Ellie's Story When I first came to The Living Room, I felt desperate and trapped in what I thought was my mad self. I hated myself. I was powerless over food, overeating and binge eating and restricting (starving myself). Standing in front of the fridge wishing that I would not open the door, but I had to, I had to eat something. Lying in bed at midnight, unable to get to sleep or suddenly waking up at 3am with a feeling of survival; determination to eat something, (usually high in sugar and salt) anything to calm my racing mind, overthinking, worrying. Nothing was ever enough, well until I had eaten so much that I was in what I call a food coma. But this was not sustainable. I was putting on weight. That was upsetting me, and I had hardly any clothes that fitted me. The sense of low self-esteem was devastating, and I felt weak, alone, pathetic, in fact I didn’t like myself at all! The morning of my first day at The Living Room, I was binge eating while driving and at the same time (while driving) punching myself in the face and screaming because I was so frustrated and angry with myself for binge eating and then for hurting myself. When I arrived, I was welcomed with warmth and care, offered a cup of tea and met my Key Worker. During the interview I cried a lot. I then went into one of the group sessions. I was so happy to have arrived in a place where there were other people that said the same things as me. I cried every day for many weeks. As my time has gone on at The Living Room, I have experienced a total and utter life changing transformation. It has not been easy to face up to my many, many issues that go very deep. My ‘stuff’ isn’t just around food, very quickly I realised I was an addict, and that this took on many forms for me. Cross addiction is something that we don’t always understand, now it’s very clear for me what that means. My main addictions are disordered eating, relationships (sex and love addiction), co-dependency, self-harm and shoplifting, living in fantasy. This is all about me and my emotions, it’s about learnt behaviours and coping strategies from childhood and other significant people along the way in my life I grew up in a dysfunctional home – my parents were heavy drinkers, drug users and rageaholics, who after a very acrimonious divorce have hated each other since I was a child and used me and my brother as pawns in their battles. The impact of their actions led me to develop behaviours, that I thought were helping me, during childhood and then as an adult. Now I can see that those behaviours do not serve me today. It’s thanks to The Living Room, I can see and live a new life for myself. One where I care for myself, I like and love myself, I look after me. That means I eat 3 nutritious meals a day – if I feel hungry or have a craving (not often now thankfully) I sit with that feeling and think ‘why’. If I feel compelled to shoplift I stop and look at that feeling, reflect on the day and my emotions that have led me to this point where I want to act in a way that will take me out of myself. I look at the relationships in my life and how I FEEL, really FEEL when I am with those people. I have always chosen inappropriate partners but it’s a different story today. At The Living Room I work with my fellow clients to build trust and caring relationships. I have learnt to be assertive and say what I want or think, and I have learnt the art of saying NO. I have boundaries in my life which have probably been the biggest lesson for me. The Living Room saved my life – and I will be eternally grateful.