These Heartbreaking Photos Show What Life Is Like With An Eating Disorder
Photographer Marie Hald documents what goes on inside an eating disorder treatment centre in Poland.
Marie Hald is a 28-year-old professional photographer from Denmark.
Last year Hald travelled to an eating disorder treatment centre in Malawa, a small village in the south of Poland. The treatment centre is a little yellow house called Drzewo Zycia, which means "Tree of Life". The centre was set up in response to a lack of mental health care in Poland by a woman called Ella, whose own daughter had an eating disorder.
During her stay Hald befriended some of the female patients there and participated in the programme's activities. "Most of the girls only spoke Polish, so the girls who were fluent in English explained and translated what I was saying," she told BuzzFeed News. The treatment involves a rigid routine, which she felt gave the patients comfort: "Whilst they were often bored with everything being the same everyday it also gave them comfort and peace and allowed them to focus on the therapy sessions."
Hald found the meals the most difficult part of the programme to witness: "The girls were miserable afterwards. They took about an hour to finish the same portion of food that I quickly finished and they were clearly struggling with the voices inside their heads."
Despite the stressful conditions the patients were in, Hald got to know their personalities independent from their eating disorders: "I was surprised to see how brilliantly clever, funny, friendly every single one was." Hald also noticed how they drew strength from each other, often sneaking into each other's rooms to chat late into the night: "Many of the nights were spent playing guitar and singing pop songs, both Polish and American, and reading magazines whilst lying in each others bed."
Ania, pictured singing below, is a big fan of Demi Lovato who has spoken out about her own eating disorder. Ania told Hald that she enjoys singing along to Lovato's lyrics, especially when she's feeling low.
The girls Hald met were very open about their condition: "I think they’re so brave for participating and opening up to my camera and to the world. I explained a lot about photojournalism and they felt a kind of strength in being able to tell their stories and have a voice."
Once their stay at the treatment centre is over the patients receive outpatient treatment. "The girls that live nearby Malawa will come in for therapy with their families," Hald said. "I am in contact with a few of the girls still and they are slowly moving forward. Some have Instagram profiles where they share their recovery process so I can also follow up there."
The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organisation in the United States advocating on behalf of and supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. You can call their helpline on 1-800-931-2237.
In the UK ABC, the Anorexia and Bulimia Care charity, offers befriending support to sufferers and has support helplines open 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday. You can call them on: 03000 11 12 13.