A West Australian woman who struggled with anorexia for years says her surprise teen pregnancy saved her life after doctors feared her eating disorder would kill her.
Iris Doyle had struggled with anorexia since she was just seven, triggered by lack of control in her life. Her family were alcoholics and drug addicts, and the Albany woman felt like she had a “toxic” childhood.
“I’m still to this day trying to understand how it started. I believe it was a way of coping with being out of control of situations around me,” she said.
“My anorexia has always been triggered by different things but around the same topic, control. When I was younger, I grew up in a toxic environment.
“I was surrounded by alcoholism, drug use and domestic violence. This, I believe, caused my anorexia; I needed control over something.”
The young woman used her restrictive diet as a way to self-harm and escape the troubles she faced growing up.
She was diagnosed with anorexia in 2008 when she was just 10, after she would restrict herself to eating just crackers, fruits and vegetables.
At her lowest points, she would only consume 400 to 500 calories a day. Her habits led to her weight decreasing to just 37.6kg and a size four.
Doctors said teen would die from malnourishment
The condition meant she struggled to regularise her periods, going years without one.
Her doctors told the teen she would die if she didn’t get the help she needed.
“At my worst, my doctor told me, ‘if you don’t get help, you’re going to die’ and that my vitals and symptoms from malnourishment were so severe they didn’t want me to leave my appointment without being admitted into hospital,” she said.
Despite her irregular cycle, Ms Doyle was 19-years-old when she discovered she was pregnant with her son in 2017.
Receiving the news was the wake-up call she needed to recover from anorexia. She said carrying her unborn child in her womb motivated her to get her health on track.
Teen pregnancy news ‘saved my life’
With Oliver now one-year-old, the young mum has been keeping to a healthy diet and consuming an average of 2200 calories a day. She is currently about 50kg and wears a size 8-10.
Despite suffering a relapse after her mum committed suicide in 2018, Ms Doyle has been keeping on track with her health for the sake of her son.
“Pregnancy saved my life,” she said.
“I can’t even put into words what an amazing experience pregnancy was. It helped me recover as I knew my body needed to be nourished so my baby could flourish.
“Although, I struggled a lot during my pregnancy; I was so young, and I was going into it being a single mum. But as soon as I had my first scan, I knew it would work out okay.”
Life after anorexia
A life outside the confines of anorexia’s “tiny little box” has allowed Ms Doyle the freedom to enjoy life.
She hopes to gain more weight over time, but for now the mum is embracing the positive changes.
“My family and friends have always been amazing and gave me a lot of praise about how far I’ve come,” she said.
“They would make comments about how much healthier my skin and hair look and just how my overall appearance is a lot healthier.”
She urged others battling eating disorders to seek help and recovery, saying: “Don’t ever stop fighting for your life because life is amazing and worth living.”
Do you need help or support with an eating disorder? Ring The Butterfly Foundation's national support line on 1800 33 4673 (1800 ED HOPE).
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