hob with vegetarian sausages

For the previous two years Maya has been within the grip of anorexia. Regardless of her sickness, she needs to maneuver on along with her life, so this 12 months she determined to sit down her A-levels and attempt to enter college. The BBC’s Sarah Bowen adopted her efforts within the months main as much as outcomes day.

Maya walks all the way down to the kitchen, the place her mom is frantically attempting to get dinner prepared. If her meals is just not prepared on the time she expects, Maya could refuse to eat it.

It is too late to warmth up the oven, so she’s dry-frying two vegetarian sausages in a scorching pan, with out oil.

When Maya sees this she freezes. “Why are you frying them?” she asks, panic in her voice. “You are meant to do them within the oven!” An enormous argument follows. Maya storms again upstairs. Dinner is ruined.

That is what life has been like at house ever since Maya developed anorexia.

“I hate my sickness a lot,” she says. “It is extra than simply ravenous your self of meals, it is ravenous your self of all the pieces – I starve myself of buddies, I starve myself of household, I starve myself of schooling.”

She has missed virtually a 12 months of college however now she has determined she needs to sit down her A-levels and go to school.

It’s one thing Maya desperately needs, so the stress is on. “These exams are the important thing to proving to myself that I’ve a life past this sickness, that I can beat it,” says Maya. “In my moments of doubt I simply get so scared, as a result of if I fail the exams how am I going to get higher, how am I going to reach life?”

Finding out is a problem. It is laborious to pay attention when she is hungry, and after consuming she feels compelled to train. “The considered sitting down and never always shifting is just too hectic,” she says. “Each single factor in your life is about utilizing as a lot power as you’ll be able to, to compensate for the meals that you simply’re consuming.”

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Media captionMaya’s anorexia diary

Her mom feels the exams will give Maya a spotlight which can assist her restoration. “There may be monumental stress round these A-levels, nevertheless it’s been her motivation,” she says. “If I used to be to take that away from her, I believe she’d be fully misplaced.”

Maya is aware of she has to nourish her mind so as to revise, however the considered placing on weight terrifies her. “It’s a phobia the place you’re afraid on a regular basis of the implications of restoration,” she explains. “I always really feel like each single factor I eat is a weak spot, a failure.”

Her obsession with meals started when she was revising for her GCSEs in 2015. She instructed her mom that she wished to eat by 7pm each evening and haven’t any chocolate, ice lotions or meat – simply “energy meals” like greens and fish.

“It began off being about diet,” Maya says. “I instructed myself I used to be consuming healthily.” But it surely quickly grew to become about energy. After which she began exercising extra to burn off any energy she ate.

“I used to do secret train in my room. Or we’d have an argument, and I’d run out of the home and dash,” says Maya.


By the point she began at a brand new, very aggressive sixth kind, all she ate was steamed greens.

Maya started reducing weight, however no person realised fairly how a lot. Her mum thought she was rising taller.

When Maya’s durations stopped, she did not inform anybody.

It wasn’t till that November, when an outdated buddy identified how unwell she appeared, that the household realised one thing was incorrect. Their GP referred Maya to hospital. They waited anxiously till the appointment lastly got here in January.

“Wow, that was a hectic day,” says Maya. “We did not realise how severe it was till my evaluation.”

Maya was severely underweight. Her blood stress did not even register – the physician thought the tools was defective, nevertheless it was as a result of she hardly had a pulse.

They had been simply in time – the medical doctors mentioned she was fortunate to be alive.

Her hair was falling out and she or he was furry, her total physique coated in a smooth down.

“I used to be so shocked, I simply wished to get her house safely,” says her mom.

She agreed to nurse Maya at house, in response to strict tips.

Since then, they’ve been locked in a battle of wills. The one means for Maya to get higher is to eat and achieve weight, however she would not wish to, due to the anorexia.

“It is like a jail sentence,” says her mom. “It is fully exhausting as a result of I spend all my time ensuring that she’s received the right meals.”

Maya is supposed to eat six small meals a day. If her meals is just not precisely how she expects it, she panics and her temper flips. Some meals, like cucumber, apples or bread, she’s comfortable to eat – however others, like cream, chocolate muffins or rice, scare her.

Maya and her mom spend hours within the kitchen, arguing over one meal.

“We now have written out meal plans however you strive battling with any individual who’s so intelligent – it is laborious,” says her mum.

“The anorexia may be very manipulative and devious. After I do stand as much as her she screams, and loads of instances she has run out of the home. She self-harms and makes use of it as a menace, and that’s the hardest factor.”

The rows at mealtimes are horrible and have an effect on the entire household. Her father is so fearful in regards to the impact on Maya’s brother that he is contemplating shifting out with him and organising a second house.

“The sickness is so egocentric that within the moments I’m so distressed, I do not take into consideration my household. My brother has turn out to be depressed and upset,” says Maya. “It’s a tough sickness and does flip you right into a monster.”

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Media captionMaya’s emotions after a household argument (from The Untold)

After two years with out progress, her mom feels caught. “I really feel very ineffective and a bit demoralised. Each time I see a bit glimmer of hope, all of it closes in and it is darkish clouds, thunder, unhealthy instances,” she says.

When Maya was first recognized she went into hospital daily to have meals and remedy. This was efficient, despite the fact that she discovered it upsetting.

“I struggled to see different younger folks so sick. I felt a sick type of competitors the place if somebody was thinner than me, I’d examine myself, and I hated being fatter than that lady. I hated it whereas I used to be there, however in hindsight it was good as a result of it acts as a motivation to get higher.”

By April 2016 Maya appeared higher and her mom went again to work. However issues quickly took a flip for the more serious, and she or he give up fully to take care of Maya full-time.

Earlier than her sickness, Maya was enjoyable to be round. She had a lot of buddies and she or he was unbiased, succesful – with a perfectionist streak when it got here to her college work.

However her mom has discovered that it is not useful to look again. “Younger folks with anorexia have to take a look at a complete new id. They have to reconstruct themselves. It is actually laborious for them to think about their physique form, their face, how their legs and arms will look – all these items that we take as a right.”

That is now Maya’s second go at restoration. She feels it is going nicely.

“In comparison with final time spherical, my mindset is totally different and I wish to do it. However my dad and mom suppose I’m doing badly as a result of I am not placing on weight.”

She thinks it is unfair that she’s all the time being judged on her weight. “I do not suppose being at a low weight is an issue however everybody round me does, they suppose I am dangerously sick.”

However her mom can solely go on proof. “I am unsure whether or not she’s nonetheless throwing away all these sandwiches that I’ve made her each single day for varsity,” she says.

On the identical time, she will be able to see that Maya is working laborious – the promise of college and independence are protecting her motivated. “She will be able to see that there is life on the market, it is inside her grasp,” she says.

However she has made it clear that, it doesn’t matter what grades she will get, if Maya is just not nicely sufficient she will be able to’t go to school.

“I believe she may [recover], she is wilful, she has received self-discipline, nevertheless it’s whether or not she will be able to maintain it,” says her mom. “What anorexia does, it creeps in by the cracks – if she is upset over a boy or trainer, it can discover a crack.”

The ambiance at house improves when the household decides to have separate meals, however Maya nonetheless will not eat except she’s being watched over by her dad and mom. She would not have a single unsupervised meal. “I put the duty on them as a result of they’re those who get extra fearful if I shed weight,” she says. “I do not wish to eat each meal.”

She needs to be praised for each mouthful, however her dad and mom discover it more and more tough to take action. This results in extra rows.

The exams go by in a blur. After the final one, Maya’s buddies all exit for the night with out her. She feels unhappy and not noted.

“My sickness has remodeled me into somebody no-one needs to be round,” she says.

“The sickness kidnaps you. It needs you to be with it, not your mates.”

cucumber slices

The summer time holidays start, and the lengthy watch for outcomes.

As her mom feared, Maya struggles with out the construction of a college timetable, homework, and exams to arrange for, and her psychological well being will get worse over the summer time months.

She would not meet up along with her buddies, and as an alternative watches their adventures unfold on social media.

On vacation in France, Maya is anticipated to eat together with everybody else. All of a sudden she’s confronted with salads dressed with oil and vinegar and creamy potato Dauphinoise. She forces herself to eat. “Do not give attention to the meals, take pleasure in the remainder of the day,” she tells herself.

Again house, her pleasure at having tried these new meals turns to dismay – she has truly misplaced weight. “I believed I used to be doing very well – however I overestimated how a lot I ate,” she says.

One thing essential occurs over the summer time: Maya turns 18, and the hospital now treats her as an grownup.

It is a massive shift. Dad and mom are now not of such significance and her mom worries that Maya will not get such a excessive stage of assist.

However Maya is worked up about grownup remedy. Her first activity is to put in writing two letters to a buddy, 5 years from now – one the place she imagines she has recovered from anorexia and one the place she hasn’t.

“That was actually highly effective as a result of I realised that if issues do not begin getting higher now, they’re solely going to worsen,” she says.


17 August 2017: A-level outcomes day. Maya may be very nervous. There are tears within the automobile outdoors college, however when she brings herself to open the envelope everyone seems to be astonished.

She has three A* grades, and has secured a spot at her college of alternative. “She is unbelievable,” says her mom. “I do not understand how any individual who’s so sick can carry out so amazingly.”

“When my therapist heard my outcomes she mentioned: ‘Nicely achieved – however this isn’t going to assist your perfectionism,'” says Maya, laughing.

However in addition to the excellent news, there’s additionally unhealthy information. Sadly, in terms of her weight, she has not made the required progress.

By the point of her exams in June, she had gained some weight. “I distracted myself from my urges by finding out,” she says. However over the summer time she misplaced all of it once more.

The choice is taken to delay her college entry for a 12 months, to give attention to getting higher.

Her mom is fearful about what the 12 months will deliver. “She’s very misplaced. It is a bit like a clean canvas – and a clean canvas is horrifying. Every part is on the market, however the place do you begin?”

Assist and recommendation:

In September, Maya’s buddies begin leaving for college. It is a tough second for her.

“I did initially have a couple of days the place I felt actually low and not noted and did not know what to do,” she says. “I did not have a job, I wasn’t going travelling… I simply felt so unhealthy.”

However then issues begin trying up. Fairly a couple of of her buddies are having a 12 months out, and Maya begins seeing them once more.

Then she applies for 2 jobs – and is obtainable one.

Regardless of her dad and mom’ concern that doing nothing shall be dangerous for Maya, they aren’t positive a full-time job is a good suggestion.

“My mum thinks I ought to have extra time at house, enjoyable and resting,” says Maya.

“But when I’ve nothing to do this provides me a way of accomplishment, I will simply go and run up and down the steps till I am drained.

“The train is my least favorite a part of the dysfunction as a result of it seems like a waste of time.”

And Maya is now placing on weight once more. She is attempting laborious to just accept this new flip of occasions, as a result of she actually needs to get higher.

“I do desire a boyfriend,” she says. “I wish to feel and appear like a typical 18-year-old.”

There may be a lot that lies forward of Maya – relationships, college, employment – if solely she will be able to beat her sickness.

Maya’s identify has been modified.

Illustrations by Katie Horwich

Extra interviews and manufacturing by Vibeke Venema

Take heed to The Untold: In the grip of anorexia via iPlayer

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