*Please be aware this account does contain reference to self harm*
I hope this won’t trigger anybody but I am happy to share my experiences of my Australian treatment in 2013 – 2015 and also my treatment in adolescent eating disorder units in the UK, which were back in 2016 when I was only sixteen years of age (I had my seventeenth birthday in hospital).
I was 13 and the treatment lasted three weeks, after which I was told I was recovered. They treated patients as if it was weight only. We were given a drug to make us hungry and it was about gain weight and leave. No emotional therapy at all, which left me always fighting my way out because, ‘weight was fine, so I am fine’.
I asked for help so many times as a young child but never received it for anorexia, but I got help for anxiety.
In the hospital, if I didn’t eat within the time limit, I was given a time limit for the supplement drink. If I failed that, I would be dragged by staff and also have non trained security guards called up to pin me to the bed in a different room, hurting me, screaming in my defence to stop being injured… and I was tube fed. I was called childish, a waste of time, stubborn, obnoxious, disruptive and many more things. If they had not used force and threats while eating my meals in a non supportive way, then perhaps things would be different. Being in a closed room, watched eating only made my anxiety worse, as well as being threatened to have something put down my nose… and this traumatising feed experience happened multiple times a day because I was not allowed to keep the tube in, so I had something yanked in and out which caused damage over time.
My first admission was to an NHS hospital for two weeks. I was admitted because of refusal to be weighed at my clinic. However, the psychiatrist had told me that I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder which caused me to be too embarrassed for the weighing. I was at CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) for anxiety, depression and the eating disorder, to which I was referred by my college.
I had eaten one meal in the total of two weeks being an inpatient. They then told me that I was ‘protesting’ and that I could be discharged because my body was allowed to be at the weight it was at… which was very unwell. They told my I could go home and I could stay at my current weight… my BMI was definitely in the red zone.
It was absolutely ridiculous. They let me go and I was told I had emotional dysregulation disorder and anorexia but no treatment for either. I was told, ‘a real anorexic wouldn’t eat one meal… and you did so you were just protesting’.
So this obviously left me thinking I had no issues and it allowed my eating disorder to lie my way out of treatment because I believed ‘I was not sick enough’.
I ended up in A&E the next day and stayed in a general hospital for a week before I was transferred to a Priory hospital.
When I was admitted I was told that another patient had died (and how) and that I had the same doctor as her… One staff member also told me that the ward was haunted and that they frequently hear and see ghosts. I felt alone… 2 hours away from home and my parents weren’t notified where I was until three days later.
I arrived on the ward at the weekend and I had all my stuff taken off me for the weekend until the Monday because they didn’t know me and didn’t know if I had any risks, which at that time I did not.
I was not given a meal plan for a few months and I was instead being treated for general emotional dysregulation disorder.
After months adapting to the behaviours of other patients, I became paranoid and began imagining the ghosts they had told me about.
I was not listened to and I was just given a sedative. I cried for days – patients could hear me but the staff ignored me.
They did not offer me psychological therapy until the last month I was there when I didn’t need it any longer and this was just to plan my discharge. In fact, no therapy was offered at all the whole time I was there, only a school.
On the ward I felt like no one listened to how I felt. I would write letters because I felt unheard and they would be stored away in my file. The staff did not want the ‘burden’ of patient’s issues because they were only there as health care assistants.
I was once told I was a two year old child for begging them to let me into the gated garden.
Eventually, as I could not deal with the way they were treating me, I hurt myself quite badly, in the same way that they had told me the previous patient had died. They checked on me twice at that time and did not realise I had passed out until they heard me choking. They then realise… all ran over and gave me oxygen. They then left me lying on my mattress, struggling to breathe as they stripped my room. I told them I couldn’t breathe properly still, my oxygen monitor on my finger showed them that but they blamed the nail polish for interfering with the results… every other day my nail polish never interfered!
I had no counselling after this and nobody asked me what had happened or why. I was just told that I was silly.
After four months I was put on a meal plan for failing to feed myself … but later they were angry at me for asking my parents to sneak me in snacks because I was still hungry.
I was told to measure all my food and count calories. I was not allowed to have extra calories in my milk. I really wanted hot chocolate because I hated plain milk but this was not permitted. They did not let me eat more and they did not let me swap food items for things that I liked to help me eat more.
At times, the option to have supplement drinks was not available because, ‘I missed my chance’ and instead I was forced to have a tube feed which consisted of violent handling in restraints.
It basically felt as if all patients were treated as if they were criminals who needed punishing. I was discharged after 6 months, worse with my eating disorder than when I was admitted. My outpatient team let me discharge myself straight away, even though I was still on a community section order.
Thankfully, despite everything, I became strong and helped myself and I have never returned to a hospital since. These experiences though have left me traumatised and the hospital also taught me a number of other unhelpful eating disorder behaviours!
I am now much further into my recovery than then and I would consider myself to be around 50% recovered now. It has been 7 years since my first admission in Australia.
I work every day to recover without professional help. I know I can and I will recover. I have never progressed soooo much than since recovering by myself… more than any professional helped me with. I was never educated about the brain rewiring process through all these years until I discovered it 2 years ago during a horrible relapse, when I chose recovery myself. Before that.. I always thought it was just, ‘eat and you are fine’.
I knew it was much more than that, but nobody saw that. Especially my GP’s.
I am determined to recover mentally and spread positive awareness… that it’s the THOUGHTS!! It is the behaviours and wired habitual behaviours, the fears, the genetics and the biology of how the human body reacts to famine.
Follow Jenna on Instagram: @empoweringmindsets_J
Please also check out other eating disorder treatment experiences from individuals around the world… Click Here
And if you have not done so already, please see more about the petition to appeal for a review of adult eating disorder treatment services around the world – things needs to change!