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 take a seat 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 right down to the kitchen, the place her mom is frantically attempting to get dinner prepared. If her meals shouldn’t be prepared on the time she expects, Maya might refuse to eat it.

It is too late to warmth up the oven, so she’s dry-frying two vegetarian sausages in a sizzling 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 the whole lot – I starve myself of pals, I starve myself of household, I starve myself of training.”

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

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 achieve life?”

Learning is a problem. It is onerous to pay attention when she is hungry, and after consuming she feels compelled to train. “The considered sitting down and never consistently shifting is just too irritating,” she says. “Each single factor in your life is about utilizing as a lot vitality 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 huge stress round these A-levels, however it’s been her motivation,” she says. “If I used to be to take that away from her, I feel she’d be fully misplaced.”

Maya is aware of she has to nourish her mind as a way 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 consistently really feel like each single factor I eat is a weak point, a failure.”

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

“It began off being about vitamin,” Maya says. “I advised myself I used to be consuming healthily.” But it surely quickly turned 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 might 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 shedding pounds, however no one 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 regarded, that the household realised one thing was unsuitable. Their GP referred Maya to hospital. They waited anxiously till the appointment lastly got here in January.

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

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

They had been simply in time – the docs stated she was fortunate to be alive.

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

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

She agreed to nurse Maya at house, based on strict pointers.

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 need 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 shouldn’t be precisely how she expects it, she panics and her temper flips. Some meals, like cucumber, apples or bread, she’s blissful 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.

“Now we have written out meal plans however you attempt battling with any person who’s so intelligent – it is onerous,” says her mum.

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

The rows at mealtimes are horrible and have an effect on the entire household. Her father is so anxious in regards to the impact on Maya’s brother that he is contemplating shifting out with him and establishing 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 grow to be depressed and upset,” says Maya. “It’s a troublesome 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 of glimmer of hope, all of it closes in and it is darkish clouds, thunder, unhealthy occasions,” she says.

When Maya was first recognized she went into hospital on daily basis to have meals and remedy. This was efficient, although she discovered it upsetting.

“I struggled to see different younger folks so sick. I felt a sick form of competitors the place if somebody was thinner than me, I’d examine myself, and I hated being fatter than that woman. 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 he or she give up fully to take care of Maya full-time.

Earlier than her sickness, Maya was enjoyable to be round. She had a number of pals and he or she was impartial, succesful – with a perfectionist streak when it got here to her faculty work.

However her mom has discovered that it isn’t useful to look again. “Younger folks with anorexia have to have a look at a complete new identification. They have to reconstruct themselves. It is actually onerous for them to contemplate their physique form, their face, how their legs and arms will look – all these items that we take with no consideration.”

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

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

She thinks it is unfair that she’s at all times being judged on her weight. “I do not assume being at a low weight is an issue however everybody round me does, they assume 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 college,” she says.

On the similar time, she will see that Maya is working onerous – the promise of college and independence are maintaining 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 shouldn’t be properly sufficient she will’t go to college.

“I feel she may [recover], she is wilful, she has received self-discipline, however it’s whether or not she will maintain it,” says her mom. “What anorexia does, it creeps in by means of the cracks – if she is upset over a boy or instructor, it would discover a crack.”

The ambiance at house improves when the household decides to have separate meals, however Maya nonetheless will not eat until she’s being watched over by her mother and father. She would not have a single unsupervised meal. “I put the accountability on them as a result of they’re those who get extra anxious if I drop a few pounds,” she says. “I do not need to eat each meal.”

She needs to be praised for each mouthful, however her mother and father discover it more and more troublesome to take action. This results in extra rows.

The exams go by in a blur. After the final one, Maya’s pals all exit for the night with out her. She feels unhappy and disregarded.

“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 look ahead to outcomes.

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

She would not meet up along with her pals, and as a substitute watches their adventures unfold on social media.

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

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

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

It is a large shift. Mother and father are not of such significance and her mom worries that Maya will not get such a excessive stage of help.

However Maya is happy about grownup remedy. Her first process is to jot down 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 could be very nervous. There are tears within the automotive outdoors faculty, 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 selection. “She is unimaginable,” says her mom. “I do not understand how any person who’s so sick can carry out so amazingly.”

“When my therapist heard my outcomes she stated: ‘Nicely executed – 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 the case 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 deal with getting higher.

Her mom is anxious about what the 12 months will convey. “She’s very misplaced. It is a bit like a clean canvas – and a clean canvas is frightening. The whole lot is on the market, however the place do you begin?”

Assist and recommendation:

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

“I did initially have just a few days the place I felt actually low and disregarded 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 just a few of her pals 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 mother and father’ concern that doing nothing shall be dangerous for Maya, they aren’t certain 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 feat, I am going to 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 looks like a waste of time.”

And Maya is now placing on weight once more. She is attempting onerous 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 need to feel and look like a typical 18-year-old.”

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

Maya’s identify has been modified.

Illustrations by Katie Horwich

Further interviews and manufacturing by Vibeke Venema

Hearken to The Untold: In the grip of anorexia via iPlayer

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