Most people are familiar with the concept of eating disorders. Anorexia is a mental disorder that causes self-starvation and restriction, while bulimia involves binging, purging, and other psychological responses. Despite knowing the basics, the world of eating disorders is very complicated and nuanced, and each and every sufferer of these diseases responds in different ways. And to hear a human side of the story is a lot different than reading about it in a book.

This story is all about a young woman named Gemma Walker, a girl who look the darkest parts of her eating disorder in its eyes and managed to find a way to overcome it. It’s not an easy story to read — and the photos of her in the throes of anorexia are hard to look at — but it’s a story that will leave you inspired by the strength of the human spirit. Read more about Gemma and her struggle below.

For young people with eating disorders, it can often feel like you’re living a double life.

One the one hand, you present as happy and normal to the outside world. On the inside, though, something else entirely is going on.

Gemma Walker is a young woman who knows about this paradox all too well.

At the young age of 14, she was diagnosed with both anorexia nervosa and bulimia. In Gemma’s case, the issue became life-threatening.

At her lowest point, she weighed just 63 pounds.

In fact, Gemma’s parents were told by doctors that she would have only 48 hours to live if she didn’t receive immediate medical intervention.

For her family, it was like living a nightmare.

Her father had to check up on her every morning to see if she was still breathing, something no parent should ever have to do.

For a time, they were even considering palliative care.

Throughout the entire 7 years of her recovery, Gemma was admitted to the hospital three times.

And it wasn’t all just weight loss, either.

The cycle of restriction and binge eating is a dangerous one for the body. Gemma frequently partook in binge eating and “re-feeding syndrome,” which would cause her to consume enormous amounts of food in one sitting.

It was all about the back and forth.

In as little as 20 minutes, Gemma could consume upwards of 6,000 calories which would cause her to pass out and hallucinate. Then, weeks later, she’d end up restricting herself and lose a dangerous amount of weight.