I pushed myself too hard

8th April 2005 at 01:00
A is a 17-year-old Year 13 student who plans to go to medical school next year. She is recovering from anorexia. She wishes to remain anonymous.

"When I first became ill I buried myself in my schoolwork as an aversion to the pain I felt inside. I had to get the best grades and hand things in before anyone else had even started.

Eventually, I ended up in hospital for 10 months. My school started sending me work after a couple of months, but it was merely a list of assignments and tests, with no guidance. The hospital teaching staff were not qualified to teach up to GCSE level, so I gave up.

When I returned to school I felt panicky about being so far behind. School had presumed that because I was intelligent I had been able to carry on working. I found I was pushing myself, and before I knew it was deep within the eating disorder again.

My advice to schools would be that people with eating disorders need a lot of support, though they may not always be willing to accept it. Sometimes I don't feel well enough to go to school. I feel guilty about this and become even worse.

Be careful not to push students: you can guarantee they will be pushing themselves ten times harder. Don't make asking for an assignment extension a big issue, as it will have taken them a lot of courage to ask for this.

Most importantly, let them know if they are doing well, because appreciation and acceptance can be powerful aids to recovery."

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