#WhyWait – Guest Post by Julia Bailey

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.

Hippocrates (460-400BC) 

Rewind one year to Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017 and as a family we were struggling to cope. Olivia was fully immersed in her anorexia. My husband was totally bewildered by her illness. Olivia’s sister Ellen was unsure as to whether Olivia would be well enough to be her Maid of Honour at her upcoming wedding and their 13 year old brother went very quiet. And me, well I was angry. Angry because even though Olivia was obviously very ill, there was no specialist help available for her from the NHS.

I had no alternative but to take matters into my own hands. I have experience with anorexia. I know everything about this illness because I too, have sufferered. I know what it feels like to need control over my food, to be in such agonizing, silent pain and fearing the consequences of eating and weight gain.

After much research, I found a book about a treatment programme called the New Maudsley Method, which encourages family members to support and aid recovery. Its bottom line argument is that “All living creatures must eat to live – whether to eat or not is non-negotiable”. My aim was to restore her weight so that she could make rational decisions for herself. When the body is starved, the brain cannot function. The New Maudsley Method gave me a strategy to take on Olivia’s anorexia and help her get better. With support from my GP I made a plan of action.

Mealtimes became a battleground. I had to be firm, level-headed, calm and empathetic. I can assure you none of these qualities come naturally to me. But to see my gorgeous, intelligent, bubbly daughter fading away gave me determination even though inside I felt far from confident. Anorexia is an insidious illness but from my own experience, I know all the tricks, lies and manipulation a sufferer will go to in avoiding food.

Gradually, small changes happened. I was unwavering with my approach at mealtimes and Olivia’s anxiety around food improved. She took up yoga, which taught her to appreciate her body. The antidepressants she had been prescribed started to work and occasionally we would get glimpses of the fun loving Olivia we all knew. She started thinking about the future. She applied to university and Ellen involved her with wedding planning. Her recovery was not smooth or easy and we would often take many steps backwards before making progress.

One year on, and Olivia is fit and healthy, studying at university. She was a beautiful and competent Maid of Honour. She still finds some things difficult but the difference now is that she is more aware of her emotions and the impact they can have on her eating.

Anorexia is a complex psychological illness. Fortunately I had the experience and knowledge to take on the start of her recovery and weight restoration is just the beginning. I know that for most families it is a bewildering shock to realize their son or daughter is so ill. Early intervention from specialist professionals is essential and has to be offered immediately wherever you live. The sooner that help is given, the less chance anorexia has of digging in its claws and refusing to let go.

 

#WhyWait?

one of the most challenging conversations two friend can have

It’s officially been over a year since I went for the coffee which basically saved my life. It was probably one of the most challenging conversations two friends could have but also one of the most important.

I dreaded that coffee. Ella dreaded that coffee. There is no denying that we both wished that we never had to confront the issue. I wanted to pretend so much that there were no problems and she had no idea what was going on, I was so ready to lie. In reality though she saw everything and was brave enough to risk my reaction and our friendship and ultimately put my future and life first. We started talking, she explained how she felt, she explained what she could see me doing and she shared her own experience. She recognised what I was going through.

((I am not going to lie, I hated her. Well no, my disorder hated her but then my disorder hated everyone including me.))

In the end though, her talking, recognising what I was doing, showing me that I wasn’t alone, and her friendship was something I couldn’t ignore. I wasn’t suddenly cured, I mean she’s great but not a magician. I did get worse before I got better ((what does better even mean???)) and I held on to a lot of hate. But I did go home. I did want to get better. And I did start talking more. I thank you Ella for all that you have done for me and the support you continue to give me, you are an inspiration.

This week, from Monday 26th February to 4th March is Eating Disorder Awareness Week 2018. This year EDAW is asking the question #WhyWait? It’s all about having that lifesaving conversation with someone who you think may be struggling and recognising signs and symptoms as soon as possible.

Beat reported that on average, 149 weeks pass before those experiencing eating disorder symptoms seek help. That’s almost 3 years, 37 months, or 1,043 days. Shockingly, it was reported that 34% (1 in 3 adults), could not name any signs and symptoms of eating disorders. Do you know any of the warning signs? ‘Being thin’ ‘weight loss’ ‘fasting’ ‘bingeing and vomiting’ do these spring to mind? Well, these have been listed as top answers to that question, but 79% of adults can’t even name a psychological symptom. Eating disorders signs and symptoms don’t just include these physical signs but incorporate a range of behavioural sign and psychological signs. I urge you to follow this link to find out more.

Fortunately, I have been surrounded by people who haven’t waited. Luckily, Ella saw a lot more than just what I looked like, and was able to recognise early certain behaviours and changes in me as a person. There was no hesitation to confronting the situation and enabled me to start my recovery quickly.

I can’t stress enough how much, talking about eating disorders, talking about mental health, physical health, your dog and cat’s health is going to help. Let’s not only campaign to improve mental health services in general ((because let’s be honest, they’re still pretty shitty)), let’s campaign to raise awareness, particularly enabling people to recognise signs and symptoms so we can encourage and empower friends and family to take action. Use this week as a chance to grab a coffee with a friend and have a chat, it might be scary (Trust, me and Ella were scared on so many levels) but #Whywait?

xxx

p.s If you wanna help raise more awareness post a picture of you in your favourite coolest socks with the #sockittoeatingdisorders ((hence the feature photo))