Phone habit was killing me
19, When life got all too much for Megan stanley, cope from Wrexham, she found a worrying way to
Everyone has times in their life when things feel a bit overwhelming.
Back in November 2012, when I was 13, my grandad Derek, 70, passed away.
Me and my mum Alison had lived with him and my nan Margerie, 74, since my parents had split when I was a toddler.
Grandad and I had always been close. With him gone, I struggled to cope.
I was being bullied at school, too, and felt as if I had no control over my life.
So I started going out running after school. My feet pounding the pavements around where we lived, I enjoyed the sense of freedom, the way it let me escape all my problems.
At first, it was just a mile or so but, each night, I ran a little bit further.
Then I started going out on weekends, too.
‘Do you think you’re taking this new fitness regime a bit too seriously?’ Mum asked, worried.
‘I just enjoy it,’ I replied to her, reacting defensively. I’d not set out to lose weight, but I’d started to notice my clothes feeling looser. And, when my bones started to jut out under my skin, I hid it from Mum by wearing baggy clothes.
I’d made that happen, and I enjoyed the feeling of being in control.
By the time
I turned 14, I was restricting what I ate, too.
First, I ate no dairy or fats, then I just had a vegan yogurt for breakfast and soup for dinner.
‘What’s going on?’ Mum demanded, as I made excuses not to eat at dinner time. ‘You’re getting too thin. I just want to help.’
‘I’m fine,’ I’d shrug. ‘I don’t want your help.’
Truth was, by now I was exercising for hours every day as well.
I was running, doing star-jumps and sit-ups at home, jogging on the spot.
During the week I’d even skip lessons to walk around the school grounds burning calories.
I liked the feeling of losing weight. It was my comfort – and, the more I lost, the more I wanted to lose.
By the time I turned 15, my size-10 clothes were hanging off me.
A week after my birthday, I was going upstairs at home when I slipped, banging my head and elbow. Only, frail and weak, I couldn’t get myself on my feet.
‘I can’t get up!’ I shouted to Mum. Horrified, she took me to Wrexham Hospital.
Doctors did blood tests, took my blood pressure and pulse. Then they weighed me. Before, I’d been a healthy 8st 7lb. Now I weighed just 5st – dangerously underweight for my 5ft 3in frame. My pulse was extremely low, as well.
Doctors put me on bed-rest and said I needed glucose.
‘I’m not having glucose,’ I snapped, knowing it contained calories.
Distraught, Mum broke down in tears.
‘Is she going to die?’ she sobbed to nurses.
Sounds odd, but I thought everyone was overreacting.
‘Mum, it’s going to be fine,’ I reassured her.
‘No, it’s not,’ Mum sobbed, beside herself. ‘If you don’t eat, you’re going to die.’
I was so tiny, Mum went out and bought me clothes for an 8-year-old.
I was kept in hospital for three weeks, then moved to a psychiatric hospital, where I had therapy and my food intake was monitored.
After seven months, I was allowed home. But, while I’d put on a little weight, I was still obsessed.
I followed other anorexia sufferers on Instagram, and lots of them mentioned using health-andfitness apps to lose weight. So I downloaded one onto my smartphone.
I’d use it to track every single calorie I ate each day, as well as all the calories I’d burned exercising.
Suddenly, it seemed even easier to lose weight. I just made sure the app showed I was in negative calories all the time by
doing more exercise. I was addicted – app-obsessed, constantly checking and updating it.
Any weight I’d gained in hospital quickly vanished.
After six months, I was back in psychiatric hospital again.
By now, my fingertips were blue due to poor circulation, my dark, curly hair was falling out and my nails were in a terrible state.
I had more group therapy, individual therapy and art therapy. But the anorexia had put my body under so much strain, I was diagnosed with heart block, which meant my heart wasn’t beating to the right rhythm.
‘It could cause a heart attack at any time,’ the specialist warned me. Terrifying.
I was there for a year, battling to get better.
When I was finally allowed home, I was closely monitored.
But, one day in early 2015, I was standing talking to Mum when suddenly my body went rigid and I dropped to the floor, and started having a fit.
My brother Luke, then 11, ran away scared, and my sister Ffion, 13, called the Emergency Services as Mum gave me CPR.
An ambulance raced me to Wrexham Hospital.
There, I was diagnosed with epilepsy, caused by the strain under which I’d put my body.
After three days, I was sent back to psychiatric hospital, where I had two more seizures.
Each time, I’d collapse onto the floor and black out, before waking up not remembering anything. It scared me so much, and I knew it was all down to my anorexia.
By now, I was nearly 18. I’d been in the grip of anorexia for five years.
All the friends I’d made in the psychiatric hospital had got better, moved on with their lives.
Yet I’d already had to re-sit a year at school, and felt as if I was being left behind.
Suddenly, it was as if something inside me clicked.
As a first step, I deleted the fitness app from my phone.
It was tough, not being able to keep track of every calorie I consumed, but strangely liberating, too.
Without the app to obsess over, I started trying to eat a bit more each day and reduce the amount of exercise I was doing.
It wasn’t easy – but, this time, I was determined.
‘I’m going to get better,’ I promised Mum.
I’d put her through hell, too. After just six weeks, my weight was up to nearly 7st.
Once again, I was allowed to go home.
This time, I enrolled on a Health and Social Care course at college – and, last April, I met my partner through mutual friends.
Now my weight fluctuates between 7st 7lb and 8st.
I eat healthily and exercise sensibly – and I’m wearing size-8 clothes.
My heart problem has gone, and I haven’t had a fit for over a year.
But I’m not there yet.
I’m just taking things one day at a time.
And, thanks to the love and support of Mum, now 49, Ffion, 16, Luke, 13, and my girlfriend, I’m happier than I’ve been for years.
That phone app is supposed to help people lose weight safely – but, for me, it was a dangerous tool.
I’m just glad I found the strength to click ‘delete’.
It saved my life.