An anorexia sufferer had such a bad case of the illness that she used to hide food in her ears to avoid eating it.
Julia Janssen would also smear butter in her hair so she wouldn’t have to ingest it as the disorder took hold.
Therapists said she had one of the worst cases they had ever seen when she was finally admitted to hospital and her lowest weight was just 5 stone 9lbs.
In her worst weeks, Julia was terrified to even drink water in case it was contaminated and wouldn’t touch food because she feared it would be absorbed through her skin.
Julia, now 24-years-old, first began to struggle with eating when she was 13, but the disease really took hold two years later.
She was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa aged 16.
The teenager was terrified of even the smallest weight gain and would force herself to get up in the middle of the night to do hours of exercise if she had eaten just a mouthful.
“Anorexia gave me a false sense of control and was a way of avoiding all the difficulties that come with puberty,” she said.
She lost huge chunks of her hair, leaving bald patches, and simple tasks like taking a shower would take hours and leave her physically exhausted.
Her blood pressure was so low she would faint many times a day and her lips and fingers would turn blue because she was always cold despite wearing woolly hats all year round.
Julia lost control of her bladder and also suffered open wounds where her skin was so thin that her hip bones protruded through, rubbing against her clothes.
She says looking back she is now ashamed of the things the illness made her do.
“I did everything from going out at 2am to walk for hours, hiding food absolutely everywhere and lying straight to the face of my loved ones,” she said.
“If someone was watching me when I was eating breakfast to make sure I didn’t cheat, I would smear butter into my ears and into my hair.
“Food would go everywhere from my pockets to behind the couch or in my handbag.
“I ruined so many of my favorite bags because I kept hiding all kinds of food in them.”
Doctors told her she could drop dead from heart failure at any moment and even she knew she was dying.
“This is the only thing I can clearly remember from my worst time - this feeling of time running out,” she said.
“I looked and felt like a ghost.”
In December 2014, Julia knew she wouldn’t make Christmas unless she ate and she didn’t want her parents to have to bury her.
Determined not to die, she was asked whether she wanted inpatient treatment but vowed to begin eating at home by herself. Her doctors told her that if she didn’t make progress they would section her.
Anorexia meant Julia lost out on huge chunks of her youth, missing university, isolated from friends and unable to work.
She had to learn to eat 3,000 calories a day to get her weight back up.
Having now gained 22lbs, Julia wants to tell people that just because she now looks well it doesn’t mean she is.
“I have worked really hard to gain weight and I look a lot healthier, but my mind hasn’t really caught up yet,” she said.
“Sometimes when I look in the mirror I really struggle with the fact that what goes on in my mind doesn’t match what I see in the mirror.
“This disorder is still a huge part of my life and everyday is still a battle, but I don’t look as sick anymore, which is hard to deal with.”
“The thing with anorexia recovery is your mind often takes a lot longer to heal than your body.
“Today I can honestly not imagine that this disorder will ever completely leave my life. I feel like at least a small part of it will always stay.
“But it is about progress, not perfection.”
“At my worst, anorexia was 100% of my life. Now I would say it is 80% on my good days and 90% on my bad days, so still a huge part of my life.
“My goal is that maybe one day, my life will be 95% mine again and that the eating disorder is only a tiny fraction of it.”
Written by Triangle News