A woman who was told she could die when her weight plummeted to 37 kilos has revealed that a surprise pregnancy saved her life.
Full-time mum, Iris Doyle, 22 from Albany, Western Australia, said it was triggered by her ‘toxic’ childhood and was so effected by the disease that she hadn’t had her period for years.
‘I’ve had restrictive behaviour since the age of seven and I was diagnosed with anorexia by age ten,’ Iris said.
‘My anorexia has always been triggered by different things but around the same topic, control.
‘When I was younger, I grew up in a toxic environment. I was surrounded by alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence. This, I believe, caused my anorexia; I needed control over something.’
She used her restrictive diet as a way to self-harm and escape the troubles she faced growing up and would restrict herself to eating just crackers, fruits and vegetables.
At her lowest points, Iris would only consume 400 to 500 calories a day, which lead her weight to decrease and her to reach a size four.
‘My anorexia has never been weight focused; I see it more for me personally, as a way of self-harming. My biggest trigger was my mum committing suicide,’ she said.
Suffering with anorexia took its toll as in her late teenage years she noticed that the disease was making her feel constantly weak, unwell and extremely anxious and isolated.
She had also been struggling to regularise her periods from the ages of 15 to 18 and before her pregnancy she would go years without one.
Her doctors, worried about her health, warned her that she would die if she didn’t get the help she needed.
‘At my worst, my doctor told me, “if you don’t get help, you’re going to die” and that my vitals and symptoms from malnourishment were so severe they didn’t want me to leave my appointment without being admitted into hospital,’ she said.
It wasn’t until she discovered that she was pregnant with her son, Oliver, one, that she made the conscious decision to get her health back on track.
Finding out she was pregnant was the wake-up call she needed to recover.
Despite suffering a relapse after her mum committed suicide in 2018, she has been keeping on track with her health for the sake of her son.
‘I’ve actually done most of my recovery by myself, keeping in mind that I’ve had several relapses. Pregnancy saved my life,’ she said.
‘I can’t even put into words what an amazing experience pregnancy was. It helped me recover as I knew my body needed to be nourished so my baby could flourish.’
Although she said she struggled a lot during the pregnancy as she was a young single mum, as soon as she had her first scan she knew it would work out.
She has since been keeping to a healthy diet and consuming an average of 2,200 calories a day and is now a healthy 49 kilos and size eight to 10.
Although she would love to gain more weight she is happy with who she is.
‘Being able to live a normal life outside of anorexia is so freeing. I don’t feel like I’m trapped in a tiny little box. I can breathe, I can move, and I can enjoy life,’ she said.
‘The hardest part has been feeling full and food anxiety. I absolutely hated feeling full, so it always made me anxious until I was used to it. Trying new foods and actually eating when I wasn’t hungry was so hard.’
Iris said her family and friends have always been supportive and have given her a lot of praise about how far she’s come.
She said they often make comments about how much healthier her skin and hair looks and how her overall appearance is a lot healthier.
For those who are struggling with an eating disorder Iris said life is better without it.
‘You are sick enough for recovery and you are worthy of it. Don’t ever stop fighting for your life because life is amazing and worth living,’ she said.
‘When you think about recovery not being possible ask yourself this – what benefits does anorexia give you and what does it take away from you? I can guarantee you that the bad outweighs the good.’