*Disclaimer: Please note this blog has been written to raise awareness of Eating Disorders and is a clients story of living with an eating disorder so far on their journey to recovery, but posted by us at Norfolk Clinic.
Author: Please be aware you may find some of this blog upsetting, triggering or feel you may recognise symptoms in yourself or others. If you do, please seek further support from a professional or talk to someone close. Admitting you have a problem is the biggest, bravest step you can take. It helps enormously. If you feel you have no one to talk too, seek help from either your G.P(It really isn’t as scary as you think, I promise) or speak to a qualified therapist/ mental health professional in your area. There are other forms of support and resources out there for both sufferers and carers of those suffering from eating disorders. I will post the links at the end of this blog to help get you the right support.
This week marks the start of Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2019, and I thought I would finally share my own story whilst helping to raise awareness and break the barriers that surround this awful mental illness. Sharing my story isn’t a decision I’ve made lightly, in fact it’s something that has taken me years to finally pluck up the courage to do…and press that dreaded PUBLISH button! However, I feel like now is the time to get open, honest and vulnerable… which is something I’m not afraid to admit I struggle with. Every time I’ve tried to write about my Eating Disorder that awful, critical disordered voice within engulfs my every thought so loudly every second of everyday. If you mix that with perfectionism, BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder), Depression and anxiety, along with zero energy- it becomes hard to function let alone feel good enough or strong enough to do the things you once enjoyed. I’ve also felt an overwhelming feeing of shame, too ashamed to tell my story and truth because of feeling like I’m a failure, together with feeling that, ‘I’m not sick enough’ or won’t be believed. These overwhelming feelings have all stopped me in my tracks, but this time I’m not going to let that voice win. I may not be recovered but I know I’m on my way, change doesn’t happen from within our comfort zones and we all must start from somewhere!
I’ve always been passionate about mental health, but more so the area of eating disorders due to my own personal experiences, and its from these experiences that I want to share and raise awareness in. I hope that I can help and inspire others in some way. Like all mental illnesses there is a lot of stigma and myths that surround eating disorders. Eating disorders are often wrongly perceived and sufferers and carers don’t get the support and help they desperately need at the point of their first consultation. This results in sufferers waiting up to 3 years before receiving the right support and care, which is often too late. Eating Disorders are a complex, distressing mental illness and anorexia alone has the highest mortality rate of all mental illnesses! If this blog helps just one person I will be over the moon, but even if it doesn’t, writing this is progress and helping me too! Eating disorders of any kind can be so isolating and lonely, I want people to know that it doesn’t matter what eating disorder you are suffering from you are worthy of help, and you aren’t alone! This goes for carers too, there is hope and together we can help each other beat this!
Which brings me to my story and journey. I’ve suffered from Eating Disorders for over half my life, yikes…. It’s making me upset seeing that written down. How sad?! That half my life has been spent tortured with rules, rituals, purging, abusing laxatives and starving myself. That’s Bulimia and Anorexia Purge-Type… It’s not uncommon for sufferers to suffer from one disorder then develop another, those rituals have affected every aspect of my life both physically and mentally! Eating disorders aren’t glamourous, like the media often portrays and nor are they attention seeking. I would describe it as living in hell! I often feel so trapped in its tight grip, life I’m slowly being dragged down into the depths of a dark abyss. Often the loneliness and isolation are crippling, the thoughts are distressing, and I feel I’ve got a constant fight going on in my head. This is a complete contrast to the life I once lead. Normal things like eating out and eating in front of people have become so terrifying which has had a significant impact upon my relationships with both family and friends. I’m not the socialite I once used to be. Those that don’t know about my eating disorder, probably think I’ve just made excuse after excuse not to go out, but the thing is deep down I want too but when that voice takes over it’s agonising. So, I’m sorry to everyone I’ve isolated myself from. I long for the day I don’t smell of sick, have dark circles, flaky skin, my hair stops falling out, the unknown bruises disappear, the heart palpitations, the pain in my bones (even sitting in the bath is painful) all stop, and my every thought isn’t consumed by my eating disorder.
Eating Disorders aren’t a choice either, in fact there are many reasons and factors to why eating disorders start in the first place some of these included biological factors as well as psychological factors such as experiencing trauma, sexual abuse, assault, bullying, family issues, death of a loved one, relationship issues, body dysmorphia and so on. Eating Disorders aren’t just about weight and the fear of food. Food is the symptom to underlying psychological distress. Sometimes it’s the only thing we feel we can control in our lives. I know my eating disorder is a lot to do with punishment and trying to numb the pain that I’m suffering. My ED reared its ugly head from around 13 years old, little did I know that something that started off so innocently as a coping mechanism would rule my life for 14 years. Over that time, I’ve heard so many things from, ‘just stop’ or ‘just eat’ as if I haven’t heard or tried them before… even professionals have said it. I really wish it was that easy, I guess nothing worth fighting for ever is. But it’s not like I want to be this way, I really can’t stand it, just as much as those that see me suffering. I may not have had a choice back then; however, I do have the choice to recover now and is something I HAVE TO CHOOSE every single day!
You see it’s not just me who has suffered at the hands of my eating disorder but my immediate family, the few friends that know and even my therapist… as I said above my sessions were hard. Carers and loved ones often suffer in silence, but they suffer just as much. They to feel lost, helpless and desperate and are left not knowing what to do or where to turn next. I’ve witnesses it with my own eyes I’ve seen and heard the desperation, watching me slowly kill myself from the inside out…. The thing is I wanted to disappear, I felt invisible in some areas of my life and I didn’t want to live anymore. Living became too painful… and I feel awful and upset writing that but it’s the truth. How could I expect everyone else to understand what was going on in my head if I don’t even understand it myself? But something changed, I can’t pinpoint what or when, but I don’t feel that desperately low anymore. I’ve put them all through hell and back and I feel so incredibly guilty and beat myself up about, however the greatest gift I can give them is RECOVERY… and I mean full recovery not just quasi recovery!
I’ve been in recovery now for just over 4 years and it’s been incredibly difficult, some days I’ve won, some days I’ve taken 100 steps backwards and over the past 2 years I’ve relapsed badly, but I’m on my way forward again. Recovery isn’t linear. Just like life itself. I know I’m slowly making progress and that’s ok. However, over the last 4 years particularly through recovery and living in denial I have faced massive stumbling blocks and adversity mostly by professionals in getting the help I desperately needed and still need! There have been many times throughout real critical points where I have been left feeling unheard and unvalidated, which has sunk me straight back int the depths of my ED to the despair of my loved ones. The thing is eating disorders do not discriminate and come in all shapes, sizes, genders, ages and so on. There are also more Eating Disorders other than the well-known names of Anorexia, Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder, there are others such as compulsive overeating disorder as well as EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified) amongst others. A person suffering from and ED can appear healthy on the outside by others but mentally and physically poorly on the inside too. It’s often these people that fall under the radar and get overlooked by professionals. The thing that gets me is you hear professionals say, ‘Early intervention is vital in recovery’ yet, sufferers are often let down, feeling frustrated, unheard and that they aren’t ‘sick enough’. Often leaving them to struggle because the didn’t fit the shocking criteria needed to get the help! This is not just my opinion but also my truth! I personally believe this can perpetuate the cycle of an eating disorder and feelings of ‘not being sick enough’. I find it ironic that living a 'life' (If you call it that) that revolves around numbers often stops you from receiving the help you need because you don’t fit the shocking low numeric (BMI) criteria that you need to be accepted for treatment! It’s frightening…. And so is the lack of funding for such vital services that could help save so many lives! Something needs to change. The emphasis that is often placed upon how someone looks, and their BMI needs to be redirected and instead professionals need to look at the disordered eating behaviours that patients are engaging in as well as other psychological factors. Help needs to be more readily available as well as encouraged from the get-go, instead of making patients feel they need to reach the extreme end of an Eating Disorder to feel they are worthy of help.
For someone who has been on the other end of this the rejection from services has such a profound impact and makes you feel, unheard, not understood and like you are a fake. For me it left me feeling so unvalidated and terrified to reach out for further help on many occasions, plunging me into denial and feeling like there wasn't anything wrong with me.... But there was and still is, I can see that now. Despite not having help from a specialist in the field, I am so grateful for being able to afford private therapy and have such a good support network from my family and close friends. My therapist has never stopped believing in me… I wouldn’t have blamed her if she gave up... it hasn’t, and nor have I been easy at times, often the ED, seriously in denial me would turn up to sessions. Despite all this she has always fought to help me get the help that I need! Not everyone is as fortunate as me in that respect. I’m still on a waiting list to get extra help for my eating disorder…surprise, surprise… which highlights just how big the problem is! However, in the meantime, I continue to work hard with my therapist to help get my negative thoughts turned around, slowly chipping away at other underlying issues.
Finally, I just want to say, for anyone that is suffering from any mental illness or indeed addiction… KEEP GOING! It’s your journey. Everyone starts from somewhere, I know its hard not to get sucked into comparing your life with others these days (I’m guilty of it too), mostly due to social media. However, give yourself a reality check (I’ve given myself lots recently) what you see on social media is often just a ‘Highlight Reel’ you only get to see the best bits of someone’s life not the horrendous lows or the attempts it took to get there. So be mindful, but most importantly be KIND, to yourself and others. All you can do is try and so what if you have setbacks, that’s how we learn! Pick yourself up and try again! One thing I have learned throughout my journey so far is that you must do it for YOU! Many of my previous recovery attempts have failed for various reasons over the last 4 years, from both personal issues that have triggered me to also not wanting it enough! But I’m still here fighting and I’m proud of that! I think I could’ve written more on my story, perhaps there might be more room for other blogs in the future! I hope at some point I can write a blog about being fully recovered and share my future dreams and plans in this area to support and help others.…. In the meantime, though I best not get too ahead of myself…. I’ve got a habit of trying to run before I can walk ha!! On that note…
Thank you for reading, even if you just read a snippet, you really don’t know how much it means! I hope I’ve got people thinking and raised some awareness of Eating Disorder and how it feels. Feel free to share and get in touch via the comments if you would like to talk about it further.
As Promised here are some links:
Links (*Please Note some of these are Local Services to the North-East England area)
There may be other services and charities like Mind in your area that you can access that have specialist therapists/ or therapists that have a specialist interest in Eating Disorders, have a search on Google.
NIWE Eating Distress Service (NEWCASTLE CITY CENTRE) – www.NIWE.ORG.UK 0191 221 0223
IAPT Sunderland :You can self-refer here via telephone, online, or through your G.P. Sunderland 0191 5665454 Website: http://sunderlandiapt.co.uk/self-referral/
Talking Therapies Newcastle: You can self-refer here via telephone, online or through your G.P. Newcastle: 0191 282 6600 Website: https://www.talkinghelpsnewcastle.org/self-referral/
CYPS ( Children and Young People Service Sunderland and South Tyneside) Telephone: 0191 566 5500
Richardson Eating Disorder Intensive Day Service ( To use this service you often need a referral from a specialist mental health team. See your G.P.) Based in Newcastle- Telephone: 0191 287 6187
CAMHS are available in all areas (use google to find specific numbers for your area)
Norfolk Clinic Private Practice Based in Sunderland ( 29 Years’ Experience in mental health- Comprehensive Psychological Assessment and Professional reports these can help get a diagnosis and report can be then passed to G.P and other services to get the correct treatment. Also offers Counselling and Hypnotherapy for a wide range of issues)) www.counselling-hypnotherapy.org Call: 0191 5102228 email: email@example.com
BEAT: National Charity for Sufferers and Carers, young people, adults, students etc- Helpline Number: 0808 801 0677 Young People Helpline: 0808 801 0711 Student Helpline: 0808 801 0811 They will support you and help find the support You can also join free online support groups, training days and forums- check website for more info: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/ BEAT have helped me loads and talking to other sufferers helped a lot too!
And of course, speak with your G.P. if you don’t feel comfortable talking to your G.P. or don’t get the right response I would personally from experience think about changing. Personally, changing my G.P. made a massive difference!