Brave teenager pens book on eating disorder and mental health

Emilia Adler has written How to be Brave about her personal struggles with eating disorders and mental health.

Emilia Adler has written How to be Brave about her personal struggles with eating disorders and mental health. - Credit: Ulla Adler

A courageous teenager has turned her struggles with mental health into a book aimed at helping other youngsters.

Emilia Adler, 17, who previously attended school in St Albans, has written How to be Brave to give hope to others with similar issues to those she has faced.

Her mother Ulla explained: "Emilia has always been quite a quiet, studious child and very organised. She has ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) which was diagnosed quite late when she was 14 years old.

"Late diagnosis is very common for girls as they are good at masking, pretending that everything is going well. Usually girls can’t pretend anymore around the time they go to secondary school and challenges and difficulties, for example in social situations, will start to affect them causing severe anxiety. That’s what happened to Emilia.

"She was brilliant at masking and everyone called her just a shy girl and expected her to grow out of it. But she didn’t and her days were getting harder and harder with increasing sensory issues, anxiety, problems with body image and so on.

"Her school was supportive but everything happened quickly and Emilia deteriorated faster than anyone expected as she finally let her mask drop.


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"Anorexia took over as eating was the only thing that she was able to control. Everything else that she has known has shattered around her but eating was her choice and she chose not to eat."

Emilia became so unwell that she wasn’t able to go to school for two years. She was in and out of hospitals, tried therapy after therapy, and was classified as an extremely complicated case.

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Ulla continued: "Then during one of her stays at an Eating Disorder Unit she decided to write down her feelings and observations. Emilia has always had very strong, clear, often accurate views of things that are happening to her or her surroundings, and now she was seeing things that didn’t make sense, things that could have been done better in a more effective and individual way."

Emilia decided to explain her findings to others by writing How to Be Brave, showing a different way to progress with child and adolescent mental health care.

Ulla added: "Emilia has now been asked to give her opinions, views and ideas to make mental health care more effective and personal in the future and she’s very excited about the opportunity to be able to make a difference. She is now attending a special needs school where she’s flourishing and learning to know herself again. The battle with anorexia continues but she’s definitely beating it slowly but steadily."

Emilia Adler has written How to be Brave about her personal struggles with eating disorders and mental health.

Emilia Adler has written How to be Brave about her personal struggles with eating disorders and mental health. - Credit: Ulla Alder

Emilia said: "I wrote the book because over the years I’ve written so much and wanted to put it all together. It’s a way for people to understand me better, but also to hopefully help someone. The whole time I was writing, in my head I said ‘all you need to do is help one person’. 

"When I was suffering, there was no book I could honestly relate to, so I wrote my own in the middle of my illness and recovery, with the hope that at least one person can get something out of it.

"I have received quite a lot of feedback about how people like the honesty and not sugar-coating the ‘bad’ things.

"During the writing process I felt good. I didn’t push myself. I would go two weeks without writing at all, and then I’d write a chapter in a day. When it comes to writing, if I am not in the right mood it doesn’t come from the heart. I have to wait for the right moments. I had the document connected to my phone so that if I was ever out and about and had an idea, I could write there and then, in the ‘mood’. It was a really relaxing and easy process.

"I am looking forward to working with mental health professionals to help them understand how the services could be improved from a young person's perspective."

How to be Brave is published by Grosvenor House and available from the usual outlets.

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