Life Hurts by Dr Elizabeth McNaught

Keep The Faith Magazine article around Life Hurts book

“You’re not going anywhere. Your heart is struggling. You’re not stable enough to move.”

I hadn’t believed much of what the doctors had told me for months, but somehow this felt different. They told me I could die… and I was only 14 years old.

I guess it all began that day I broke my leg. I wasn’t really concentrating as I approached the jump. It wasn’t even particularly big; I had jumped much higher poles. But the horse sensed that I wasn’t really serious. He refused, and I fell.

My school wouldn’t let me attend while on crutches, so for the next three months I sat at home. I took comfort in food. And the more I ate, the more I wanted. As I ate I read magazines with photos of slim, attractive, celebrities alongside articles about diets, and the connection was obvious. So I tried them, but the temptation to eat always overtook me, and I felt a failure. Where was my willpower? Where was my self-control?

Eventually I was allowed back to school, and I wasn’t prepared for the comments about my weight. I decided that I must lose weight, and fast. I also asked my parents to move me to a different school where I hoped there would be less bitchiness. I was nervous but excited to start again with a new group of people. Dad drove me to my new school, prayed with me and then left as I was taken to my new tutor group. The teacher welcomed me and, as I took my seat, a boy looked up and said, “Hello, fatty.”

I was devastated. I was even more determined to lose weight. Every day I set myself the challenge of overcoming my hunger, and winning against my Mum’s attempts to give me food. All I wanted to do was to lose weight, whatever the cost.

So, each morning I got up early to get to the breakfast table before anyone else, so that I could take out handfuls of the cereal Mum had put into my bowl and hide it in my dressing-gown pocket to flush down the loo later. At lunchtime, I gave most of my packed lunch to others. In the evening I found excuses to take my food up to my room, telling my parents I had homework to do, but actually I used the opportunity to flush the meal down the toilet.

It wasn’t easy to cope with the hunger pains, but I achieved it. I was in control. Until it moved from a diet to a compulsion – from me controlling my eating, to my eating controlling me. The scales told me I was losing weight, but all I saw was that I was still fat and had to lose more weight.

My Mum and Dad were really worried. Every meal became a battleground, but I usually won. And I remember my Dad saying: “When you win, you lose.” That phrase really stuck with me, but it was some time before I realised how true it was.

One day, I became aware of a pain around my back. Quickly it spread around the front and grew into an excruciating agony. And so it was that I found myself in the hospital with doctors talking about a life-threatening situation. I was scared, really scared.

Dad sat on my hospital bed and read from John’s Gospel: “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” That night I wrote in my diary: ‘I have to stop otherwise the thief will take over and steal my life. This is not right. Jesus died so that I can live. God and my family love me, and that’s all that matters.’

I subsequently spent many months at an inpatient unit, and years in community care. Through professional help, the support of my loving family and my faith in God, I found the hope and strength to overcome, and secured a place at medical school. I am now telling my story, and reflecting on it from my perspective as a doctor, with a vision that this will inspire and encourage others to see that, although life hurts, there is hope and a future for all of us.

‘Life Hurts: A doctor’s personal journey through anorexia’ by Dr Elizabeth McNaught is published in February 2017 (see LifeHurts.net).

Lizzie wrote this poem in between her emergency admission to general hospital and her time at a long-stay inpatient unit.

I know a girl

 I know a girl

Whose life is a lie

She sets herself targets

Never asks herself why

 

I know a girl

Who is tired and weak

She stutters and trembles

And struggles to speak

 

I know a girl

Who hates what she sees

She tries to improve

Is eager to please

 

I know a girl

Who’s not sure who to be

She’s desperate and lonely

This girl is me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Keep the Faith:

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the 'update preferences' link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp's privacy practices here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *