Being a teenager is a tumultuous experience full of peer pressure, school, and other stressors, but for one teen, it was a battle for her life.
Growing up in Ireland, Niamh Wynne struggled with her weight, often swapping healthy foods for high-fat and sugar picks. In 2011, at 14 years old, she learned about calories in school and decided that she was "tired of being the 'big one'" in her group of friends. Rather than turning to a balanced diet, however, she went into an extremely unhealthy direction: obsession.
"I started eating less and adding up the calories of all of my meals," she . "Every time I saw the numbers get smaller, it gave me a buzz." On top of feeling a rush from the weight loss, Niamh also experienced an outpouring of compliments from family and friends, which is theme in eating disorders like anorexia, orthorexia, and bulimia. When your size and weight begins to drop, the compliments flow in and the sufferer feels an .
Soon, Niamh's eating disorder got out of control, with her daily caloric intake dangerously reduced and her habits putting her at risk for extreme health issues. She regularly battled her parents over what she was (or wasn't) eating, leading to Niamh sometimes binging on candy, then excessively exercising until it was entirely burned off. "My periods stopped, I was constantly tired and irritable, and my nails were breaking," she told the Daily Mail. "My eating disorder had completely taken over my life."
Niamh was finally diagnosed with anorexia after her mother Ann took her to the doctor, who later told the teen that if she didn't work to get better, she would wind up "in a hospital or a coffin." Her mother, devastated, had already started planning her funeral out of fear Niamh would never get better.
"One night, we were sat together in the living room when we started talking about her funeral," she told the Daily Mail. "Niamh had always dreamed of flying into space, so she wanted to be cremated and sent to space in a rocket." It was a parent's worst nightmare: The possibility that your child might actually die, and there's nothing you can do to stop it. This led to Niamh finally deciding to seek treatment and try to get better — a feat that is extremely difficult for the 24 million Americans who suffer from eating disorders each year.
Seventeen months into her recovery, Niamh, now 18, is optimistic about what's to come. "Now instead of planning my funeral, I'm busy planning for my future."
If you or someone you know needs help with an eating disorder, head over to the for treatment resources.