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Brave Sheffield teenager speaks out about her anorexia hell and why she's off to meet the Royals at Buckingham Palace

Sheffield teenager Lara Ferguson spoke out about her long running battle with anorexia, her work as a member of the UK Youth Parliament and an advisor for the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star
Sheffield teenager Lara Ferguson spoke out about her long running battle with anorexia, her work as a member of the UK Youth Parliament and an advisor for the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Picture: Dean Atkins/The Star
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Lara Ferguson has battled anorexia and has attempted to take her own life more times than she can remember.

But a smile beams across her face as she excitedly explains why she'll be meeting The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

It's to the exact day three ago on October 10 when she was discharged from hospital after being sectioned.

Describing the difference from the time she contemplated suicide to now, she said with a big grin: "It's unreal. I can't put into words just how much of a different person I am."

The Sheffield teenager will be at Buckingham Palace as a guest of honour to be recognised for her work on improving mental health for young.

But this is a world away from the 'pit of despair' she once found her self in.

Lara with an ice cream - the first food piece of food which wasn't a rice cake, mash potato or porridge

Lara with an ice cream - the first food piece of food which wasn't a rice cake, mash potato or porridge

Living off a diet of mash potato, rice cakes and porridge, Lara said she would hear voices telling her her 'family would die' if she ate anything.

For Lara to be sat explaining her long fight with mental illness is nothing short of amazing. She had hardly eaten anything when she took her AS Level exams and still managed to get three As. A 20 minute walk to Tapton School from her Crosspool home took her an hour.

This was against the advice of NHS mental health professionals.

After saying 'enough is enough' the day after her last exam, she began her road to recovery by picking up a cornetto ice cream. The first time she had eaten anything other than her three stapled foods.

Now Lara is putting the weight back on and has discovered a love of chocolate.

The 18-year-old is now an advocate for mental health in young people and is a member of the Youth Parliament.

Lara is speaking out about her battle and feels mental health needs to be talked about in the same way physical health does.

The 18-year-old first became ill around five-years-ago with depression and anxiety. But was brushed off by her GP.

Lara said despite being a healthy weight in this picture, she was really unwell

Lara said despite being a healthy weight in this picture, she was really unwell

Speaking to The Star, she said: "I opened up to them, I was about 13 or 14 and told them how I was feeling and they told me it was just hormonal teenage problems. I was given a website to look at and that was that.

"It made me doubt myself, I thought maybe there was nothing wrong with me and thought 'am I being pathetic?'

"It spiraled out of control, I started self harming and that got gradually worse and I became really suicidal. I attempted to take my life on multiple occasions - I was in this pit of despair."

Lara began hearing 'strange voices' which would order her not to eat because if she did, her family would die.

This was when the frequent visits to Sheffield Children's Hospital and later the Becton Centre in Beighton where she was sectioned at the age of 16.

"It was a horrific time of my life," Lara recalls.

"Your whole life is controlled, you're not allowed to walk out with your family and do normal things. You can have your stuff taken away from you, they can lock you out of your room it's incredibly isolating.

"It was awful, I was tube fed but because of the section order, if I refused due to the voices in my head, I'd get restrained and was force fed.

"It consumes your whole world - you're inside those hospital walls and you forget the outside world which makes being discharged even harder."

She was in hospital throughout the summer of 2015 had to watch her school friends sit their exams, go on amazing holidays and to parties.

Because Lara was so ill, her mum Alison and dad James cancelled the family holiday.

Things got worse for Lara by August 2016 in which she described as a 'roller coaster journey'.

"My mum and dad were really scared. My mum wanted me to sleep with her because she was so worried in the night that I'd be exercising and that would put too much strain on my heart - she was petrified.

"I'd do anything I could do, I'd do sit-ups, press-ups, jogging on the spot but my main thing was an obsession with walking I just wanted to be walking at all points in the day.

"I got to a point earlier this year where I couldn't get out of bed and couldn't do it anymore so that would stress me even more."

Her AS exams came around in June of this year and Lara was in one of the worst conditions she's ever been.

"Things got really severe again, my body was suffering, I was really underweight and I was more ill than I've ever been before.

"Before I sat my exams, I was laying in bed, I was really cold and I could feel my heart doing really strange things. I was so scared I text my mum 'I love you' before I went to sleep because I was scared it was going to be the night that I wouldn't wake up.

"I was told I was too unwell to sit my exams but I did them anyway."

The Tapton Sixth Form student plans to go onto York University to study psychology and the future is looking up for Lara.

She's back at school two days a week and on the other three days a week, she is a day patient at St George's in Upperthorpe. She's on the road to recovery.

Looking back at where she's come from, Lara paid tribute to her family and the scores of NHS staff who helped her.

Lara made special mention of her close friendship with Ellie Markham, 24, and Lizzie Nice, 19.

"I met them when I was really ill last year. If it wasn't for them, I don't think I'd be here today. We've all gone through this journey together and I can't thank them enough."

She had a message for anyone who might be struggling with something similar.

"If someone thinks they or someone else they know may be suffering from an eating disorder, then please seek help as soon as possible. It's often tempting to wait until you feel ill enough, but I guarantee that you will never be ill enough to satisfy your disorder," she said.

"Before you know it you have been waiting for the perfect time to start recovery and it will never have come, but instead years of your life will have slipped away. My biggest regret is not accepting help sooner.

"One of the biggest misconceptions about eating disorders is that you have to be thin. Although one of the inevitable side effects of anorexia is weight loss, it is primarily a psychological disorder. People can be effected at all ends of the weight spectrum.

"It does get better. There have been countless days where I felt like I'd never break free of this cycle, like I was destined to be ill, and unhappy for ever. But the over the past few months I've learned that life won't always be bleak. As each day passes I'm slowly getting happier and healthier and now for the first time I'm genuinely excited about the future and all the things to come."