A letter to my younger self by Beth Allison

Dear Ruby,

First things first, your hair. Sorry for being so blunt, but there really is no other way to say this: sort it out, girl. Or, more to the point, don’t sort it out – leave it alone! You have lovely hair – long, thick, a rich chocolate brown that the corporate clones at L’Oreal would die for. Why mess about with it? I will never know how a box that said ‘Burning auburn red’ managed to turn your wig into that demented carrot colour – I mean it affectionately when I say you looked like Ginny Weasley’s twin sister. Still, you learn from your mistakes, I suppose.

Speaking of mistakes, let’s do five minutes on that boyfriend of yours. Jason, I think. Or was it Justin? Maybe it was both – let’s be honest, you had more than your fair share. Ask yourself an honest question – are they making you happy? Your friends tell you often enough, and you’re intelligent enough to figure it out for yourself. You don’t really need them. You’re fifteen, Ruby. You have the rest of your life for boyfriends and break-ups and all that wonderful messiness that the magazines, the books and the films call ‘love’. Take my advice and enjoy being young while you can.

This leads quite neatly into my next point. I think you know what I’m going to say, but this one’s important, so listen up. The eating disorder. Give it up, Ruby. Please, please, please. Stop while you can. I know it’s easier said than done. I know that at this point it’s got you well and truly in its grip; you’re caught, you’re hooked, you’re addicted. But let me tell you now that all those hours spent counting calories, arguing with your frustrated family and exercising yourself into oblivion at the gym, you don’t get them back.

All those nights you spent in hospital while your friends were out at parties having fun, living life, you don’t get them back. Life doesn’t give you any second chances. Make sure you live your life, Ruby; don’t exist as some kind of anorexic shell. There is no happy medium with anorexia. You cannot please that voice in your head and have the life that I know you want – A levels, travelling, university – at the same time. It’s just not possible. So the next time your friends ask you if you want to go out for pizza, have an ice cream at the beach or (in a couple of years of course) go over for a couple of drinks, just say yes. The world will not end, I promise.

Recovery is a long, hard slog. But it IS possible. It’s a weird kind of paradox, but the traits that got you into anorexia – the perfectionism, the drive, the ruthless determination – are exactly what you’ll need to get out of it. All the energy you put into starving, put it into recovering. I’ll be honest, those anorexic thoughts will always be under the surface, ready to pounce in a moment of weakness. But DO NOT let them take over you. You can do this. It is worth it.

Nobody ever looks back at the end of their life and says: “I wish I spent more time starving myself.” It just doesn’t happen.

Well, I think that’s enough from me. Look after yourself, Ruby. At risk of sounding like one of those cheesy greetings cards, I’ll say it again, live your life. It gets better.