Today is Sock It To Eating Disorders Day so put on your silliest socks and post a #SockItSelfie to help raise awareness of eating disorders. You can also donate to the eating disorder charity B-eat here
This world book day why not check out the book ‘Dear Stranger’. All profits from the sales of these books goes to the mental health charity Mind.
Dear Stranger is a collection of inspirational, honest and heartfelt letters from authors, bloggers and mind ambassadors to an imagined stranger. Insightful and uplifting, ‘Dear Stranger’ is a humbling glimpse into different interpretations of happiness, and how despite sometimes seeming unobtainable happiness can, in the smallest of ways, become an achievable goal.
Letters included in ‘Dear Stranger’ are written by a variety of people including myself, Fiona Phillips, Matt Haig, Caitlin Moran and Richard Branson.
I have not always had supportive friends and family when it comes to my eating disorder. In fact there were years of pain where people didn’t understand or walked out of my life and I have never felt so lonely and isolated.
Nowadays I am extremely lucky to have the support I do. My parents visit the hospital everyday, my sister visits everytime she has a Saturday off work and I have several friends who visit often too. On top of this is the incredible online support, my twitter followers who send well wishes and the comments on my instagram that keep me going. I no longer feel alone in my battle and whilst hospital can be an isolating experience, I feel much less isolated than I used to.
I have lost many friends because of my illness, people who simply couldn’t cope backed out of my life and it really hurt. For years I kept my illness from my extended family and wouldn’t talk about it to my immediate family. This caused tension, loneliness, arguments, upset and total utter misery. Now I am much more open and I am both lucky and truly grateful for the support I receive from the people in my life.
Friends play a key role for sufferers of eating disorders, they are often the only part of ‘normality’ left in a sufferers life. Right now I am very unwell but I love nothing more than to have a gossip and a giggle with my friends. I don’t always want to talk about anorexia, sometimes it’s nice to take silly photos on Snapchat and to make plans for the future.
The role of the family is vital, particularly if they are the people the sufferer is living with. I know it is not easy for my family to deal with my eating disorder. I am well aware that they are heartbroken by how poorly I am at the moment and that before I came into hospital I was hard to live with. I was often in a bad mood with a short temper, particularly around meal times. I would eat separately to them most of the time and if they were in the kitchen when I was food prepping I would be very stressed out. They had to deal with a lot, especially coming home to empty cupboards during periods of binge eating. But I needed them. I needed them so much. Their love and support meant the world to me and without them I probably wouldn’t still be alive. We used to not talk about anorexia but now we are so very open with each other and it has brought us closer together. I have an incredible relationship with my family and I feel both lucky and thankful for this everyday. My friends and family both play an incredibly vital role in my life and my recovery.
“You’re looking well”, those words that are said and meant with good intentions but spiral an eating disorder sufferer into a world of terror, confusion and fear. I hate people telling me I look well because I hear the word ‘fat’ when you say ‘well’. I’ll be left thinking ‘oh my gosh my cheeks are chubby, my thighs are thick and my stomach is prominent’ and my body image will be thrown out of the window for at least a week but I think I hate these words more because when they are said to me, I am not well. The battle on the outside doesn’t always show the battle on the inside when it comes to eating disorders.
I may have managed to spoon cereal into my mouth at breakfast, I may have ordered a frappucino in Starbucks and I may be a healthy BMI but that doesn’t mean my eating disorder has gone or lessened in intensity. In fact some of the times when I have been a healthy weight have been my worst times mentally. A sick person doesn’t want to hear that they are looking well.
I hope that one day I am able to hear the words, “you’re looking well.” And respond with “thank you, yes I am” and to truly mean it. To feel good about having this said to me but for now it is something I dread to hear and I know I’m not the only eating disorder sufferer that experiences this.
This Eating Disorders Awareness Week you may want to check out the following videos:
Firstly there is a talk about anorexia nervosa. It was performed at Ignite Cardiff and is titled ‘pro ana?! Pro life!’ It is about the realities of living with an eating disorder compared to the idealised views of the pro-anorexia community. It is also about overcoming eating disorders and sends the message out that ‘life can change in a minute.’ You can watch the talk here
Next we have a video about being sectioned for an eating disorder. It was created with Fixers, a U.K. charity and was brought about after seeing a comment on social media saying, “I want to be sectioned so that I can have a hug whenever I’m sad.” You can watch the video here
Finally we have a TV programme called ‘The Feel Happy Fix’ which was recorded live from the ITV studios by Fixers UK. It’s a programme that focuses on young people’s mental health in general but many of the young panelists have personal experience of an eating disorder. You can watch it here
I spoke at Ignite in the Glee Club in Cardiff in 2015. My talk was about anorexia and challenging the ideals the pro-ana community puts on anorexia with the dark reality of anorexia. At the time of the talk I was in a good place. My diet was still very restrictive, I was not a healthy weight and I still struggled but I was living my life too. I was on a high. I went out and experienced life, I went on TV and radio, I began writing for The Huffington Post. The talk got a great reception and I received Ignite’s first ever standing ovation. You can watch the talk here. I feel very differently now to how I did in the video so I thought I would do an update.
In my speech, I talk about how fatal anorexia can be and I can honestly hold my hands up and say that anorexia nearly killed me in December 2016. There was a point when I didn’t know if I would even reach Christmas Day. My bloods were all over the place, my heart was a mess and my weight was dangerously low.
In the video I say, “I didn’t sleep, I was addicted to laxatives and exercise” and ‘was’ was so important because I had overcome that but now I find myself asking for movicol and senna all the time and I take as many laxatives as the hospital allows me to and I know full well that if I was at home I would take more. My laxative addiction is back. It’s hard to exercise in hospital, I’m not really allowed to and I use a wheelchair to go everywhere but I find myself walking to the bin, or my stuff, or the sink as much as possible in order to burn a few calories. Burning off calories is always at the front of my mind.
I also say, “I wanted to die” and I wish I could fill you up with positivity and still be able to say that but now I would have to say, “I want to die” because I do. I’m in such a mess with anorexia and every single second of the day I wish I could press the stop button. I have received and am still receiving life saving care but I wish they would just let me die and escape this nightmare for good.
I was able to say, “I have anorexia, anorexia doesn’t have me” but this is now the other way around. Anorexia has me fully in it’s grips and I don’t know who the hell I am or even where to find me. “I am not worthless, I am Claire and life is what I make it” are words I can not say anymore,I feel incredibly worthless, like I’m a waste of resources. I don’t feel like Claire, I am not the same person now that I was in that video. I find it hard to believe that life is what I make it, my life feels incredibly out of control.
The comments in regards to pro-ana remain the same, my weight will never be low enough for me to be content and I cannot see how ill I am told I am. I do not feel thin but I’m told I’m dangerously underweight.
My message remains the same, anorexia is not something to strive for, mental illnesses are not fashion accessories and I am waiting on that minute that is going to change my life again.
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.
There are plenty of ways you can get involved in Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017. You could blog, vlog, tweet, Facebook and instagram to raise awareness of eating disorders using the hashtag #EDAW2017
On Friday 3rd March it is Sock It To Eating Disorders Day where people don their silly socks in order to raise awareness for eating disorders. You can buy your socks direct from B-eat here
So this year, put on your silly socks, get the conversations about eating disorders flowing and donate to help change and save the lives of those affected by eating disorders.
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.
This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week and I will be blogging, tweeting and instagramming all this week. Don’t forget to take your #SockItSelfie and post with the hashtag to raise awareness. Eating disorders can and will be beaten.