Empowerment can come when you least expect it 

 by Connie Ross

Illustration by:Ella Strickland de Souza

Illustration by:Ella Strickland de Souza

The day when I felt most empowered was one of the lowest days of my life. If I’m honest, I don’t know the exact date or month of my empowerment - it’s become a bit of a blur. I do know, however, exactly how I felt. 

As much as I liked to think it was, my eating disorder was no secret. I’d been under-eating for just under two years. I weighed 6 stone and counted every calorie that I consumed. 

My parents had begun expressing their concern months earlier. Some days we shouted at each other, some days we cried together. Every time we spoke about it, I promised to make an effort to get better. I broke a lot of promises whilst I was ill.

But the day of my empowerment was different. My parents sat me down and told me that they’d given me enough time to start eating more and I hadn’t. They told me that if I didn’t start showing obvious improvement very soon they’d have no option but to refer me to a clinic.

I was horrified. Up until that point, I’d been ashamed for making my parents worry but it wasn’t enough to change me. I suppose I’d persuaded myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone but me, and that was OK. Their ultimatum put everything into perspective. 

I realised - whilst looking through teary eyes into their desperate ones - that the only way I was going to get better was if I did it for them. The focus in my mind, which had been fixated on me for months and months, shifted. My parents, who I adore more than anything, would be my focus.

It sounds dramatic but it was honestly like the flick of a switch. I had a goal, something other than counting calories to focus on. I felt determined. I felt empowered. A spark of my former brave self flared up and I grabbed at it as best I could.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that spark burned brightly from then on. There were nearly as many bad days as good ones. But having that aim, and seeing the hope in my parents eyes as I started to get better, helped me to move forwards more times than I moved back.

I felt compelled to share my story because I want girls to know that empowerment doesn’t always come from the good. Sometimes it takes getting to your lowest point to have enough reasons to make a change.

Today, I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been. 

Until now, a couple of years on from that day, I have only ever spoken to my parents, two closest friends and boyfriend about what I went through in depth, so sharing my story is a big deal for me.

But today, like that day years ago, I feel empowered. Empowered to tell my story because I am proud of what I have achieved. And I want other girls to feel proud of their achievements too.