4 March 2017

Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2017

What was expected to be a normal week, quickly turned into a chaotic schedule of radio interviews, TV interviews, newspaper interviews, fundraising and campaigning, as well as attending the usual lectures and seminars. You name it, this week I have done it! But I would not have changed it for the world…

If you had have said to me three years ago that I was going to be actively taking part in Eating Disorder Awareness Week in a few years time, I would have in the first instance asked what an eating disorder was. Now, after having lived experience of this crippling mental illness, I find myself repeatedly digging up my past during this crucial week to raise awareness and increase understanding of what Anorexia Nervosa is and the impact that it had on my life. Although, I do not stop my story at the end of treatment, I ensure that my full journey to date is heard- a story of hope, positivity and belief. I have seen the deepest darkest moments of living with an eating disorder, but now I am living my life with the highest motivation and aspirations. This is the story I want to share, and this is the story that as a sufferer I would want to hear.

During Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Beat- the national eating disorder charity- has focused heavily on their latest report emphasising the role of GPs in being aware of the signs of an eating disorder and ensuring a quick referral to relevant treatments services. This information has been supported with upsetting statistics that show a severe lack of understanding from GPs when it comes to providing advice and services for someone that displays symptoms of an eating disorder. I know that personally I was subjected to what I would hope is a relatively unheard of situation, where my GP miscalculated my BMI; however, as a sufferer trying to find any sense of hope for help and support during this annual campaign, being faced with these facts and figures can be disheartening and weaken the sense of hope for help. Therefore, when sharing my journey, I felt it was crucially important to highlight that help is out there, you just have to be proactive and want to recover! You cannot allow the doors to be slammed in your face, and you cannot stop trying. Look to charities, approach alternative services and most of all, do not take no for an answer. It is exhausting, but it is absolutely worth fighting until you find the right support that suits you. Recovery is possible and you cannot forget that.

One element of Eating Disorder Awareness Week that I have been incredible appreciative of, and noticed a startling difference to last year, is the willingness of the media to discuss the issue. I think this shows an understanding within the industry that they have an element of responsibility in making sure that mental illness is talked about on a national level to help reduce the stigma associated with the topic and increase awareness. This is an incredibly positive step in changing the public’s perception of mental health conditions and I can only hope that encourages people to speak out and reach for help sooner without tragically falling to a critical level of illness.

Of course, speaking out about my condition is not easy. As much as I appear confident and calm when talking about what I have been through, that is because I ultimately focus on the benefits that it may bring to other people. With every interview I regurgitate all of the painful memories, from the frustration of finding treatment to the seclusion of four months in hospital. However, after the interview, I take the time to reflect on these moments in my life and appreciate every step I have challenged to be where I am now.

It is during a week such as this that I realise just how much support I have around me. Undoubtedly, I am aware of the continued support of my close family and friends, but I was also overwhelmed with the willingness of those less immersed in my journey to care for my efforts in raising awareness and fundraising. I cannot thank the staff at Tru Group enough for their donations and involvement in the ‘Sock It to Eating Disorders’ campaign for Beat. We managed to raise £100 for this fantastic charity- incredible!

As hectic as this week has been, I have to say that I would not reduce the involvement I have in raising awareness of eating disorders and fundraising for national and local charities. I love what I do and it motivates me to further myself in my own recovery every single day. During the first stages of my recovery, I focused heavily on recovering for other people and most of the time this is still the case. However, I have started to challenge my mindset in realising that embracing recovery for myself is not selfish- I deserve it. Everyone deserves it.

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