• Rowan Evans

The Never Ending Story of Life with an Eating Disorder

Laura Hearn is the founder of the globally recognised online platform, 'Jiggsy' which uses its unique creative tool 'The Jiggsaw' to connect people affected by an eating disorder and mental ill health.

Laura has spoken openly about her experience of recovery from anorexia and how she learnt to heal from the inside after spending 7 months in an inpatient treatment centre in the US. She delivers bespoke workshops to companies, schools and organisations, developing confidence and identity from within.

As a BBC producer, Laura uses her position and extensive knowledge to remove the stigma of mental illness in the workplace, and to encourage leaders to realise the financial and moral benefits of putting wellbeing at the heart of everything they do.

Laura has shared her very personal - and seemingly never-ending - story with Storytellhers.

A story...everyone has one. Most of us are part of multiple stories every day. We are not just writing our own story, but we play a leading role in those around us. A story is in its truest form, is a journey in which characters overcome obstacles along the way; much like life.

I don’t really remember having bedtimes stories read to me when I was a little girl, but I did make ones up in my head. It was a place where I could escape. They were fantasies where there were no rules; everything and everyone was a possibility.

I would watch ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ over and over, wishing that I could also step into a wardrobe and disappear into some magical land. When I look back at my childhood, it makes sense that I would seek an alternative space. It’s not that I had some horrendous upbringing, but there was confusion as to where I belonged.

I was torn between two parents who rarely communicated with one another, a sister who was very vocal at home due to her own pain. A stepfather who was the most amazing man, but who could also be pretty strict and old-fashioned. I didn’t fit in and was bullied at school, so I found solace in my imagination.

Eventually, though I needed something deeper to numb myself. At first, it was my friend; something that was all mine, but without warning, it became my tormentor. If it were a fictional story, then it was the enemy that must be defeated if you wanted to live happily ever after. Only this time I couldn’t write the ending, I was powerless and no amount of imagination was going to save me this time.

My eating disorder was one long chapter throughout my twenties. It would have made for a pretty sad and dull read because it was repetitive. It was the same old, over and over again, and I was trapped and unable to turn the pages. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make it to the next chapter; it was that I was so terrified of the unknown, a bit like those who take a cheeky look at the last page of a book. I wanted to know how it would all turn out. The thing is with life though, is that the ending is not written for you. You have no real control over what, or how the final chapters will prevail…and in a way that is the beauty of life.

Stories have always been a passion of mine, and I guess that it is no coincidence that I became a journalist. I am curious by nature and believe that stories are the fabric of life. Every person we meet, every place we visit, every experience we embrace and every path we choose becomes part of our story. No one story is the same; how amazing is that?

In my recovery, I had to learn to let go of the ‘need to know.’ I wanted to control every second of every moment, and if I couldn’t, I would delve deeper into my safe place of anorexia. Of course, life isn’t like that and so that hole became bigger day by day until I couldn’t claw my way out of it. I tried to climb free, often gasping for breath, but as soon as I saw the light above me, I would weaken and fall back down…harder. In the end, two things saved me; I asked for help, and I began to turn the pages one by one, even though I didn’t know what I would find.

It was painful, it was brutal and there was nowhere to hide. I wanted to go back to my safety net; climb back down into my hole and return to page one, but something inside me kept going. What I have found in recovery is that the thing I was most scared of…unpredictability… is actually the most beautiful part of life. The truth is, is that we don’t have the copyright over our life. Our story is real life. Take pleasure in escaping into the magical world of your imagination, but also know that your journey is unique. You can steer it in your desired direction, but often there will be factors that you have no way of influencing. Let go, take a deep breath in and marvel at the unknown.

Laura Hearn

To learn more about Laura's work or to make the first step in your own journey to recovery visit JiggsysPlace