Eating Disorder Awareness Week: The Vital Role of The GP

The GP plays such a vital role when it comes to eating disorders. They are the key holders to all other services and provide referrals to eating disorder services and community mental health teams as well as referrals for the physical effects of eating disorders such as bone density scans.

The GP is the foundation upon which the rest of treatment is built. They often monitor the patient’s weight and do regular blood tests. They are often the first port of call for the sufferer. This is why it is so important that GPS have training and understanding in eating disorders.

I had been ill for years but when I went to the GP to ask for help I was terrified. It shocked me to see the words ‘anorexia nervosa’ on my notes and I so desperately needed help. Despite the low weight and terrible mental state I was told to come back in a month. A month is a long time for someone so desperate and poorly. I couldn’t see how I could get through another month and out of sheer fear and desperation I took an overdose which hospitalised me and resulted in a CAMHS referral and a referral to the eating disorder service.

Usually GPs continue to support the patient whilst they are under the care of mental health services monitoring both weight and bloods and it is important that GPs know how to support and talk to the patient in a way that is supportive and full of understanding.


Eating Disorders Awareness Week: Early Intervention

When it comes to eating disorders, early intervention is so important. I often wonder what my life would be like if I would’ve had treatment much earlier on in my eating disorder. Looking back I just wish someone would’ve taken me seriously. My parents were called into school because I had been throwing my packed lunch away and concerned friends told teachers but other than that no action was taken. The school nurse’s response was to tell me that I didn’t want to end up like a girl in the year above me who had anorexia. On one occasion I did visit the GP but no further action was taken, there were no referrals to CAMHS or follow up appointments. I wasn’t referred to eating disorder services until I was 17, at which point I was years into my illness.

Early intervention is important because these illnesses are so easy to get stuck in. They take over the whole of who you are. Anorexia took over my body, my personality, my social life and eventually my identity. Food and weight were all I thought about and if I wasn’t obsessing over these I was exercising. It became my life and the longer it is your life, the harder it is to get out of. With early intervention comes quicker recovery and I believe there is more chance of making a full recovery too.

Early intervention isn’t just important in the beginnings of eating disorders but also when it comes to relapse. When I first relapsed with anorexia nervosa it took 13 months from referral to treatment by which point I was very poorly both physically and mentally. At the beginning of my relapse I had friends, a boyfriend, a part time job and I was studying A levels at college. At the start of treatment I hadn’t seen friends in months, I had broken up from my boyfriend, was unemployed and had lost my place at college due to my health. Now imagine if things had been different and I would’ve gotten treatment earlier on, I might’ve been able to make things work with my boyfriend and my job and college. I might not have lost my life to the illness and since losing it, I have yet to rebuild it.

Maybe with early intervention I wouldn’t be typing this from a hospital bed with an NG tube up my nose and maybe it would’ve saved a lot of heartache and pain not only for me but for my family too.

Eating disorders are potentially fatal illnesses and unfortunately some sufferers do die whether this be because of health complications or suicide. Early intervention would save lives.

So my message is this: Early intervention when it comes to eating disorders is key and life saving in more ways than one.

Sock It To Eating Disorders 2017

Eating disorder awareness week is fast approaching and this year the focus is on early intervention. Eating disorder week is from the 27th February to the 5th of March and Sock It To Eating Disorders Day is Friday 3rd of March. You can order your socks from Beat the eating disorder charity here

I will be blogging throughout the week and of course I’ll be wearing my Beat socks, don’t forget to use the hashtag #SockItSelfie

I’m going to try and get the nurses to join in and wear their silly socks. I will find a way to raise awareness even if it is from my hospital bed. In previous years I’ve climbed mountains for Beat but this year I’ll do my best in the situation I am in.

You can donate to Beat here

Time To Talk Day

Today is Time To Talk day 2017 so take 5 minutes to talk about mental health. It is so important that we get these conversations going because they can save lives as well as working to stamp out stigma.

This Time To Talk day, I’m going to tell you a little bit about how I’m spending it. I’m currently in a general hospital being tube fed for my anorexia, I’m on 2:1 observations meaning I have two members of staff with me at all times and I’m on a level 4 which means I must be within arms length of the staff members, this includes when using the toilet. So there the facts about my situation but now it’s time to talk about how I feel.

I’m confused, recovery and weight restoration is being forced on me and I’m not sure that I want it. I’m scared about the future, my team are looking for a unit to send me to and so far none have accepted me. I don’t know what the near future holds for me. I’m homesick, I haven’t been home in 18 months and I would give anything to sit on the sofa with my family and dog and watch some rubbish telly. I feel alone and lost, I haven’t seen many people in the last 18 months and my grandmother has passed away during that time, I never got to say goodbye, I wasn’t well enough to go to her funeral and that breaks my heart everyday. I’m annoyed and angry at myself for losing out on so much. My goddaughter will be 3 in March and I’ve missed so much of her growing up, my dog is 14 and I’m scared she will die before I get home.

I have conversations about mental health every single day because I am unwell, but you don’t have to be ill to talk about mental health. We all have mental health, so please this Time To Talk Day 2017, take 5 minutes to ask someone how they are, send a text, natter over a cuppa, get the conversation going about mental health.

Happy Time To Talk Day everyone!

The Importance of Early Intervention

I often wonder what my life would be like now if I’d received the help straight away…maybe I would be recovered and free.

Imagine this: For months you’ve felt horrendous, strugged to get through the day and engaged in self-destructive behaviours in order to cope. You are hopeless and inches away from throwing the towel in and so you make an appointment with your GP and it’s a small glimmer of hope even though it is weeks away. You feel sick with nerves on the morning of the appointment but you need help and you are prepared to tolerate the anxiety around the appointment. You walk up to the surgery and sit in the waiting room silently. Part of you wants to walk straight out the door but you don’t. Your name is called and you walk into the doctor’s room and explain what it wrong whilst your hands shake and your eyes sting as you hold back the tears. You leave the surgery with an appointment card in your hand to see the same doctor in 4 weeks time. That is all he gave you.

This is a scenario that is happening far too often in the UK. Early intervention for mental health problems is not always possible because some individuals may not seek help. However there are circumstances where people do seek help in the first weeks, months or year of their illness and are turned away. This should not be happening. The longer a problem goes on then the harder it is to fix and the longer it takes. It’s the same with physical illness, if cancer is found and treated early then the chances of survival are much higher. I think that when it comes to mental illness sometimes severity can be due to the length of the illness. Say if someone who may be considered to have a mild to moderate mental health condition is left for two years with no treatment then it is likely that mental health condition could become severe.

Something more important than money is human life. If we were to have early intervention for mental health problems it would save lives. I dread to think how many people have taken their lives after asking for help and not getting it. I know lack of support and no hope in mental health services contributed to me attempting to take my life. These lives aren’t just people with mental health problems, they are people who are capable of writing the next bestseller, becoming surgeons and saving your life, paramedics, scientists finding cures for cancer. A person with suicidal thoughts may think that their life has no hope but that is because they are unwell. Their lives have so much potential and who knows what difference they could make to your life if they were given the life saving help that they asked for.

Financially it would be a good investment to provide prompt early intervention to those that present with mental health problems. If early intervention does not happen then hospital admissions, crisis services, emergency services, mental health act assessments, medication and long term treatment are often needed and that’s just for one individual. For a fraction of that cost early intervention could’ve been provided.

Early intervention is incredibly important. We are talking about human beings here. I often wonder what my life would be like now if it hadn’t taken over a decade to get the help I needed. I might have graduated university or be in a theatre company. I might still be teaching 5-8 year old children how to bake cakes and dance. Maybe I would have my own home and be in full time employment. I was always a dreamer, I always aimed high and worked to get where I wanted to be in life but mental illness stole that all away and mental health services watched me slip through the net until I had to be detained under the mental health act and required a lot of treatment. I am not a one off, I am one of thousands of people that have reached out for help and been turned away.

Early intervention saves lives, saves money and changes lives.