WHEN Caitlin Lynch was just 14-years-old, she was told by doctors that if she didn’t receive help for her anorexia nervosa, she’d be dead within weeks.
The hidden illness plagued the Castlederg teenager’s mind all day, every day for two years: She struggled to get dressed, isolated herself from her friends, and fought with her own body as she avoided meals which she so desperately needed to survive.
By this stage, the eating disorder had Caitlin firmly in its grip and as she was mercilessly under its control, she became thinner and thinner, while being tortured with thoughts that she was fat, worthless and undeserving of food.
As Caitlin’s condition – which doctors diagnosed her with last year – was so severe, she found herself in Beechcroft Hospital, Belfast as an inpatient, where she stayed for six months and received the vital treatment which saved her life.
Fast-forward to the present, and the 15-year-old has made a fantastic physical transformation despite still struggling with her body image, and the brave young lady is slowly getting her life back on track.
Even though she says she still has “a long way to go” before she recovers fully, today the inspirational Loreto Grammar student has decided to speak out about her own struggles with anorexia nervosa to help others see that there is a light at the end of the long tunnel – even when you find yourself at rock bottom, and knocking on death’s door.
“Anorexia was a constant struggle for me before I received help,” Caitlin described.
“Today I still suffer from this illness, but I am so far from where I used to be, and I hope that my transformation picture can show that although recovery may seem impossible, it is not.
“Although my eating is now fine, I still suffer with low moods and body dysmorphia, and there are times when my body dysmorphia is so that I don’t even know what I look like.
“But each day, I’m making progress and I’m so glad that I’ve chosen recovery.”
As described by website, ‘EatingDisorders.org’, anorexia nervosa is a ‘psychological illness, with devastating physical consequences. It is characterised by low body weight and body image distortion, with an obsessive fear of gaining weight which manifests itself through depriving the body of food’.
“Being thin is just a symptom of anorexia; there’s so much more to it than that,” explained Caitlin.
“For me, it was a constant nightmare battling the demons inside my head, telling me that I was fat, worthless and that I didn’t deserve to eat – despite knowing that I must eat to survive. There were also the constant arguments with family about food, and you have days where you feel so low that you wish the world would just swallow you up.”
Caitlin added, “There are some days where I feel like I’ve fully recovered, but in those ‘before’ pictures of me, I still see myself as ‘fat’ or ‘normal’ and in my ‘now’ photos, I see myself as obese.
“I know that’s not how it should be, but I am working on it.”
Caitlin will be turning 16 in September, and she is studying Art for GSCE. It is a subject that she hopes to take on as a full time job when she is older, and her determination to overcome her illness once and for all ensures that she has a bright future ahead.
“As much as I wish I wasn’t never cursed with the illness, I couldn’t have gotten where I am today without the help of my supportive friends and family, especially the friends I made whilst in hospital and my mum and dad who visited me in Belfast two times a week,” Caitlin said.
“I’d also like to thank the rest of my family and friends at home, who made the effort to try and visit me as much as possible.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for getting this second chance at life, and I hope that my story spreads awareness of anorexia and shows others who are facing the illness today that recovery is possible: Things can get better.”