#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.


One step forward, Two steps back

I went from “yes I am overcoming this blip” to the depression and anorexia completely over taking.

Since my last post I have had some amazing comments along with lots of warming messages ((keep em coming)) , which has been so uplifting and motivating and I thank EVERYONE and anyone who actually reads these posts in general.

Not going to lie though, after I posted last weeks blog and received some responses I’ve had lots of chats with people telling me “I have turned a corner”, or that they are “proud of how far I have come”. Hearing that was so touching and knowing that I have a lot of friends and family that care for me has been one of the major factors in moving forward. I know there is truth in what people have been saying and everything so far has been a massive step and achievement. BUT… I felt so overwhelmed and actually quite scared of what all of that meant. I felt this enormous expectation to suddenly be “better”. ((does that mean being weight restored??? am I already better because I can discuss my problems with lots of people??? will I ever be better?!?!)) My head and the side of me that is a tad self-destructive went on over drive with many strange thoughts. I went from “yes I am overcoming this blip” to the depression and Anorexia completely over taking. !!ALERT – this will sound bizarre!! It made me feel really disappointed and ashamed in my-self from all angles. Both sides of me felt like failures, a failed Anorexic at the same time failing at recovery ((literally no win)). Feeling like this is draining, it’s a constant argument between the rational side of me which thinks I’m crazy to have thoughts like this, like why on earth would you do or say that, while the irrational side of me is extremely nasty and stubborn, and recently has been winning a lot more of these arguments.

The expression “one step forward, two steps back” really resonates with me. Wanting to get better and handing control of my food over was my step forward, but putting what I was preaching into practice and my reaction to this step actually took me back quite a bit.

Weird i know! But it’s the reality. In anyone’s day regardless of what is going on, there are moments where I am sure you feel effortless and on top of things but moments that also throw themselves at you which I am sure you wished had not had happened ((and can tend to be the ones that you unfortunately remember and feel the most)). Well it’s a bit like that but I flick between this, for what feels like all day and every day.

I have entered what lots of people call the “recovery” phase ((possibly the expression my mum and I hate the most – – a blog post for another day though)) I have been trying to keep my motivation up and have been reading stories and quotes of others overcoming whatever ill health they have been going through ((you stumble across so many clichés it is unreal!!)). I know they are here to help but honestly, I find the quotes specifically quite funny and condescending rather than constructive, or motivating ((that is probably the irrational side of me telling me not to listen or find them helpful…bit of a double-edged sword I know)). They make me think that, magically, one day  a bridge will appear leading me to a world of “recovery” or I will wake up and suddenly have arrived in this place of being better. Maybe that will happen but I am thinking maybe not and it is more something I am going to own, embrace, live with and manage a lot more successfully than I am at the moment. It is part of me but it doesn’t have to define me ((I feel like I should whoop at the end of that sentence)).

I love a success story, from whatever illness, they are empowering and provide hope to everyone and there is something so comforting to hear that we can be strong. I have a long way to go before I sound like any of the success stories have heard but this is all part of my story good and bad. Right now it is just not going very smoothly or as easily as I may have have hoped ((as it turns out it is not as easy as it may look… definitely not as easy as just eating another slice of cake – – (probably the most overheard and ignorant sentence to be said) but if it were that simple I wouldn’t be in this situation)) but maybe one day!!!