Scotland's Aroosha Nekonam describes herself as having always been focused on physical fitness. The 25-year-old law graduate started dance when she was just 3 years old and stayed active in dance until she was 15. By the time she hit her mid-teens, however, she began to struggle with self-esteem and personal problems that led to a seven-year battle with anorexia.
As she pushed her body to the breaking point, she also became more and more withdrawn into herself.
The eating disorder crept up on her, at first taking the form of more and more exercise, and increasingly restricted food intake. "Before weight training, I was very much a cardio bunny ... I used to do a lot of running," she told A Plus in an interview, "and then once my disorder kicked, in I began running more for longer periods and with very little food to fuel me. I used it as a sort of punishment, because there were things going on in my personal life I couldn't handle and this was my way of getting some kind of control."
Within five years, the disease became life-threatening. Her hair began to fall out. Her skin suffered. She was so fragile and skeletal that she couldn't lie in bed for long before discomfort set in. Her mother took her to see doctors who informed her that she faced grave consequences. In a video telling her story, Nekonam describes how doctors advised her that she needed to be confined to a wheelchair as walking was overly taxing to her heart. She made tentative plans to enter a clinic in South Africa, but was warned that she wouldn't survive the flight.
In an interview with Metro.co.uk, she described her psychological state during that time. "My self-worth was just at rock bottom. I felt like I wasn't achieving anything, or meeting the expectations I'd set for myself. I've never hated before, but at that time, I hated myself. Starving myself was my answer to everything because, in my eyes, it was the only thing I was good at.'
She realized the gravity of her situation and began to make a change.
'More than anything, I wanted to get better for my family," she told Metro.co.uk. "I put them through hell, which is something it's taken me a long time to forgive myself for."
With the aid of doctors and dietitians, Nekonam began a two and half year struggle with anorexia, slowly gaining weight, and reclaiming her body and mind.
"Once I knew I wanted to recover," Nekonam said to Metro.co.uk, "I was in a state of shock that I'd done that to myself. I worked with my psychiatrist and dietician to build up my weight gradually and, as my body grew stronger, so did my mind."
"I couldn't have got through this without them," she said of her doctors. "Anorexia is an illness that thrives on silence and isolation, so it's vital people talk about it and not suffer in silence,"
As she began her recovery, she discovered bodybuilding.
"During recovery, I was on social media a lot and I came across so many female bodybuilders and I was in awe of how strong they were but still feminine," she told us. "I wanted to change my life around, I was so frail and so weak, I had a choice to make and I chose life."
"Now I train to make myself stronger," Nekonam said.
"[Although] I have become more solid mentally through my disorder, I am still human and, of course, still have days where things can get me down," Nekonam told A Plus. "But I will never take myself or my body for granted again. There are things I love about myself and there are things I don't, but I accept them."
"Don't let your mind bully your body, and don't be ashamed of your disorder ..."
"... silence will be your biggest enemy so surround yourself with support and love."
"You don't have to go through it alone."
If you're suffering from an eating disorder, it's nothing to be ashamed of. You're not alone. According to statistics compiled by Eating Disorder Hope, 10 million women and 1 million men in America suffer from eating disorders. Here is a list of organizations and resources that can help you.
Thank you to Aroosha Nekonam for taking the time to talk with us and for sharing her story.
Share your personal recovery stories in the comments below. You might just inspire someone.