Lizzie’s flight for fight against anorexia

Lizzie Hill, 21, takes off on her wing walk which has helped her in her long-running battle with anorexia. ANL-160921-141744001

Lizzie Hill, 21, takes off on her wing walk which has helped her in her long-running battle with anorexia. ANL-160921-141744001

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A woman from Bures says taking part in a wing walk in memory of her grandad has helped motivate her in her struggle with anorexia.

On September 11, Lizzie Hill rode on the wing of an aircraft for Parkinson’s UK in memory of her grandad, Tony Hill, who died in 2014 after suffering from Parkinson’s.

Despite raising £2,045 for the charity, Lizzie is equally as proud of her ability to use the charity fundraiser as a means of recovery, having been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa aged just 11.

The 21-year-old from High Street said: “It was about tackling my fears and channelling all my energy into recovery from my own struggles so I could be physically fit enough to do the wing walk.” 

Since her diagnosis the former Colchester Royal Grammar school pupil has had numerous hospital admissions for months on end.

She was also later diagnosed with severe depression and generalised anxiety disorder.

The last time Lizzie was admitted to hospital, just one year ago, she nearly lost her life, ending up in intensive care.

“My parents were told I only had a 40 per cent chance of surviving,” she said. “Fortunately I pulled through, but with many complications.

“I don’t want to dwell on this period of my life as it is both scary and traumatising just thinking about it.

“Following my discharge from a specialist unit in Cambridge, over a period of months I was slowly slipping down again and I was aware things were getting out of control.

“I so wanted to get better but I had been in this vicious cycle of hospital-relapse for so long, I knew no different.

“I didn’t know how to make the change and before I knew what was happening another hospital admission was being discussed. Even with this threat, I felt unable to make the change for the better.

“I had secured a place at the University of York to study biomedical science in 6 months time, which I wanted to do more than anything, but it felt impossible to get there.”

It was at this time when Lizzie was desperate for the support of her grandad who she said spurred her on to achieve things she never thought possible.

She started attending events hosted by Parkinson’s UK, and one day saw the opportunity of doing a wing walk.

“I approached my mum about it and she looked at me in disbelief,” she said. “I knew I couldn’t do it at my low weight and poor physical health.

“But I wanted a focus. I wanted to do something in memory of my grandad. I wanted to make a difference.”

That moment was key, pushing her on to committing to recovery. She started gaining weight to get herself in a good enough position to do the flight.

“It was hard and at times I wanted to give up, but as I saw the sponsorship rolling in I felt I had no choice but to continue,” she said. “I got through the bad days, and with time things started to get easier and going to university became more than just a dream.

“I read this quote which really seemed to sum things up. ‘The difference between a dream and a goal is a deadline’.”

On September 11, she successfully walked the top wing of a Boeing-Stearman biplane, describing the experience as both exhilarating and petrifying.

“I felt so happy afterwards and knew my grandad would be proud.”

She says the walk helped her make huge strides towards her recovery and her dream is now to go to university, hoping to one-day help to find a cure for Parkinson’s.

She says she can draw many parallels between anorexia and Parkinson’s, with victims of both suffering from the stigma that surrounds the conditions.

She is hoping to raise awareness to reduce this stigma, starting with people openly sharing their experiences as she has started to about her own since finding and achieving her wing walk goal.

She said: “Through this, slowly but surely we have the ability to break down the societal stigma surrounding Parkinson’s, or, in fact, any condition with a mental health component.”

You can donate to Lizzie’s fund at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Lizzie-Hill35.