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I want to know – how and why does a condition like anorexia happen?

Lexi Richmond was diagnosed with anorexia as a teenager – her journey of recovery was helped by her ‘amazing’ parents. She’s now left with questions around mental illness – and the desire to get them answered.

I was diagnosed with the eating disorder anorexia when I was 14 years old, I’m now 22.

I remember my mum taking me down to the local surgery and telling the GP: ‘My daughter’s losing three to four pounds a week.’ They said she should come back in a couple of weeks, and she told them: 'No, in two weeks’ time she’s going to have lost another 6 pounds.'

We didn’t leave until they’d referred me to a psychiatrist. I started having home visits and people from the Children’s Adolescent Mental Health Services used to pick me from school and take me for food and talk to me about body image.

I think my mental health problems stemmed from bullying in school – kids are kids and they used to call me ‘fatty’ and stuff like that – and I think it really stayed in my mind.

At the time when I was diagnosed, I didn’t realise I had a problem. I thought everyone was against me and everyone was getting jealous because I was losing weight. You feel like you’re against the world, everyone is trying to help you – but you don’t feel like you need help.

I became very thin and an unhealthy weight. And still, when I looked in the mirror I thought I was fat because I was struggling with body dysmorphia.

Lexi and her mum

It used to take me two hours to eat a meal and I became addicted to exercise, waking up at three or four in the morning to do exercise before my parents woke up.

My body went into ‘menopause’ and my period stopped for 9 months. I developed brittle bones, a condition called osteoporosis, as well as terrible circulation – problems I still struggle with today.

I was so tired all the time I didn’t want to see my friends – they were supportive but I wasn’t a very nice person to hang out with, I’d become selfish, self-centred and sneaky.

It wasn’t until I saw my mum cry about it that I realised I had a problem and that I needed to change something.

My family have been amazing throughout and they’re so supportive.

I want to be a professional singer, and my dad really pushed me to follow that goal – so instead of having the goal to be skinny, I had a goal of being successful. He paid for me to go to performing arts classes and to record my music in London. It gave me a different focus to food. 

I don’t think I’m fully recovered now, and I don’t believe you ever fully recover. But I’ve learnt how to live with it and I’ve learnt how to spot when I’m slipping back into old habits and stop myself.

I’ve had to learn how to not feel guilty when I eat, and having a healthy relationship with exercise has helped a lot – whenever I go for a run I feel great.

Lexi and her dad

But still, I just want to know – how and why does a condition like anorexia happen? That’s why MQ is such an important charity, they’re taking a different approach to mental health by putting the science behind it.

By researching it, we can stop mental illness before it starts so that less people suffer with it in the first place.

That’s why my dad and I ran the marathon for MQ this year – raising nearly £7,000 – to get those questions on mental health answered.

Lexi’s dad told us:

I’m so proud of Lexi and I think she is an inspiration to other people facing mental health problems – she shows that you can overcome it.

 You can listen to Lexi's music on YouTube here.

Last updated: 27 July 2018

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