So where am I now?
Well there's a question! Sometimes I don't feel I know.
I still restrict, and I binge frequently. I feel disgusted with myself a large proportion of the time, but equally I'm so used to this now that I'm getting better at switching off those emotions and getting on with things.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I decided to finally go and seek professional help for my issues. I'd known for a long time that I had issues, but I was always scared of the consequences of seeking help (weight gain, losing something that I felt defined me, not having control of things...). Getting help was something my Mum actually convinced me to do (I only started to speak to my Mum about things when I started getting better before Christmas last year - turns out she'd guessed long ago that I'd had issues) and was finally realising how the quality of my life was suffering from being so preoccupied with my eating. I went to go and see my GP at the end of January, which was scary but was not as bad as I thought once I was in there - my GP was helpful and referred me to an eating disorders clinic, and said I should get a response from them 7-10 days later.
It's now been 13 weeks and I still haven't got help.
My first referral got lost, and then the eating disorders clinic rejected a second referral as they only deal with the more serious cases (which I completely understand). They suggested I was referred to the Community Mental Health Team. The doctor did this, and again the referral had to be chased up a couple of weeks later. Once again, my referral was rejected and I was told I should refer myself to a local Wellbeing Service.
The Wellbeing Service has so far represented everything I believe the NHS should be moving towards: electronic referrals, automated online assessments sent out before treatment, a dedicated booking system...and easy and quick-to-access services. One set back...during my initial phone assessment they told me they don't normally deal with eating disorders. It looks unlikely they'll be able to help me, but they have offered to provide support in any way that they can, which I am so thankful for. They recognised the amount of time that had passed since I initially went to see my GP, and highlighted that they wanted to try and get me some help as soon as possible - just hearing someone say that made me well up with tears. Someone wanted to help.
I understand the complexities of commissioning services within the NHS, and that they have to choose services that meet the needs of specific groups of people - I unfortunately just simply don't meet any service's criteria. The main thing I have struggled with whilst trying to get help is having to maintain my motivation to get help. During this time my behaviours and preoccupation with weight loss have worsened, and often I've questioned whether I really wanted to get help. I was having to chase up referrals, constantly going to my GP to ask them to refer me somewhere else, missing work to attend appointments and make calls. To do all of that you have to be dedicated to getting better. There were so many opportunities to just turn my back on the chase, give up on recovery, and indulge my disordered eating. It's the support of my family and boyfriend which prevented me from doing that.
Since January I have also experienced some of my lowest lows. A lot of this was a result of iron and B12 deficiencies, which my GP diagnosed as a result of my disordered eating. I would cry, have panic attacks, and sometimes couldn't even see the point in getting out of bed in the morning. Thankfully with treatment for these deficiencies, and some time off work, my outlook has massively changed, and it has given me even more motivation to want to get better. And as my Mum said, "you have to have these lows so that when you look back you remember how awful it was to live in this way: That will give you the strength to keep getting better, even when you may want to go back to your old behaviours". And that's why we love our Mums, for giving us those pearls of wisdom when we need them most!
This Friday I have an introductory session at the Wellbeing Service, where they'll take me through the therapies they offer. That way we can see if there's any way they can help me. My parents have also offered to pay for private therapy, which I'm so grateful for. I'm currently looking into private therapists for if the Wellbeing Service is unable to help me but I do hate the thought of taking money from my parents for therapy.
It does make me angry that there is not the help out there in my geographical area for people in my position. There are few people who are in the privileged position that I am in where they have a funding source for private therapy. The constant rejections from different services made me want to get worse: "if I just lost a bit more weight then I would meet the criteria for the eating disorders clinic"; "if I started purging then I'd get help quicker" - all things that went through my head, and obviously not something that the NHS should be promoting. I also know a great deal about my problems. I studied Psychology for my degree, and I read a lot of healthy eating blogs, however for people who have no understanding of their behaviours then not being able to get help could have awful consequences. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate than any other mental health disorder, and the NHS should be doing all they can to catch people early, before their eating disorders become too severe. Hopefully in the future this is something that will massively improve.
What has your experience of getting help been like?