BELIEVE in yourself. That’s the message Camilla Thompson wants to spread during Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
The former Harton Technology College pupil has now won her battles with anorexia and bulimia – but, at her lightest, she weighed just six-and-a-half stone – and she’s 5ft 8ins tall..
But now Camilla, a worker at Gala Bingo in the Denmark Centre, South Shields, is fighting fit, and she’s on a mission to become a role model to others.
The 25-year-old, of The Nook in South Shields, said: “I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, and I went to South Tyneside College in Hebburn after I left school to work towards it, but I was bullied so badly that I couldn’t go through with it.
“It was by girls who I thought were my friends in school, and it was really hard.
“People called me a freak and told me that what I was going through wasn’t real and that all I had to do was eat. But if it was that easy, there wouldn’t be such a thing as eating disorders.”
Eating Disorders Awareness Week began on Monday and runs until Sunday, and Camilla is using it as a platform to get her message across and let people know there’s help out there for them.
She said: “It all started when I was about 17 with anorexia nervosa, then developed into bulimia.
“I really didn’t think I could beat it, but then I started working with a support group in Newcastle, called the Reds Team, and they’ve helped me a lot.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t even walk around the corner without feeling faint, and I didn’t want to keep putting pressure on my family.
“It all stemmed from low self-esteem and not having any confidence.”
Camilla has also worked with Beat, a charity helping those with eating disorders, to overcome her illnesses.
She said: “You can just ring them and talk to them and read case studies about other people on their website, and it’s really helped me.
“There are always people there to help you if you just believe in yourself.
“The message I want to get across to people is to just never give up. I know it’s hard, and it feels like you can’t do it, but you can, if you just never give up.
“There were times when I didn’t want to be here and I didn’t want to be in pain any more, and I wanted to just give up, but if I can do it, you can do it too.”
She added: “You’ve just got to believe in yourself and not let other people put you down and make you feel like you’re not worth anything, because you are.
“It’s hard to hear people saying nasty things about you, and it can really get you down, but you can’t let it.
“You’ve got to stop letting it and other people defeat you, and defeat it yourself.”
Camilla has since gone to Gateshead College and has ambitions to go to university to study nursing.
But first she’s taking a year out from her studies to concentrate on training for this year’s Great North Run, to raise money for Beat.