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Young Derbyshire woman who lost three friends to eating disorders wins anorexia battle

Emma Duffy
Emma Duffy

When Emma Duffy went out for a meal to celebrate her dad’s birthday, she enjoyed a big slice of chocolate cake.

‘So what?’ you might ask.

Emma in November 2013.  Ross Parry/ Tom Maddick

Emma in November 2013. Ross Parry/ Tom Maddick

But for the 28-year-old this fluffy treat tasted extra sweet.

This is because she has been battling anorexia since she was aged nine.

The Bolsover woman has been in and out of hospital and mental health units all her life.

It got so bad that she tried to take her own life on nine occasions.

Emma and her sister Amy at their dad's birthday meal on Sunday.

Emma and her sister Amy at their dad's birthday meal on Sunday.

But not anymore.

She has just successfully completed 10 months in a specialist mental health centre called The Retreat in York after a long-running fight trying to secure funding.

And now Emma, of Carr Vale Road, is back home feeling happy and confident and ready to take on the world again after being discharged two weeks ago.

In fact, as I interviewed her she was eating granola and yoghurt for breakfast and planning a return to university to study nursing, a course she enrolled on before her problems worsened.

And to coincide with Eating Disorders Awareness Week, Emma has this message to those who are suffering.

“There is hope for people,” she told the Derbyshire Times. “Too many people give up on themselves and too many professionals give up on people.”

Emma is keen to stress the importance of getting the right help, as she has lost three of her friends to eating disorders.

“If they had been given the same chance as I got they would still be here,” she said.

After finally being granted the funding to be admitted to The Retreat, Emma says from day one she was given hope that she would make a full recovery.

She said the treatment was less focused on calorie intake and included a number of different approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy, body image and cooking groups.

“It was the first place that had actual therapy,” Emma said. “All the staff were brilliant - they all offered something different.

“All the girls supported each other as well.

“The first thing the staff said to me was ‘you are going to recover’. I thought I would get better but I did not think I would be able to go out for a meal and eat cake.”

She added: “I wish there was more places like The Retreat. Going to The Retreat was the last chance for me.

“I feel completely different.”

Emma’s sister, Amy, 24, said: “The Retreat, alongside Emma’s hard work, have given me my sister back. She now has energy to do things she couldn’t do before, we can book weekends away without fear of her being hospitalised and do normal things like make and eat dinner together.”

A fundraising page set up on behalf of the Naomi Unit at The Retreat can be viewed here

First Steps is a Derbyshire charity which helps people with eating disorders.