This week (26th February – 4th March) is Eating Disorder Awareness Week
It’s been just over 14 years now, since I recovered from an 8 year battle with Bulimia and even longer since my symptoms of an eating disorder first began. Very few people ever knew (although, maybe a few guessed) and I’ve never spoken of it to anyone.
Looking back, it’s really hard to believe, it was something that ever happened to me.
But it did.
Back then, there was still very little awareness, but also very little known about the ‘illness.’ I didn’t know of any helplines or websites and I was far too ashamed, and scared, to go to my GP and admit something was wrong.
No one ever spoke of Bulimia. Anorexia was an Eating Disorder, not binge eating, not Bulimia. For many years, I wasn’t even sure I had an illness at all!
It was only when it began to take over my life, I was in constant pain and unable to keep a single meal down, that I realised, I needed help.
I found the courage to visit my GP, around 5 years after Bulimia had taken hold. He had limited knowledge, but was understanding, and made an immediate referral for my treatment to begin.
Throughout the process, I felt very isolated. There was no one to talk to on a bad day, when I was terrified to eat or when I just couldn’t face getting out of bed and fighting another day.
Had I been aware of the charity, Beat (Beat Eating Disorders www.b-eat.co.uk ), I’m positive my road to recovery would, not only have been much less frightening, but I also believe it would have begun much sooner.
Beat not only provide help and support for those battling Eating Disorders, but they also support those with emotional overeating and difficulties with food, weight and shape, as well as being there to give advice and support for family members and friends.
Their phone helplines are open 4pm – 10pm, 365 days of the year:
Helpline: 0808 801 0677
Youthline: 0808 801 0711
If you need support outside of these hours, their website provides an email address, as well as message boards and forums, so you never have to feel alone
Now, a Mum to four daughters, it’s reassuring to know there is more support out there. But, there is still, so very little awareness.
This week’s focus is #whywait. On average there is a three year wait between the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder emerging, and people finding help. Mine was much longer, due to a huge lack of awareness. As a 13 – 18 year old, I didn’t know anything of Eating Disorders. I didn’t realise I was ill.
As my eldest daughters begin secondary school, they are about to enter the, statistically, most ‘at risk’ age range. Of course, it’s not just young girls who can develop Eating Disorders…..
Eating disorders: the facts*
■ Eating disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating – are serious mental illnesses
■ 725,000 people in the UK are affected
■ The condition can affect anyone at any time, but girls and young women aged 12-20 are most at risk
■ 15-20% of cases are boys and men
■ Eating disorders are treatable and people do recover fully
■ Anorexia is the rarest eating disorder at 10% of cases. Bulimia is the most prevalent
■ The causes of eating disorders are complex and not yet fully understood, but include a mix of genetic, biological and cultural factors
■ Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness – with up to 20% of those seriously affected dying prematurely
■ The sooner someone gets the treatment and support they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery
■ The number of people seeking help and treatment has increased over the past 20 years, but it is not known whether the illnesses themselves are becoming more common
I know, recovery is possible.
But, I also know, how incredibly hard it is to ask for help; feeling so ashamed, that you’re just not worth it, that you’ll never be able to make it all stop.
I was terrified, and I can’t tell you it’s an easy battle, but, you really can do it, especially now, with the support of wonderful charities like Beat…. and you are so very worth it.
In support of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I’m hoping to share a little more of my own personal story.
I don’t find it easy to talk, or to write about my experience and I’m also aware there is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding Eating Disorders. But, it doesn’t feel right for me to say nothing at all. If I could just raise some awareness and give that one person the courage to seek help, and to know that recovery, and happiness, is possible, then it has got be worth it.
This week, I’m supporting Beat’s #Sockit to Eating Disorders Campaign (hence the rather bright socks on the School Run!) and hoping to raise funds and awareness for all the vital work they do. I’d love it if you could join me, wearing your brightest, silliest or oddest socks, then snapping a #SockItSelfie ! 📸
If you would like to make a donation to Beat, simply text UAUA05 followed by the amount e.g. £1, £2, £3, £5 or £10, to 70070 or, I have set up my own JustGiving Page, which I hope to add to throughout the year, with fundraising ideas:
Thank you for reading a little of my story,
Patricia x x
Please Note: I have not been asked by Beat to either write this piece, nor to support them in their fundraising. I recently found an article in a local magazine, talking of Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Below the article, ‘Beat’ were mentioned as a place to turn to for support. This brought tears to my eyes. I looked at their website and thought, is was amazing. Just what my 16 year old self had really needed all those years ago. I then realised, I had to raise awareness, somehow.
*Facts taken from the Beat website.