“I started gaining weight when I began spending my summers with Granny. She’d lived through World War II, and her love language was food without limits. Summer after summer, I’d gain up to 10 kgs., and when I would return home, my mother would begin commenting on my weight. In Russia, beauty standards are unrealistically high, and being in any way overweight will draw attention, and you are guaranteed to receive negative comments. My parents just wanted to protect me, but feeling shame and being bullied in school led me to unhealthy habits around food, which soon grew into a vicious circle. The turning point came at 17, and I would get sick so much that I began to lose a lot of weight. The first positive comments I received for losing weight felt like discovering a cheat code. I would binge eat and then go to the bathroom to get sick. I was always considered talented in school, an A+ high achiever who had control over her studies. The only thing I couldn’t control was my weight. I became fixated on taking charge of my eating habits and body image.”

I feel that I’ve lost so much potential in my life due to my condition. I had an excellent brain that now often barely functions because it constantly runs on medications with a long list of side effects. For over a decade now, every day is filled with pain, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and nausea. I’ve been suffering from an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and severe treatment-resistant depression that doesn’t respond to medication. Last year, physical pain joined in when I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. There is no known cure, and it can even be difficult to treat, as there is a limited research available. I have been in and out of hospitals, and recently I had to be admitted to the resuscitation ward due to a deficiency in basic electrolytes in my body. None of my conditions are recognized as a disability or even a long-term illness. So far, I have been able to hold onto a full-time job with a lot of support from my colleagues. I am in constant need of treatment, but in Ireland, there are only a handful of public beds available for patients with my condition, and the private clinics are way too expensive. I am on some of the strongest pain medications at the moment, and they make my days very difficult to lead. I share my story not for sympathy but to break the silence surrounding eating disorders. Misconceptions persist, and many view it as self-inflicted condition. In reality, it’s an addiction to restriction, a relentless force that takes control over your life. I really hope that my journey can raise awareness and prevent others from going down the same path.”