Laura Evans believes in the healing power of a good brew.
She credits the humble cuppa with helping her to recover from an eating disorder that threatened her life.
At her lowest point, tea was the only thing she would consume in a day - and it would go on to play a fundamental role in her recovery.
“Even when I stopped eating, I never stopped drinking tea,” explains the 26-year-old.
“When I started on the road to recovery, tea remained a constant for me. “It felt safe and familiar and became like a gateway drug to trying other things. I started with tea, then felt confident to add milk and then sugar, then a biscuit, a slice of toast. The social element of it was healing too - going for coffee with a friend, sharing in the experience of eating and drinking with somebody else after hiding myself away for so long.”
Laura, an outreach officer at University of Sheffield, began piling on weight four years ago, while in an abusive relationship.
“When that relationship ended, I was quite overweight and decided to combat the issue by stopping eating totally,” she says.
“I lost weight quickly and people were telling me how fantastic I looked, which of course just reinforced the behaviour. I became a gym bunny and was soon going twice a day.
“There were days I would only eat pepper and hummus, other days I consumed nothing but tea. I never went out for dinner and started avoiding friends.” It was when Laura met her current partner, Steph, things finally started to change.
“I hadn’t enjoyed my life for about three years by that point, but I was still in denial that there was a problem,” admits Laura, of Crookes.
“It’s a very destructive disorder and absorbs you totally. I was engrossed in my eating habits and gym schedule and everything else slid. Finally Steph told me she couldn’t watch me destroy myself any longer.”
It was the push Laura needed to seek help. She went to see her GP who, after a few routine tests, gave her a clean bill of health.
Laura said: “He told me my vitamin D level was low, which he blamed on my ‘English Rose’ complexion, but said otherwise I was fine.”
Unsatisfied with her GP’s conclusion, Steph pushed Laura to visit the South Yorkshire Eating Disorders Association, which Laura now identifies as the turning point.
“I still didn’t really believe I had a problem, I went to SYEDA mainly because Steph was so upset. Ten minutes after I walked in the door, I was in tears as I spoke with staff, realising for the first time how bad things were.
“They didn’t want to know what my iron levels were, they wanted to know how I felt about my body today and how often I judged myself by what I ate.”
According to SYEDA, there are 725,000 people in the UK with an eating disorder, but pressure upon NHS services means many do not get the treatment they need.
“I was anorexic and wriggled right through the net,” says Laura.
“SYEDA picked up the pieces.”
Eighteen months on she is happy and healthy.
And she’s keen to give something back to the charity that stopped her falling through the cracks.
The self-confessed ‘Tea Witch’ launched ‘OcTeaber’ four weeks ago, to raise as much money and awareness as she could for the charity, with the help of her favourite beverage.
“I honestly believe that a cuppa and a chortle can solve 99 per cent of life’s problems,” she smiles.
“I wanted to give something back to SYEDA, share my love of tea and promote some fantastic local businesses.”
Over the last month, Laura has organised a series of tea-related events.
The last is ‘Final Des-tea-nation’ this weekend - a Halloween-themed wrap party.
Laura hopes the month of tea related fundraising events will raise £1,000.
She said: “I started my Tea Witch blog because I wanted to put my energy into something positive and this has been a wonderful experience.
“Most importantly I wanted to start a dialogue about eating disorders, as so many people tiptoe around the topic, but people not talking about it is part of the problem.
“Thanks to SYEDA, I am healthy now. I couldn’t tell you what I weigh as I haven’t been on the scales in six months, but I feel fantastic and am back to thoroughly enjoying every moment of my life.
“My work life and personal relationships are thriving and I’m finally relating to my friends again, because I’m not running off to gym instead of spending time with them.”
Visit Tea Witch for details.