have treasured all of them. Christmas really was a turning point. I felt so low at a time of jubilation. And now I love being at home for Christmas, sitting round the table and joining in with the meal, the build-up throughout December going shopping and to Christmas parties, gathering round the tree to open presents, having that Quality Street in the evening. All of this wasn’t possible before. And I won’t let it be taken from me again.