Friday 1 March 2019

GUEST POST by Isabel for Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2019

“You are worthy of treatment"

My eating disorder seemed to spring up out of nowhere. I seemed to become conscious of my body shape when I was at secondary school, but it didn’t impact me until after I’d finished school. One minute I was sitting my GCSEs, enjoying life and with a good group of friends. I changed schools for sixth form and by the time I sat my AS level exams I had a serious problem and was hiding it from everyone. 

When I was given my diagnosis I was told by the doctor if I carried on with my behaviours I would die. My organs were damaged from restricting, abusing laxatives and diet supplements. But my mind was damaged too. My eating disorder had completely consumed me and I was just a shell of my 17 year old self. 

Unfortunately I fell through the net. I’d surprisingly managed to keep inside the ‘healthy weight’ range and therefore I was denied treatment. I felt like a fraud, that my eating disorder couldn’t be real because I wasn’t "thin enough" to get help. I felt like a failed anorexic because I didn’t fit the criteria. This was detrimental to my health and I deteriorated.

My eating disorder worsened, but I was dancing all day at my dream dance school, but I had no energy to dance. I’d pretend I had an injury so I could sit down, my heart racing knowing if I carried on I would probably collapse. During auditions for the next year of dance training I ate solely for the energy, realising I wouldn’t make it through the process if I didn’t. In the end I didn’t gain a place at any of the dance schools I’d applied to, and my eating disorder made me feel like I had nothing else to live for. I had no back up plan and no place at a school for September. I was completely crushed. 

I did continue dancing, but at university. Some people scoffed that I’d ‘downgraded’ from the prestigious school I was at earlier that year, but the truth is, I seemed to be happier there. At uni I felt less pressure to fit into the dancer stereotype. I made new friends, took up new hobbies and enjoyed life in a new city. The teachers were supportive, and when a tutor noticed I wasn’t looking myself she arranged a meeting with me. It was then I decided that I was going to see my GP and get a referral to an eating disorder clinic and choose recovery for the first time.

This clinic accepted me despite my current ‘healthy weight’ status, something that I was shocked at. Partly because I had expected them to decline me like last time. I was given a diagnosis of EDNOS/OSFED, more specifically a type my therapist called 'Atypical Anorexia'. 

Treatment is not fun, I had to have regular blood tests, ECGs and weigh-ins, I had so many meal plans and food diaries and in all honesty it was awful to have to go through all of this whilst simultaneously studying my degree at university. There were many appointments I didn’t want to go to, but I knew I had to go to keep getting better. Sometimes I’d not feel strong enough to go on my own and my boyfriend would get the train over to come and be with me. I’ll forever be grateful for that. People underestimate how difficult recovery is. I’d often turn up to appointments in tears.

I was given my fair share of meal plans, food diaries, journals, and CBT. After all the weigh ins, blood tests, and therapy sessions I was discharged happily with the support of my family, boyfriend and close friends in the summer of 2017. It is my proudest achievement.

I was very lucky to receive the right help when I did. Unfortunately there are so many people that are denied treatment as they are not 'stereotypically underweight' or don’t portray the typical signs. Eating disorders do not discriminate, they affect the young, old, black, white, poor, rich, straight, gay and everything in between. 
"You are worthy of treatment no matter what you look like, and recovery is possible.“
Beat is the UK's leading Eating Disorder charity.
For Beat's Support Services such as online chats, over the pone or to find services local to you click here.
For Beat's recovery information click here.