Abi Simioni - Mental Health Awareness Week
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, an annual campaign run by the Mental Health Foundation. The theme for 2019 focuses on Body Image.
So, we have decided to share the story of an incredible young lady. Abi Simioni is 15 and from Great Sutton in Cheshire. Last year, she shared her story with us. Find out more about her journey below...
Abi Simioni - My Story
My struggles with food began in 2017, after my dad was diagnosed with gallstones. He had to follow a very strict fat free diet, which introduced me to the world of calorie counting and made me hyper-aware of everything I was eating.
At first it wasn’t too bad, but then I noticed I was starting to become anxious about eating certain types of food like pizza. I also lost a lot of weight due to a stomach bug and found that my friends told me how amazing I looked, which made me start to obsess over losing weight. I began restricting my calorie intake and exercising obsessively.
It was then I realised I might have a problem. I looked up the symptoms of anorexia and identified with a lot of them, so I went to my mum in tears and asked for help. We looked into it as a family and agreed to raise it with my paediatrician, who immediately referred me to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
During my two-week wait for an appointment with CAMHS I really went downhill. I downloaded an app that let me count my calorie intake and became obsessed with making it lower and lower each day. It got so bad that my body was unable to keep itself up and I was even told I couldn’t go on a trip to Alton Towers because my blood pressure was so low.
When I went to my first appointment with Jess I was really nervous but she made me feel comfortable right away. We talked about a lot and she really helped me understand the chemistry behind my anxiety and rationalise my issues with food. We called my condition ‘A’ rather than anorexia too which made it feel far less overwhelming! Jess helped me put in place a lot of coping strategies that I’ve been able to use to help myself and others.
My family and I worked together closely with CAMHS and CHEDS to normalise meal times at home and at school and I felt really supported the entire time. The team were so important to my recovery and I couldn’t have gotten to where I am today without them, especially my dietician Paul who helped me make food fun again.
Obviously I still struggle at times with my ‘A’ and the continued support of Jess and the wider team is invaluable. Right now I’m really focused on helping others who might be going through what I did. I approached my drama teacher about doing a play on eating disorders and we performed this at the Storyhouse Women’s Festival which was so empowering.
People have reached out to me since saying how much it’s helped inform them of the signs to look out for and that means so much to me. Jess and the rest of the CHEDS team came to watch too! Flipside Radio interviewed us following the performance and I’m hoping to keep working with them to spread awareness of eating disorders.