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A testament to my strength and resilience - My Story pt 1.

This is a vulnerable post, that I felt called to share, because I don’t think eating disorders aren’t taken seriously enough when it comes to being a ‘mental illness’.

It’s the end of ‘eating disorder awareness week’, so here I am, raising awareness by sharing snippets of my own story and harrowing experiences.

If you know me by now, you’ll know I’m always open and honest, but things perhaps I’ve never mentioned (not because I’ve hidden it) but because they weren’t at the forefront or something that felt relevant. What I’m about to speak about is my experience of how I have been treated with an eating disorder, since my diagnosis in 2009 (specifically anorexia)

2009 I had my first inpatient admission.

Brutal, demoralising and inhumane are a few words I can use to describe it.

I was on strict bed rest, which meant I wasn’t allowed to get up, move, or do anything at all. I was also on 1:1 which meant someone was by my side watching my every move 24/7, even when using the toilet and showering. I was 18 years old. To say I was ashamed, embarrassed and humiliated is an understatement.

The windows in the bedroom were locked, the heating on full blast. I was boiling hot, sweating. I resorted to wearing pyjama shorts, but was told off and told to change because I needed to ‘cover up’. I wasn’t allowed outside for about a month. I felt trapped. I hadn’t felt fresh air in so long.

The dining room was torture.

It was a tiny little room with 2 small, glass tables.  A member of staff sat at either end, with the rest of the patients crammed together in the middle. It was silent, no radio, no one speaking. As if it wasn’t hard enough facing something you didn’t want, to be sat in a silent room with members of staff watching you like a hawk, with their arms folded watching the clock and watching you.

“Eat quicker” they’d say, “10 minutes left” where was the actual support?

I was made to feel ashamed of myself for being there. In a hospital where I should be recovering and getting better, receiving the treatment, understanding and care I needed. I felt like I was being punished instead of looked after. It was more like a prison than a rehab…

When discharged I was left in the dark with no help. I was fed until reaching an ‘appropriate’ weight and thrown out and left to my own devices, with zero after support or mental support. Safe to say it wasn’t long before I relapsed. This is what happens to most of us and they call us a ‘revolving door’.

I tried to do it alone best I could, but back then, ED wasn’t spoken about, I felt on my own with it and just didn’t know what to do. I kept going, but was struggling. What was the point in asking for help considering the treatment I’d had previously.? Why would I want to put myself through that again!?

Eventually it got really bad, I was showing extreme physical symptoms like swollen ankles and knees. My body was retaining water. I panicked at this point as I’d never had this happen before.

I was living in London at the time, far from home. Sacred and alone.

I ended up bravely going to see a GP, I wanted help with my diet, someone to help me make increases safely and have a plan I could manage and maintain with support.

This is what I voiced. I was weighed, the doctor was alarmed, she suggested that I get an ECG immediately at the hospital.

I’d taken some time off work to try and recuperate. The next day I went for the ECG as asked if, the results seemed fine and stable.

Later that day I remember going shopping for the afternoon to take my mind off things because I was petrified.

I’d spoken with my mum about coming home and getting treatment again in my home town.

I noticed I’d got several missed calls, which was no caller ID, but was left a voicemail. It was the doctor asking if I had been for the ECG.

Eventually I caught her call. I told her I’d been, but she didn’t believe me, in fact, she called me a liar??? She didn’t believe that I had been to the hospital. I told her to call reception and ask them to confirm that I had been. Apparently she couldn’t, due to confidentially, which I didn’t believe and made no sense… she suggested I go again tomorrow to have another..

So I did. Willingly. Again like I had done something wrong or was being ‘bad’ and must face the consequences because I’m a liar…

I went for the ECG late on, around 5/6pm - it was February; so it was dark and freezing cold.

I remember being in a cubicle freezing, with all the sticky labels from the ECG dotted all over my body just sat, waiting….?

I had no signal on my phone so I couldn’t message my mum or friends for support. I just had to sit and wait, whilst staring at the cubicle walls and curtain. Listening to others being brought into A&E.

I was scared. Really scared. I wasn’t sure what was happening or why I was still there.

Then suddenly, 3 men entered my cubicle out of nowhere. I’d never seen them before. I felt really scared, my heart was pounding. Who were they?

One of them held his arms out across the curtain blocking it, basically locking me in.

The next thing I knew he started talking quickly, harshly and sternly; telling me that I would be sectioned under the mental health act if I dared try and leave 😳  no introduction to who they were. I just lay in the hospital bed, vulnerable, with 3 men I’d never met, inside the cubicle. Can you imagine how this felt as a 21 year old woman?

One of the other men sat at my bedside and tried to reassure me that as long as I was willing, I wouldn’t be sectioned.

Everything was happening so quickly, I had no idea what was going on.

I tried to tell them that I was about to move back home to receive treatment in my home town, but he wasn’t having it. He didn’t believe me, even though I got him to ring my mum and confirm. He was just as horrible with her as he was with me.

You can imagine just how scared I was, I still didn’t know who they were or why they were here. I wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital, whether I wanted to or not. I had no choice.

It wasn’t until years later that I realised I’d been stitched up. All of it had been set up maliciously behind my back.

The GP!! She knew that if she could get me to go back to the hospital, she could set this up to ‘capture’ me..

This has caused me so much trauma (that still plays on my mind today)

Instead, imagine if actually someone took some time and sat down with me, listened, tried to understand and told me how they could help, or options I had; rather than going behind my back and terrifying me.

I was then sent up to a ward with lots of elderly people. I was on a 1:1 24/7 to ensure I didn’t escape. I had nothing. No toiletries, change of clothes, a phone charger, a toothbrush. Nothing. I was also completely alone, far away from home, no friends or family around me.

I spent a week on this ward. I contacted my own GP back home to tell her what was happening, and asked if she could negotiate something with them to try and get me home… she assured me she’d do everything she could.

I never slept on this ward, it was so noisy and disruptive, it was impossible, I was just on high alert, I couldn’t relax. How could I?

It was coming up to a bank holiday, I noticed the psychiatrist who had put me in here talking with one of the nurses saying “we need to get her out of here, we need the beds!” What did that mean? Where was I going?

It seems that my GP beck home wasn’t actually working in my favour to help me, she was, in fact, working with him!

This is when I was sent to an inpatient unit in north London run by the NHS.

It was late when I arrived there, chaperoned of course, just in case I escaped..

When I was assessed they were confused. They apparently wasn’t expecting me. They also told me I WAS sectioned. I said no, I accepted treatment so I can’t be.

When they read the papers throughly they had been sent, apparently they were false. He had falsely sectioned me, but it wasn’t legal.

So I wasn’t actually sectioned.

This hospital wasn’t very nice. I was stuck in a small room, in one of the coldest winters we had and the bedroom window wouldn’t close properly. All I had was a thin blanket, I spent the night shivering, terrified and wondering what the hell was going on. Was this a nightmare I’d wake up from?

Unfortunately it wasn’t.

Each week I’d be told that they were working on transferring me back home, but each week I was told “sorry, it hasn’t been arranged yet, it’s a tricky process” I mean how hard could it be?

The whole time I was there which was about 5 months in total, my mum was only able to visit once.

It was an incredibly tough period in my life.

To be continued….

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