Recovering from PTSD and disordered eating patterns is a journey. This journey isn’t always cut and dried either. We recently asked Lousia Collins to share her experience with us as she navigates recovery from eating disorders brought on by PTSD.
As always, these stories come with a cautionary label that the details involved may be a trigger for some who are currently struggling and advise anyone reading to do so with the understanding that Louisa’s story may be triggering.
Follow along Louisa’s journey by following her on Instagram below:
In Louisa’s case, as with many others, a professional diagnosis had come years after already experiencing symptoms of disordered eating. Her experience is best told in her own words:
I got diagnosed with anorexia in 2018 (when I was 22 years old) but had first experienced disordered eating at the age of 17. I got diagnosed with PTSD during my stay in an inpatient eating disorder unit in 2019. At the time I was having severe flashbacks and nightmares.
My anorexia and PTSD are very interlinked as part of my reason for not eating was to not be able to feel emotions and to drown out these flashbacks. I also believed that the closer I was to weighing 0kg the more invisible I would be and therefore safer from getting hurt. I first sought help in 2018 when my weight dropped and I was surviving on practically nothing.
When Louisa was able to find the courage to seek help, she did so by making a huge first step – admitting that there was a problem. She went on to discover the modality of psychotherapy, but was unable to readily begin the process of healing and was unfortunately met with setbacks:
Whilst I was on the waiting list for psychotherapy, things quickly deteriorated and I became medically very unwell and ended up being sent to a specialist eating disorder hospital 400 miles away from my home. There I received a range of different therapies ranging from massage therapy and mindfulness to CBT and MANTRA to visiting therapy dogs and working with occupational therapists and dietitians.
These setbacks caused something that everyone who goes through therapy fears – relapse. Although very common and part of the recovery process, a setback like relapse can feel detrimental to any progress, sometimes leaving the person who is trying to recover to feel lost and without hope. Luckily, in Louisa’s case, she was able to see how far she had come and continues to push forward:
Unfortunately after discharge, a few months later I deteriorated further and again ended up in hospital and needed nutritional therapy by means of a Nasogastric tube. I am still in a specialist eating disorder hospital but nearing the end of my 5th admission of 10 months. I am going to be moved to residential treatment for a lot longer but I am so much further in my recovery than I have ever been. I am still very unwell but I am eating food and starting to learn to make enjoyable memories and experiences out of it.
Through Louisa’s struggle, she has always found a beaming light in her support system around her. It has helped her push through all of the hurdles she has had to face and it’s made her a stronger person throughout her journey:
Every day is a struggle but having my family and friends supporting me gets me through each day. Having found coping strategies and distractions such as cross stitch, grounding techniques and journaling has really helped.
Louisa has found several modalities that encourage her to keep going and shares them with others in hopes that they, too, can find comfort in these simple daily tasks:
Each day I write in my journal one good thing of the day – although on those tough days this is a challenge but it helps me see that light . I also love listening to podcasts- particularly Fearne Cotton’s happy place. I have also found the mental health recovery community on Instagram a real help.
Wherever you may be in your journey, whether you’ve just begun, have successfully recovered, or are still only considering the first steps to recovery, one thing continues to ring true – You. Can. Do. This.
Check out Louisa’s journey and continue to follow along:
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