I was diagnosed with Anorexia in September 2017. It slapped me right in the face. It told me I’d been lying to myself for the last 8 years and it scared me for my future. I got the phone call in my car, outside my mam’s house, and I just broke down into tears. It’s not something I ever expected to hear; I knew that my thoughts and behaviours with exercise and food were a little quirky, and that I was underweight and always longed to weigh less, but I thought that was just me being me. I didn’t think it was a serious issue or an illness and its only in recent months that I’ve seen and realised that it is an illness and its one that I’ve unfortunately been able to mould my life around and play to its every tune.
I’ll be honest, I struggled to get help. I told my GP I had a problem with undereating, over exercising and a constant worry and obsession over food. He didn’t refer me to any eating disorder service or access team, he simply sent me to an NHS standard dietician.
At the same time I was seeing my last therapist, and she agree I definitely had an eating disorder however was very clear that she couldn’t diagnose nor suggest that she thought I had a problem as it was ‘unethical’. Thankfully, as she agreed and also thought it was my main, underlying problem, she fought hard for me to get the help I needed. She had to speak to my GP numerous times in a bid to get him to refer me to an access team. As soon as I saw the access team they said yes, I definitely had an eating disorder and that I’d be able to get a proper diagnosis when I went to the Eating Disorder Clinic that they would pass me along to.
It’s a great shame and travesty that my GP was so reluctant to help me when I finally wanted help. I was there fully submitting to the fact I had an illness and needed help with it, but he made it awfully difficult there and then and, in the past, too. I really feel a great upset when I think about how many others could be prevented from this illness if GP’s just stepped up and didn’t turn a blind eye.
There was no doubt about it once I got to the clinic, I was ill. My bloods showed it, my mental assessments showed it and my words showed it. After seeing 9 therapists for anxiety, depression and low self-esteem over the last 8 years and getting next to nowhere (and hiding my relationship with food from all but 2 of them) I was ready to talk and get help. I was willing.
Now I see my psychologist once a week, my dietician once a week and my support worker once a week. The amount of support is brilliant, I really think that having 3 different people in my care team is a good way to recover.
At the minute, as far as I’m aware, the easiest way to get help for an eating disorder is to be referred to a mental health access team, which can only happen through your GP. I really believe that if you’re willing to prevent and eating disorder from spiralling out of control you should speak to your GP and be assertive and adamant. Also, currently the Eating Disorder Clinic only accepts patients under a current BMI, which can be a setback but if your GP can refer you to another mental health service at least you won’t be alone.
I was told recently that now GP’s can’t use a person BMI in diagnosis for an eating disorder, but I still see that being put into practise.
When I was 20 I did try to gain weight on my own accord, I got fed up of the people I worked with commenting on me being thin and I was tired of being cold. I managed to gain weight and I even recall being slightly happier in my general mood, however I quickly relapsed within 6 months and was back to my former weight before I knew it. Restricting and controlling my diet was the only thing I could ever hold on to in my life and the only thing I felt I could bend to my own will (in hindsight, I bent to Anorexia’s will not vice versa). I didn’t have anyone to talk to when I tried to change and maybe if I did things could’ve been different and this story cut 5 years short, but I didn’t.
As I’ve said, I’ve always tried to look healthy, but I’ve never actually been healthy, and this is where I believe the healthcare professionals need to step in. Just before I got diagnosed I was eating so little and exercising so much that I could’ve gone to the extreme. Doctors, family members, anyone, should try to step in regardless of how ok someone looks. Everyone fights invisible battles and Anorexia only has physical symptoms when it’s starts to destroy a life, and doctors only seem to step in when it goes much further.
I just want to stress how much I feel early acknowledgement of an eating disorder can be so beneficial. The sufferer may never have to lose a period or a chance to have kids if that could be stopped. They might never have a severely low white blood cell count leaving them unable to fight off illnesses. It could be stopped before it goes far.
Currently I feel that eating disorders are allowed to go too far before help is received and I know that BEAT, the eating disorder charity, is trying to raise awareness and funding for that. I think if a sufferer can be admitted to any form of care sooner rather than later it could save lives. On average the wait is 3 years,
I’ve lost a good 8 years to be perfectly honest.
I’ve stressed over many, many, many meals. I’ve tried to stay at home as much as I can and exercise as much as I can too. It’s a full-time job having an eating disorder. It’s hard work.
I hate the thought that others suffer worse and perhaps longer before help happens.
Talking is always the best method to overcoming anything. Communication and not doing it
alone. Family, friends, dogs and pets all can help. Even work colleagues and bosses.