Isolation Book

To mark EDAW we decided to create a book of peoples stories, art, poetry. We want people to be able to share their experiences in whatever way suits them best. This book is made up of work from people that use our services, our volunteers and others we work with. Each and every work comes from lived or living experience (sometimes both- where do we draw the line of what's lived and living). It is an absolute honour to be able to share these people's work to the world. To access the book, click the link below. If you would like a hard copy, please email Iona at but please note we have a limited supply.


Isolation Book

Eating Disorders and Gender Based Violence

Content Warning: This article is about violence against women, including mentions of rape and sexual assault. It includes extensive discussion of domestic abuse.

The 25th of November marked the beginning of 16 days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. The 16 days of Activism is an international campaign aimed at raising awareness and preventing violence against women and girls. The campaign feels especially pertinent this year as it coincides with the FIFA world cup. Gender based violence has several forms, including rape, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse. It permeates our society, with 1 in 4 women being raped or sexually assaulted and 1 in 3 women being subject to domestic violence. In the UK, on average, two women are murdered per week as a result of domestic violence.


In our work here at SupportED, we are very aware of the strong link between violence against women and girls and eating disorders. This is a link that is perhaps well known in wider circles, or makes sense, but is seldom spoken about. Research exists, particularly into the link between sexual assault and eating disorders but more is needed. I could list more statistics, or quantitative research reports, which are very important, but I find that stories can be more impactful, personable. So here is mine.


I had anorexia from ages 12-19. It was an issue that stripped away my adolescence and ruined my university experience. My anorexia reached its height, so to speak, in my second year of university when I was 18/19. I nearly dropped out, which was painful and difficult as I was a first generation student. At one point I did not leave my flat for a full month. I cut off any friends I had made at university, barely spoke to my school friends, and stopped attending university, volunteering and my full time job. I was completely isolated, deeply secretive, and most of my interpersonal relationships were very damaged. At the time I did not realise, but this created a perfect scenario for an abuser to take over my life. 


My recovery properly began at the start of my third year of Uni. Recovery was difficult for me. I experienced a lot of very painful physical side effects and my mental recovery had to be essentially a complete overhaul of my mindset, coping mechanisms and outlook on life. I did my recovery alone, mainly unaided, as I had disengaged from services months earlier. I would never recommend this, it is just what I did at the time. My GP was fairly helpful in the beginning, but a few months into my recovery, I had a cancer scare, which took up most of their focus on me.


At the start of my third year of uni, I also got into my first relationship. A loving relationship was what I had wanted for a long time. Difficulties in my ‘love life’ was a significant trigger to the worsening of my anorexia in my second year of university. My new boyfriend was initially helpful with my eating disorder, mental health and general physical health. He would cook for me a lot and he was easy to talk to about worries and concerns I had. Recovering from an eating disorder was difficult to do alone, so he was there for me. We were together for a year. I knew during the relationship that it was turbulent. We would argue a lot. I also knew that he had a tendency to say violent things towards me, but I always reasoned it in my mind with a ‘he’s joking’ or ‘he doesn't mean it’. I also knew my friends hated him. My mother refused to meet him. My colleagues at work thought he was strange. At the time, I never spoke about my relationship to anyone for these reasons. 


I realised I had been abused after the relationship ended. The vast majority of the abuse was emotional. I was constantly belittled for everything such as my intelligence, wearing makeup, wearing clothes he didn't like. He would say violent and nasty things to me a lot and he meant it, this included telling me the methods he would use to kill me. He would make me shower or brush my teeth over and over again, as he said I ‘smelled’. He also constantly accused me of prioritising my friends over him. He called me lazy, uninspired, depressing, on pretty much a daily basis. When I admitted to myself that I had been abused, I felt very stupid. I grew up with domestic abuse so I didn't understand how I could’ve missed the signs. I was always very wary and distrustful of men due to my childhood. I just didn't understand. The truth is anyone can be abused, no matter how cautious, independent and ‘strong’ they are, no one who is abused is ever ‘stupid’. 


However, my eating disorder made me especially vulnerable to the abuse and I do wonder, if I hadn't have become so unwell, things might’ve been different. I felt that my life was going nowhere, as my eating disorder had almost completely squandered my life, future and potential. This made it a lot easier for me to accept what he was saying to me as the truth, and not as vile emotional abuse that was designed to destroy my self esteem. I was so secretive about the relationship, just as I was so secretive about my eating disorder. It was easy for me to hide the signs of abuse in plain sight, just as I had done with my eating disorder for years. Therefore, the people in my life didn’t really know the extent as to what was going on. Me not seeing my friends for long periods of time was normal because of my eating disorder. Me being withdrawn and quiet with my friends was normal because of my eating disorder. Me turning up to work exhausted was normal because of my eating disorder. Me crying constantly was normal because of my eating disorder. Avoiding my mother and frequently arguing with her was normal because of my eating disorder. All the signs that I was in an abusive relationship were not noticed as my behaviour closely echoed that of when I was unwell with my eating disorder.


A positive aspect to my story is that I never had a significant eating disorder relapse. My recovery continued strongly in spite of him. The two best things I have done in my life is recovering from my eating disorder and leaving him. At the centre of my eating disorder recovery and getting out of the abusive relationship was my mother, I could not have done either without her. I have personally found recovering from abuse more difficult and long lasting than recovering from my eating disorder. However, there are again a lot of similarities: lack of available resources, a lot of guilt and shame, feeling like no one understands how it felt, having to do a lot of it alone. I can talk about my eating disorder journey very easily, almost robotically. However, talking about abuse is much harder for me. It has been over three years since I left him and I still can’t really talk about the abuse without getting upset. However, stories like mine are important as they are the only way we can understand the nuances and experiences of eating disorders and abuse. We must support and empower people to tell such stories, in whatever way they can and want to. 


We must have more stories, research, discussions and dialogues about the links between eating disorders and gender based violence so we can help people better. Organisations such as ours and rape crises/Woman’s aids must work together so we can ensure that we are providing people with as much informed support as possible. Eating disorders and many forms of gender based violence often go hand in hand, so we must work together to ensure people know where and how they can access help for all aspects of their lives. The same goes for healthcare professionals and services, they must know how to signpost people who have been subject to any form of gender based violence.  Many people have told me that they have disclosed something to a healthcare professional and no signposting or information at all has been given. We need more qualitative research on this topic so we can understand it more, so we can work more on prevention and awareness. As I always say, we can only help people to the best of our abilities, if we work together in a collaborative way. 


Helpful resources:


If you are a Scottish based organisation that would like some free eating disorder awareness training, please contact Iona at


Do you have an idea for a blog post? Please contact Iona at


Welcome to SupportED's blog!


For a while at SupportED we have been keen to start a blog and we’ve finally taken the plunge! The SupportED blog will be a place for people to express their experiences, views and stories. Anyone can contribute to the blog, such as our staff, our volunteers and people that use our services. Blog posts may include fiction stories, non-fiction stories, poems, opinion pieces- the possibilities are endless. The general theme will likely be eating disorders but we will welcome any topic people find relevant.

Keep your eyes peeled for our first post!

If you have any ideas for a blog you would like to write, please contact Iona at