“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore”
So it’s that time of year again. It is #eatingdisorderawarenessweek and this year we are asking the question, #whywait? It is estimated that people wait about 3 years between symptoms developing and getting help. This is ridiculous. No physical illness is treated like this. No-one waits that long for treatment. And there is proof to show that early intervention means people are much more likely to recover. I often wonder how much money the NHS would have saved had they treated me sooner.
When I first started developing symptoms I told my psychiatrist at the time and she did nothing. She watched me deteriorate in front of her eyes. It was not until I was given a new psychiatrist that I was finally diagnosed and even then I had to wait for treatment as I was not deemed ill enough. They waited until things got so bad for me before even attempting to treat me. This is shocking and sadly the case for most suffering from an eating disorder. A lot go undiagnosed and untreated for years before anyone steps in.
Eating Disorders have the highest mortality rate among all Mental Illnesses. They are serious psychiatric diseases that need treatment, and fast. Stepping in sooner would see admissions to psychiatric and general hospitals fall and give sufferers a greater chance of recovery.
It is also important to remember that Eating Disorders and not just about weight. There is so much more too them. Yes, weight loss is often a physical side effect of Anorexia Nervosa, but in other eating disorders weight is often irrelevant. They are often about control and perfectionism. They are about not feeling like you deserve to take up space. They’re about body image and comparing yourself to others. And for me it was about not wanting to grow up and look like a woman.
Eating Disorders are hell and while I am quite far along in recovery I still have my struggles. 10 years on and I still suffer from an Eating Disorder. It took four years for me to be diagnosed. I was 18. Despite having suffered on my own since I was 14. I have now been in recovery for 6 years. It is a long battle, but I know it will be worth it in the end.
If you notice someone struggling around food, excessively exercising or having rules and rituals surrounding food and drink. Be brave. Ask them how they are. Tell them they matter and that they can beat this with the right support. Encourage them to get better because if you are not recovering from your Eating Disorder you are essentially dying. Your body can only take so much – something I learnt the hard way. Physically it can make you very unwell – whether that be from having a low weight, binging, purging, using laxatives to excess or over exercising. So please step in if you see a friend or family member struggling. I promise they will thank you for it one day, and if you’re met with anger – please remember that is their eating disorder talking and not them. Deep down we all want help. The problem is to get better we have to do the very things we’re terrified of. I just wish I didn’t have an eating disorder full stop. Recovery is so hard and often more distressing that relapsing. So please, juts let them know you’re there and you care. Because that’s ultimately what everyone wants.
And that concludes my essay on Eating Disorders. Thank you for reading this and I hope I have helped spread awareness of what are seriously misunderstood psychiatric conditions. Let us all continue to ask the question #whywait.
Take care guys