Put in solitary to treat Anorexia

The Chapel
Closed captioning icon

As she began to struggle with anorexia, Tania's world crumbled. Could God give her hope when she was at her lowest point with no other options?

Play icon
White Facebook iconWhite Twitter icon
Copy URL icon
Link copied!

Tania's Story

Tania was at the top of her game in high school, until it all started to fall apart. Little by little, anorexia took hold. Back then the doctors didn't know how to treat it back then so she was committed to a mental institute in solitary for six months. Was there really no hope for Tania?


I did gymnastics from about the age of four or five years old. I was a really jumpy kid. I was always jumping around, really full of energy. I did gymnastics until I was about 16. But when I was 15, I was doing School Certificate, and at that time I was top gymnast in New Zealand at doing the bars. I had gymnastics twice a week, I was going all around the country doing gymnastic competitions, coaching gymnastics, and doing School Certificate all at the same time. And it got too much.  

I didn't realise it had gotten too much because I was just really energetic. Suddenly, I started to get thin. When I started to study, I would think, "Gosh I've been sitting so long, I'll have to go for a run." And then I'd go for a run. Every day it got more and more of a run. After a while, I was running about 3 or 4 kilometres and then I'd come back and I'd think, "Oh, I suppose I shouldn't really eat too much because I'm just sitting here." So it started like that.  

I became really conscious about what I was eating and really conscious about what I was doing. It got worse and worse and worse until I got really thin and people started to notice. I thought, "Well they're saying I'm skinny, but I don't feel any different." But this nagging voice kept coming in my head. "You've got to go for a run, you can't eat that." And it got so strong that it took over my own thoughts.  

Then people started to abuse me, saying, "Why are you doing this to your parents?" And I was thinking, I'm not trying to do this, it's just taken over my whole life. I couldn't do anything. It was just awful. I felt really bad because my parents were suffering and my family was suffering and I was the cause.  

Then I ended up going to the doctor and he said, "You have to go to hospital, Tania." That was devastating because my whole routine was going to be out of line. I worried what I would do if I couldn't go for a run. What do I do if I can't do these exercises? But I also thought, "Oh gee, I just feel like a rest. A hospital would be so nice." So I thought, perhaps it would fix me.  

So I went to the hospital and they did the dumbest things then because they didn't know much about anorexia when I was young. I knew that what they were doing, it wasn't going to be the answer. Because as soon as I got out of hospital, all puffed up with heaps of food and had put on weight, it was just a downward spiral again. I got worse and worse. Until one night, I sat down in the hallway, and I was screaming, "Someone help me!" because no one could help me.  

Then mum sent me to a psychiatrist, and they said, "The only hope for you is to go to a mental hospital." And I thought, “But I'm not mental.” They put me in a room for six months, a locked room with no people. I was only allowed to see my doctor, a psychiatrist. That's all. I wasn't allowed to ring mum and dad. So I sat there and talked to God and said, "Why is this happening to me? Can you help me?" And I prayed and I prayed and I still couldn't get better. I used to cry myself to sleep every night. My whole pillow would be covered in blood from the stress of crying. They'd bring in these meals every day that I had to eat but I just couldn't eat it.  

Anyway, the guy next door to me committed suicide. And I heard everything. I was sitting there thinking, "God how long am I going to be in here with people taking their lives next to me and depressed people around and all I've ever seen in six months is a doctor and a nurse??" I didn't gain any weight at all, none. I actually lost it there. One day, the psychiatrist and the head nurse came in and I thought, "Whoa, I'm in trouble now." They came in and they said, "Right, we're kicking you out and there's no place for you." And I was thinking, "Well, what is there now? I'm just gonna die out here. What am I going to do?"  

So that's when I was like Peter in the boat and I reached out to Jesus and I got on my knees and I said, "Lord, this isn't my problem, this is Your problem. Take this from me, I don't want it anymore." And I really meant it. Like I'd been praying, "Take it away from me,” throughout the whole time. But this time I said, "Jesus, this is Your problem. Take it from me. I don't want it anymore," and I really meant it right from the bottom of my heart. And I just felt this huge burden go whoosh off my shoulders.  

The nurse came in and said, "Here's your clothes." And I said, "Oh, okay." So I got up and I thought, "Well Jesus, I'm a new person." So I went down to the cafeteria, and I looked at what other people were eating and I thought, “I didn't know people ate so much. Well, that's what I have to do.” So I just watched someone, and what they had for breakfast. I thought, obviously that's what you have, so I ate that. Then I had lunch, and then dinner and I was just so happy. Like I was just so, so happy. God just gave me a real happy time.  

Life just got better and better. I got married and went farming, had three kids and did not look back. That was 40 years ago. So, God can heal.

The Chapel

The Chapel takes us on a journey into the lives of four individuals, through waves of emotions. Set in the beautiful seaside town of Kiakoura, the issues are deep and hit home for many of us.

Full series


Release Date:
September 20, 2022
7 mins
Tania Dewhirst

This content has not been independently classified. Parental guidance recommended. Adult themes.