Blog: We are all strong enough to overcome the challenges that life throws at us

Jess Troy
Jess Troy (pictured left) shares her journey of overcoming Anorexia Nervosa. Credit: Jess Troy

Jess Troy has been living with an eating disorder for the last six years.

In August 2017, the 23-year-old was eventually diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa.

She is one of Jersey's top performing endurance athletes having competed for her country at various national competitions and two Island Games.

At the Natwest Island Games in Gibraltar 2019, she won Team Gold and Individual Bronze in the half marathon.

Two years on from this sporting high, she is sharing her experiences of living with an eating disorder and how she overcame it.

Jess crossing the half marathon finish line at the Natwest Island Games in Gibraltar 2019. Credit: Jess Troy
  • A personal account from Jess Troy

Everyone feels a little bit better in themselves when they know they are in control of their lives. I really think that is just part of human nature in the modern society we live in. So when an element of our ability to control what we do; where we go; and who we are, becomes compromised, our instinct to live our fast paced and usually structured daily routine, simply falls to pieces.

For all I know, I could be making an excessively generalized assumption about how the minds of my fellow humans work. But even if I am, I’m pretty sure we’ve all found endless months of masks and lockdowns have fed us a pretty hard pill to swallow. We have all had to adapt to cope with the unknown. It is something I’m sure no one was quite ready for.

The pandemic has compromised our physical and mental health, and challenged the experiences of many. I remember saying to a family member during the first lockdown that there would be light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, we didn’t know quite how long that tunnel would be. 

Jess Troy says her love for sport began at an early age. She has been running since her early teenage years. Credit: Jess Troy

I’ve started this account with this reference to the pandemic since it is a universal challenge we are all still facing. For about six years now, I have struggled with a compulsive need to control my surroundings as a coping mechanism for anxiety and stress.

Since my final year of sixth form, my outlet for this was controlling my food intake and energy output. I have always been an active person, and grew to become a competitive long distance runner in my late teens. Even as a child, I struggled with a fear of change and failure, and have pushed myself to be the best I feel I can be.

The trouble with being a perfectionist however, is that usually, even “perfect” stops being good enough. 

Jess Troy competing at an endurance event in York, where she went to University. Credit: Jess Troy

Living an active lifestyle is something everyone can benefit from, both mentally and physically. Nevertheless a passion for it, if not kept in check, can very quickly become and obsession. This is where I lost a balance in my life, causing a pretty messy few years for both myself, and those incredible people who became my support network.

Food and exercise became my control mediums. If I was anxious, at least one would have to be manipulated. After a few years of this, and following hospital admissions, blood transfusions, and many compromised friendships, I was diagnosed with an eating disorder; anorexia nervosa. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and affects between 1.25 and 3.4 million people in the UK.

I have been in mental health therapy for half a decade now, and met some truly brilliant people who have taught me so much about myself along the way. The path to recovery, like many mental illnesses, is not a straight line. I have had many ups and downs, including a significant relapse during the first Covid lockdown. These occurrences can break you, but in the long run, they will make you stronger.

Now a year on from the lowest point in my life, I am discharged from therapy, and finally feel free from the angry little voice that lived inside me. Have faith in yourself, and trust the process - it is there for a reason.

Jess Troy says she has always enjoyed the outdoors and travelling. Credit: Jess Troy

I don’t write these words or share my story to gain attention or sympathy. People who know me would hopefully tell you I’m quite the opposite. I simply want to spread an awareness, to normalize talking about our mental well-being and the things that scare us. It’s good to talk, everyone should remember that.

I write this personal account whilst traveling across England via train to visit my closest friends from university. The pandemic meant I had not been able to see them since my graduation, over two years ago. The pandemic began with me telling myself there would be light at the end of the tunnel, and although like many others I don’t think it would quite this long, I have finally found that light: a light that had not only restored my physical health, but also my mental well-being.

A good friend recently told me we should never live with regrets, and that everything happens for a reason. Although I’m sure this pandemic is something we could never wish on ourselves or our society again, a positive and reflective outlook such as this is something I feel many of us have learnt from.

Be thankful for where you are now; thankful of the experiences that made you stronger; and thankful for the joys yet to come. We are all deserving of good things, and we are all strong enough to overcome the challenges that life throws at us, now, and beyond.

Keep smiling, keep moving, keep thriving.

Jess is now encouraging others to come forward and talk about their mental health problems. Credit: Jess Troy