Listening to Milton Keynes businesswoman and mother-of-two Emma Bacon talk about her battle with anorexia is heartbreaking.
But she’s determined to tell it like it is because she considers herself one of the lucky ones: she survived.
Emma is keen to raise the profile of this devastating condition and help those who succumb to it – particularly during Eating Disorder Awareness Week (February 22 - 28).
She’s founder and project manager of BalancED MK, an eating disorder support service based in the town.
Emma, 38, of Stony Stratford says she never had much self esteem as a teenager, even though she was a trim size 12: “I thought it would help if I took control of my food, that I’d be happier and more confident.”
But she struggled with depression and ended up trying to commit suicide.
“Taking my own life wasn’t something I planned,” she explains. “It happened in a compulsive moment, when I felt low and isolated. I drank a bottle of vodka and took all the medication in the house.” It didn’t kill her but she didn’t see a counsellor and by the time she was 21, she had numerous unresolved issues. She recalls: “Over a period of two to three years I became totally obsessive about what I would and wouldn’t eat. I’d skip breakfast and go for a run, skip dinner and go to the gym.” By then she was living with her boyfriend Andy, who is now her husband. Emma says: “I didn’t think I deserved to be happy, to be loved and looked after.
“It got to a stage where I felt very frightened and a couple of times I fainted.
“My husband persuaded me to go to a self-help group but I was still in denial. Then I began to relate to people there and started seeing a specialist counsellor.” All went well until her second child was born in 2008. “It was like someone had flicked a switch and turned the anorexia back on,” she explains. “But by then I recognised all the signs. You begin to understand yourself and it makes you much stronger.
“Anorexia is all about emotions, control and self esteem. Once you speak about it, you feel less ashamed and seek support sooner.”
Personal trainer Emma is evangelical about BalancED MK which she started in 2007. It comprises professionals as well as volunteers who’ve been sufferers or carers.
Most people initially drop in before joining a group of approximately eight. They need to be able to talk about their particular situation so they can learn different ways to cope and manage their condition, through education and self help.
Emma says: “We also offer specialist counsellors on a one-to-one basis, which can be hugely beneficial.
“We’re a really experienced team and every client is valuable, important and worthwhile.
“We welcome everyone, no matter what their circumstances.”
She recently gave a presentation about eating disorders at a non-uniform fundraising event at MK Academy and is looking at other ways to finance the service.
Emma would like to see many more people enjoy the happy ending she’s had and says her marketing director husband has been “very, very supportive” in helping her overcome her challanges.
She’s currently completing a nutritional cook book aimed at people with eating disorders.
> For more details visit www.balancedmk.co.uk