Charlotte emailed me out of the blue last spring and asked if she could come and do work experience at 18 Doughty Street for a week this summer. We emailed back and forth and but I never heard back from her. I eventually found out why. She died from an eating disorder. She was only 18. What a terrible waste of a life. Her wonderful family were devastated.
This week, her mother has written an article on the family's experience for Beating Eating Disorders, a Norwich based charity.
It was the middle of August, and we were waiting for Charlotte’s A-level results – me, Charlotte’s dad and her little brother, William. Then the phone rang. It was her school. My heart was leaping as I answered it. Charlotte had been awarded four A grades – the results she had hoped for. On that day, I felt so proud that I was – and always will be – Charlotte’s Mum.Most people don't understand eating disorders. It's a bit like mental illness. People are embarrassed to talk about it. Charlotte's mother is very brave to have told her story. I blogged about Charlotte when I found out about her death last year, but someone suggested I shouldn't have in case her parents wouldn't approve. So I took the blogpost down, just in case. I now regret that I did because her parents clearly want others to learn from what happened to them and their family. I have now reposted it.
Charlotte was always a bright, determined and caring girl. She did excellently in school, and was active in organisations such as Young Farmers and Conservative Future. Her ambition was to attend Cambridge University. At weekends, Charlotte completed Duke of Edinburgh awards and even tried her hand at helicopter piloting. Whenever Charlotte had a spare minute, she always filled it with something exciting.
Throughout her second year of sixth form, Charlotte battled with a severe eating disorder. Suddenly, we watched our outgoing, strong-willed daughter taken over by this terrible disease.The illness took a hold of her.
She began over-exercising dangerously. We even got a worried phonecall from her gym. She started starving herself too. Sometimes she would go days without food. We tried our best to help Charlotte. We were always there for her, to listen to her and reassure her. But it wasn’t easy. The illness was determined to take our daughter from us. We never gave up.
I remember when we took Charlotte to the hospital, her dad had to pick her up and carry her up the stairs. My beautiful daughter was too weak to climb them herself. Inside, Charlotte was still strong. One day, as I sat next to her in the hospital, she promised me she would get better. Charlotte had gone so far in her life – and she refused to let an eating disorder stop her. But it did. On the 8th August, Charlotte died. Her eating disorder had severely weakened her immune system.
In the end, it was an unexpected bout of pneumonia which took her from us. Charlotte died with dignity. She spent her last moments together with her family – me, her dad and William. As she lay there, we comforted her and held her hand. Eventually, we had to let it go.
If you would like to make a donation to Beating Eating Disorders, click HERE.