My Eating Disorder Story.
My name is Holli Dillon, I am an artist, activisit and actor and in this blog I will be sharing my eating disorder story and how it affected my work as an actor.
When I came ‘out’ as having an eating disorder, I was 22, but I had battled with bulimia and anorexia since I was 16 years old. I was misdiagnosed several times, and unfortunately, I didn’t even receive a formal diagnosis. So I am uncertain as to what the exact diagnosis would have been, but here is a list to refer to. I was however diagnosed with Glandular Fever, Depression, and Anxiety. I had been put off going to the doctors because I was met with unprepared, uninformed, and some downright inexcusable behavior by some of the doctors I met with. (Don’t worry this isn’t a horror story, mine is a cautionary tale of strength and persistence).
To give you an idea of what it was like for me, to live with these eating disorders, was like being told how awful I looked every moment of every day. How everyone hated me because I looked so awful and that I’d have to make sure I only ate food if I binged it and purged it straight after. Discipline became a source of relief, so that was what I focussed on. I was so afraid of being told off, I had to obey. One doctor actually shouted at me for my diet not being nutritious enough. One laughed at me for breaking down in the appointment. Another told me that my time was up and I needed to leave. I became more and more insular, more secretive, and more convinced that I had to battle on alone.
Not having a formal diagnosis is hard in an evidence-based society. I don’t even have photos from that period of my life now, because I deleted social media.
My ED was my primary focus from the age of 16 to 24, it really ruled my life. During which period, I was scouted to be a model. I was at my smallest at 18 (I won’t be giving exact weights or details, in line with the guidance given to me by the UK’s leading Eating Disorder charity, BEAT). I remember what it was like, trawling the internet for diet tips, and turning them into guidelines and crib sheets on how to be the best at being skinny. I did this willingly, even though I did it in secret, knowing that it wasn’t what I should or wanted to be doing. That was part of the illness, I was living with a bully. I didn’t like how the illness was promoted within the industry and often felt unsafe, so I didn’t really pursue modeling. I also turned down auditions for acting jobs whilst I studied in the States. Because even though I was directly asked by producers, I was convinced they’d see me on camera and say they had made a mistake, I was too disgusting for the role.
However, I did find the courage to speak out. I can’t stress how important early intervention is. It took several patients and kind humans to gently suggest that I might have an eating disorder; for it to take effect. I knew what they were doing, and was grateful, even if at the time I ran away and hid from it. Knowing that people were there, that I had their support, even if I couldn’t face them at the time, was what pushed me to learn more, learn that it wasn’t me, it was the illness.
To separate the two has helped me. If you take anything away from this, I hope that it is that there is kindness in the world. It does exist, though it may be hard to see when you’re presented with the opposite daily (by your own head); but if you keep looking you will find it. In my case, it was there, I just couldn’t see it straight away. It took time. I still wrestle with body dysmorphia, but I have reeducated myself with what food is good for me and I am content with knowing that I have beaten the symptoms of bulimia and anorexia. But help is available as soon are you are ready to admit you are struggling!
Keep telling yourself you can beat it. I believe in you. Please know that you are valuable and important and please always get a second opinion if you’re unsatisfied with what a medical professional has said. Remember, doctors are also human, not to forgive malpractice, but we all have off days. The more education we have on mental health, the more we are able to be informed and support ourselves and each other.
If you are worried about anyone or would like more information on eating disorders BEAT and the NHS have useful resources, or if you would like to be part of a Zoom talk with other actors who have either experienced ED or are an ally, you may be interested to know that MSFT Management will be hosting a live session about Eating Disorders, where Holli will lead a discussion about ED.
All are welcome to join. Please email agentATmsftmanagement.com to request the Zoom Link and Pin.