My Experience has Motivated my Research
Our latest guest post captures the experiences of Hannah Whybrow, a 21 year old student who is currently writing about eating disorders as part of her thesis at the University of Edinburgh.
My earliest memories are of two distinct hobbies: eating and reading. If asked, my parents would still describe me as a child obsessed with food and books (and cats – but that’s a different story!).
Unfortunately, my relationship with food deteriorated as I entered my teenage years, which were initially characterised by binging (sometimes with friends, often alone), then restricting (obsessively calorie counting and losing weight fast), before descending into a full-blown addiction to eating and purging.
Whilst this was something I routinely battled against, with varying levels of success, it seemed that my bulimia was louder, stronger and safer than my dwindling resolve.
Until, with support, I began striving for a future that was better than the pain of my present and embarked on a recovery journey (that I am still very much on, though the destination is in sight!) that has enabled me to dream of, hope for and live a life that is no longer under the control of an eating disorder.
However, even at the lowest points of my disorder, I was fortunately able to retain my passion for reading, often finding solace in books, in the same way as I did with food.
Whilst growing up, I was a lover of fiction, over the last few years I have turned to books on mental health as a way to manage my compulsions.
Since 2019, this interest has become academic.
As a Social Anthropology student I started to pay attention to the lived experience of other people with eating disorders and the social conditions that have allowed mental health to worsen over the last decades.
However, I was disappointed to find very little research into processes of recovery, despite statistics showing that up to 80% of those who receive treatment will improve significantly, with many fully recovering.
Research into eating disorders is hugely underfunded compared to other mental health conditions, and so most of the funding goes towards examining causes, treatment and experiences of the illness, all of which are hugely important areas.
Nevertheless, as somebody who likes to look for and believe in the good, I despaired with academia for neglecting recovery as something that is lived through and navigated by people every day, often outside of formal treatment institutions.
And so, when tasked with conducting research for my undergraduate dissertation, I knew exactly what I wanted to focus on.
The purpose of my thesis is to investigate how futures are hoped, feared and strived for by those suffering from eating disorders, and the consequences this has on their recovery journey.
I aim to consider the role of the imagined future in shaping recovery. I am also exploring how the imagined future can incite multiple, conflicting emotions, contributing to ambivalence towards recovery.
I want my research to be guided by individual narratives, so that I can best capture the ways in which recovery is lived through, struggled with and achieved in varying ways and so I would love to invite anybody who would like to share their story, reflections and thoughts on this process, wherever you are in your journey, to get in touch.
I would be delighted to have a chat over the phone however, if you are not comfortable being interviewed, I am also collecting anonymous written reflections through the following link: https://edinburgh.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8okIT5mw8l1zmOF.
If you would be interested in supporting my research, and helping myself and the University of Edinburgh to better understand experiences of recovering from an eating disorder and how recovery journeys shape and are shaped by the future, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Sep 2020