Eating Disorders Awareness Week is February 27 to March 5 this year and is focused on early intervention in the treatment of eating disorders.
I was diagnosed with anorexia in my early 20s but had been suffering since my teens.
When I was 15, I first went to my GP.
Here’s a couple of diary excerpts from that time.
‘I’ve been struggling for a couple of years now. I don’t really know what it’s about.
All I know is that I want to lose weight, I weigh myself every day, today I lost 2lbs, I wish it was more but it helps me feel better.
This week I’ve skipped breakfast and lunch every day. I’m a bit worried it might be getting out of control, I’m generally feeling quite low and thinking a lot about how much I hate how fat I am.
I’ve made an appointment with my GP, I’m not really sure what I need but I need to talk to someone who might understand and help me…’
I wrote this six days later –
‘I saw my GP today but I was wrong.
I told him I miss meals, I’m desperate to lose weight and about how down I feel, he just weighed me and said “it’s not that bad, you’re only a little bit underweight”.
He offered to refer me to a dietitian but he didn’t say how that would help. As far as I’m aware they would just tell me what to eat.
But I know what I should be eating…I just can’t, I have the knowledge but it’s like there’s something else going on, I’m focused on trying to lose weight.
Anyway, he made it clear I’m not sick and he said what I’m doing is fine so I guess I’ll just carry on losing weight until I reach my goal and I’m happy with my weight.’
After this consultation I didn’t seek help for another three years, I had become a lot sicker and it took a lot of persuasion from a good GP for me to go and see a mental health specialist.
From my diary I believe it should have been clear I was already suffering from an eating disorder, maybe my weight wasn’t especially low but that is not a defining feature and should not be used as criteria for referral.
It’s consultations like this one that mean young people become sicker and then need more specialist longer term treatment.
My behaviours and illness became ingrained and I spent years in and out of hospital and various therapies.
I lost a lot to my illness including a career and a marriage.
I’m very fortunate that I have come out the other side and now consider myself recovered but it’s taken a long time.
If my GP had referred me to the Child And Adolescent Mental Health Service when I was 15, I may have recovered a lot quicker.
Eating Disorders Awareness Week is from today until March 5 this year.
Beat, The UK’s eating disorder charity is focusing on how vital early intervention is.
The earlier someone can enter treatment, the greater their chances of recovery.
What to do if you think you or someone you know has an eating disorder