When I went to see my GP about my eating disorder, they suggested that I seek the support of a service available on campus which would wholly offer me accessible and efficacious treatment.

First Steps was providing a specialised support service designed for students and I will be forever thankful and appreciative of what they did for me.  I withhold the firm belief that my mind-set would not have been transformed without the positive drive in the right direction from my First Steps team.

First Steps offer facilities for both sufferers themselves and their families, accessible during term time and also through technology when I’m back home or on holiday in between terms providing coping strategies and recovery services that fit around my university life.

This includes 1:1 peer support, qualified counsellors, drop-in groups, and general support groups, parent education and an online befriending service which I could access anywhere, and was also made available to my mum so that my recovery could continue when I returned home.

One of the founding principles of First Steps is that almost every befriender and member of staff has struggled with an eating disorder at some point in their life, or has supported a family member through their eating disorder.  For me, this immediately accentuated a level of understanding and compassion that aligned with me and gave me confidence from being able to benefit from their own lived experience.

I believe this was the reason that I gained a really close and happy relationship with both of my support worker and my counsellor.  They supported me through progress and relapse, took a genuinely caring consideration for my emotions and sought to find methods of treatments that worked well for me. Most importantly, they listened to every word I said and took it into account.

One thing my support worker came up with was completely eradicating the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ connotations to certain foods.  These labels were particularly detrimental to my own thought process in regards to food and subsequently led me to attribute both reward and guilt to food.

This mind-set is damaging.  Too often I found myself in tears when I was persuaded to try eating white pasta or sweets.  Let me emphasise this once again, guilt should not be attributed to food.

White pasta is no worse for you than brown pasta when we place things within a broader perspective of healthiness.  My support workers set me challenges each week in order to eliminate this concept of ‘guilt-ridden’ foods – to have a glass of juice with breakfast and to eat white carbs for example.

They promised me that they would not affect my weight and they didn’t; they promised me that it would positively affect the way I thought about these foods, and it did.

I spent a lot of time with First Steps, Eating Disorders in Student Services (EDISS).  However I finished my time there as a volunteer rather than just a sufferer.  The last time I attended First Steps EDISS was when I ran my own support group for students suffering with their eating disorder, where I orchestrated how both writing, playing and performing was a good distraction from harmful thoughts and a therapeutic way to release and relieve yourself of negative thoughts.

When I finished my undergraduate degree in 2018, I left feeling overwhelmed about my progress, emotional about the friendships I had made and sentimental about the support I received from my First Steps EDISS journey and grateful that having entered the world of work, I am #MeWithoutED.

This post is dedicated to the whole team at EDISS and the student welfare team at my past university.