6 October 2016
And then I disappeared...
Since my discharge date from hospital in November last year, I have visited the doctor on a monthly basis for a check up, blood tests and an ECG. Granted my health has been stable for a few months now, but as this difficult period of transition has loomed as my life adapts to that of a university student, it is as if my illness never existed.
After experiencing a little blip one evening this week, I found myself clawing on to those closest to me for reassurance and support about the feelings I was facing. Fortunately, the blip was just that- an unexpected, minor, and typically temporary deviation from a general trend; and the next morning I awoke feeling absolutely fine. However, with my parents being as proactive as they are, it suddenly dawned on us all that the professional infrastructure I once felt supported and reassured by was no longer there. For my psychologist, this is not her fault, but this was only realised after an infuriating conversation with my previous doctors surgery.
I had applied through my private health insurance to receive psychologist support from a professional that I have worked with continuously since January. A referral was put in place before I transferred to the doctors surgery in Sheffield, however, from that moment on, things have become very unclear. A phone call to my doctor’s surgery at home revealed a severe response of denial in acknowledgement that I even existed. Apparently my records are not present at the surgery any more; therefore it is not their responsibility. This prompted me to visit the surgery at Sheffield- again another frustrating experience.
When I arrived in the city, I immediately registered at the doctors, as well as submitting a letter written by my GP at home that stated exactly what has happened to me in recent years. This letter was transferred to my ‘new’ medical files in Sheffield and I stated that I would need a check-up, as I was a new patient at the surgery. Now, I am not quite sure what the process is, but as somebody that was once critically ill and in hospital just a year ago, I would presume that a GP would read my file and communicate with me to arrange an appointment. Well, that did not happen. Today I made my way over to the surgery for it opening and requested a same day appointment, as instructed by a phone call I had made the previous day. Unsurprisingly, the closest time I could get that fitted in with my timetable was next Thursday. We are all aware of how long it takes to see a medical professional nowadays, but my point is that if I had not have gone in to request an appointment myself, would I have just slipped under the radar?
The relapse rate of Anorexia sufferers is incredibly high and as I myself know, the triggers can be involuntary, unprovoked and most of the time unrecognised; that is until it gets to crisis point. This poses the question, is that what the healthcare system is willing to do? Expect people to continue as they are until they reach a stage of urgent crisis. As a student living away from home, I could have quite easily allowed my anorexia to consume me as I try to adapt to the new surroundings, new routines and new responsibilities. I could have quite easily gone through the next three years without visiting home, without my friends raising concern about my behaviours and without recognising that my situation was reaching a critical level. So when would an intervention have taken place? When would my GP have requested I come in for a check up considering my medical history? Would it have ever happened, or would I have collapsed and required urgent medical treatment for the healthcare services to even notice?
Thankfully, I am, in my opinion, doing very well! I have managed to adapt to my new environment, shop for myself and cook meals that are balanced (and enjoyable!). I am managing my emotions and dealing with the pressure in a healthy way, without sacrificing the nourishment that my body needs. Food is still a prevalent thought every day, but in an exciting way. I am enthusiastic about food; curious about its properties, and engaged by the effect it has on everybody’s lives. I am excited about what I am going to learn, the positive impact it is going to have on my life and the experiences this knowledge is going to give me. The difficulties that I am going to have to endure over the next three years may at some points seem undefeatable; but so did the first few stages of recovery, and look where I am now…
So next week I will attend my appointment, I will address the concerns I have and I will, once again, initiate the referral that I need. I am incredibly thankful to have such caring parents that have my health and wellbeing at the forefront of their mind. However, following on from this experience, I could not help but express my feelings about the system, for the fear of lots of other sufferers of mental health conditions that have to go through this transition phase and may well be the ones to just disappear.