My treatment journey initially begins quite positively.
At 16, when my Mum realised I had a problem I was taken to the family GP who was very understanding and then referred me onto CAMHS and I was seen really quite quickly. However this is unfortunately where the good points end.
I began at CAMHS in the October, having weekly 1-2-1 counselling sessions, since at the time I didn’t need intensive treatment. I was just starting to make some good progress with my counsellor there, when, at the beginning of January when I turned 17, my Mum and I were told I would no longer be able to seek treatment there since I was now under adult services and my sessions ended abruptly.
No handover to adult services, no warning, no consideration for the fact that the upheaval would be detrimental to my recovery. Not to mention that at 17, it is quite ridiculous to be considered as an adult in the eyes of the NHS (I am aware that this has recently been raised to 19 so that’s something at least).
Following on from this, I was sent to Adult Services, where the therapist didn’t even seem to know what she was treating me for or have any knowledge of the fact that I had an eating disorder.
Every week, she would simply give me a questionnaire to fill in regarding my levels of depression and anxiety and that was about as far as it went. This in turn, forced me to ‘recover’ on my own, simply so I could stop going to the awful sessions and after a while I discharged myself from the service in frustration.
I then spent the next 8 years drifting back and forth between having a few months, even years at times, of being well but then drifting back to the eating disorder when something in my life went wrong or became difficult – like a reflex reaction.
Even during the times when I felt well, I always knew that my eating disorder wasn’t finished with me and that I wasn’t really recovered, in the long term sense of the word.
If I’d have been able to complete my initial course of treatment at 16, I believe this would likely not have been the case.
During these years I intermittently attempted to seek treatment and hit brick wall after brick wall.
The worst of these experiences was being asked to stand on the scales and then being told, “there’s nothing we can do for you because your weight isn’t low enough – you’re not exactly on death’s door” despite being under the minimum healthy BMI range at the time.
It’s no surprise that, a few years later, I was voluntarily admitted to hospital as a day patient after losing 25% of my body weight in 3 months, in what I can now see as a desperate attempt to get the help I had been denied for so long. Even this was a ridiculously convoluted and long winded process, however, despite the fact I had been admitted to A&E 3 times due to my symptoms such as potassium deficiency and a low heart rate.
My family were stunned at the lack of basic knowledge around eating disorders from medical (including mental health) professionals. Comments and questions included things such as “are you having difficulty swallowing food?” and “you just need to go home and eat something, then you’ll be fine.”
I did however at long last receive the six month, intensive hospital treatment that I needed at the time but even this was nowhere near perfect.
It is simply unacceptable how patients are made to wait until they are ‘on death’s door’ until they receive any treatment.
For some, the help comes too late or not at all.
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