Gemma Oaten has spoken out about her battle with anorexia as a teenager and the enormous pressure those with eating disorders face at Christmas.
The former Emmerdale actress, 36, took to Twitter on Monday to share a shocking photo of herself at ‘death’s door’ as a teenager, telling fans how making a festive cake for a school project was ‘torture’.
Gemma said at the time she was ‘dead inside’, was slowly getting more poorly, and added it took her 14 years after the photo was taken to have a ‘normal Christmas’.
Candid: Gemma Oaten has spoken out about her battle with anorexia as a teenager and the enormous pressure those with eating disorders face at Christmas
Gemma wrote: ‘I had planned to post this photo yesterday, but then the news was announced and I didn’t feel it right. But on reflection today, it’s relevant.
‘This was the first Christmas, it didn’t feel like Christmas and I never had a ‘normal’ one again for 14 years. Here’s why…
‘Two months after this photo was taken I was on deaths door with anorexia and life changed forever. You see a smile, but I was dead inside. I was slowly getting more poorly and making this cake for a school project was torture. Here’s the very sad thing…
Eating disorder: ‘You see a smile, but I was dead inside. I was slowly getting more poorly and making this cake for a school project was torture’, Gemma said (pictured in 2019)
‘Xmas is robbed every year for someone with an eating disorder. It is the single most dreaded day of the year. Food, family food, pressure, food, company, food food food. Its the time of year many deteriorate or take their life, as the thought of living through it is too much…’
Gemma said she was stunned while when talking as a guest on Times Radio she was reunited with her psychiatrist ‘who I first met on that death bed I mentioned’.
She continued: ‘I was shook, anyone who listened could hear me crack… But it was a huge reminder of the trauma that ensues for years after for anyone who has battled an eating disorder.
‘At 36, I was ready to see @AgnesAyton again and I found it very healing. Yet it reiterated how mammoth the effects of this devastating mental health illness is.’
The former Emmerdale star first formed a complicated relationship with food at the age of ten before being diagnosed with an eating disorder just two years later.
Disturbing: Gemma (pictured left age 18 and right 19) has been battling numerous health issues since as a direct result of her anorexia
Speaking to The Sun in June she said: ‘I just restricted my eating completely. I constantly felt fat. It was just a spiral. I became a prisoner of my own mind…
‘I would be pumped with calories, drugs and potassium and shipped back out. There was no funding to put me anywhere that was specialised.’
Gemma said that she was warned by doctors that if she didn’t eat or drink anything within 24 hours she would be dead.
And she has been battling numerous health issues since as a direct result of her anorexia.
The soap star said: ‘My eating disorder was always there and waiting to pounce. At 18, it spiralled again and I had a heart attack. A year later at 19, I had a bowel prolapse [when the rectal wall slides out].’
The health scares served as a wake up call for Gemma who said she decided to start seeing a therapist and has now been in recovery for 13 years.
But she continues to take a tablet each day to help her bladder, which was weakened by the bowel prolapse, as well as medication for her stomach and laxatives to relieve internal pressure.
For help and support with eating disorders contact SEED on (01482) 718130 or visit www.seedeatingdisorders.org.uk.
Days before a heart attack: Earlier this year, Gemma shared a shocking photo taken at the height of her anorexia battle aged 19