The Susan B. Krevoy Eating Disorders Treatment Program occasionally features guest bloggers to share their stories and inspire our community. Today we’re proud to feature Valentina McGuff, an aspiring author and guest lecturer at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, who has successfully battled her own issues with eating. If you’d be interested in sharing your story, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Valentina (Tina McGuff) and I live in the beautiful city of Dundee, Scotland.
I can remember the exact moment I became anorexic. It was a comment made and hit a switch in my brain to change my whole perception of myself. I was on a beach in Italy and I happened to see someone indicate my bottom was large – that was it. The switch was triggered.
Afterwards I went from a healthy 13-year-old teenager of 9 stone (126 pounds) to a life threatening weight of 4 stone (56 pounds). I became so obsessed that I thought there were calories in air and tried to control my breathing. Even I knew it was time for help.
My parents finally got me admitted into an adult psychiatric unit. I was put on a regimented programme where I was confined to a bed 24 hours a day with a nurse with me the whole time. If I needed to go to the toilet, the nurse would also stay with me in the bathroom. I found it very degrading and upsetting even though I was very ill. I was force fed via nasal gastric tube to keep me alive.
It did seem very barbaric to me at the time, yet it did work initially for me. However, what would then happen is once I gained some weight and was given more freedom, I would spend hours running up and down stairs in the hospital and then lose the weight again. It was a vicious cycle but after years of the cycle I did eventually get better.
It took a lot of input from psychiatrists, behavioral therapists, and occupational health workers, as well as nursing therapy. Once I became happy on the inside I began to relinquish control over my eating. It was grueling and took years. As I alluded to at the start I remember the trigger to put me into the spiral – and I also remember the trigger that got me out.
I wanted to starve myself to death. I was resolute. I was done. I had not had visitors as my weight was too low and in fact I was losing more as I lay in the bed. I lay there day after day thinking my family no longer cared. After a few weeks I heard unfamiliar footsteps and looked over at the nurses’ station to see my Dad. He was asking the nurse to see me. He was immediately taken away but before he turned the corner he looked back and our eyes locked. His whole face changed in a second…revulsion, pain, hate, sadness and complete despair all came from his eyes and face to hit me like a steam train. That was the look that shifted things for me – I did not ever want to see anyone look at me that way again in my whole life, especially my father or family. So right there and then I decided it was time to change.
I know for a fact if he had not come into the ward that day I would not be here to write this blog. I have written a book about my experience and I now lecture to students studying psychology and mental health at Abertay University. This is a dream for me to finally be able to give back and make use of my horrific time I had.