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Treatment: My Experience by Kate

I am Kate, 31 and in recovery from anorexia. My experience of seeking treatment has taught me that often you have to fight the system and keep persisting until your voice is heard.

I first sought treatment for anorexia when I was in the early staged of the illness, aged 17, back in 1995. My family doctor weighed me and put me on a course of antidepressants. He told me that even Princess Diana had an eating disorder and implied that it was simply a phase. I felt like a fraud as I’d gone there hoping for help with my eating disorder and received nothing but medication.

Over a period of a year I saw my doctor monthly to be weighed and each time my medication was either increased or switched. Unsurprisingly, the medication had little or no impact on my illness. Eventually I was misdiagnosed again, this time with Chronic Fatigue and referred to a specialist who gave me yet more medication and put me on a graduated exercise programme to rebuild my strength. Looking back it is rather ironic that the very treatment of exercise was prescribed to an anorexic and years later my exercise addiction landed me in the EDU!

In 1997, whilst at university, I stopped eating and saw a doctor who decided the best thing for me to do was go back on medication. It wasn't until 1998 that my doctor back home finally diagnosed me with anorexia. Even with this diagnosis I was unbelievably prescribed another medication which actually made me so wired that I completely lost what little appetite I had left and made me lose more weight.

I received counselling at university but this did not help much as she had very limited experience of the illness. My university doctor referred me to a nurse at the clinic for support (who i was supposed to see weekly) and the rather intimidating receptionist said that the earliest appointment was 6 weeks. I felt totally fed up and told her to leave it. Several month later I was referred to the local hospital’s Eating Disorder Service. Again, this was only a monthly 15 minute chat with a dietitian so had virtually no impact on my illness.

Years went on and although by this point my eating disorder had become more severely entrenched I was very wary of seeking further treatment. It wasn't until 2001 that I eventually received real help, when I met my current doctor who had worked at the Priory Clinic and he also had significant experience in treating mental health patients. For the first time, I felt like i was truly understood and a few months later I changed medical practice to remain under his care.

The following year my eating disorder was at its worst; I had to give up my job working with Pre-School children and my relationship with my boyfriend ended so i had to move back in with my parents. My doctor referred me in September to the Priory Clinic and within a month I was getting ready to be admitted.

In October 2002, I entered the Eating Disorders Unit at Marchwood Priory Hospital. Nothing could have prepared me for the mentally, emotionally and physically challenging work that lay ahead. Eating 3,000 calories a day and having limited exercise at times felt unbearable and were it not for the tremendous support from doctors, therapists, nurses and most significantly other in-patients, it would have been virtually impossible.

The most humiliating part of treatment was being weighed in my underwear twice a week and having to request my bathroom door be unlocked at the nursing station. Some groups I gained huge benefits from, such as CBT and I had a fantastic therapist who enabled me to understand the illness and recovery process. However, despite writing my ‘Step 1’ and trying to convince everyone I was ‘in recovery’ I had secretly been binging on my visits home as a means to reach target and be discharged quicker.

My therapist and the EDU manager both tried to convince me that I needed to stay longer but just before Christmas my Consultant agreed to my discharge. I returned home physically stronger but mentally I was still very low. Within four months I was readmitted to the EDU and this time I gave it everything I could as I knew that life on the outside with anorexia was sheer hell.

The second admission was much harder than the first as I had to learn to be honest about my feelings and work through some traumatic experiences. However, I made some very close friends and we spent much time laughing, crying and singing together! I found that through experiencing the changes necessary for recovery with those close to me I gained strength and received a new perspective on the whole process.

By summer 2003 I was ready to return home and had an excellent care team in place. For the following 2 years, I regularly saw my GP, dietitian, therapist and eating disorder Consultant and attended weekly OA groups. A further key part of my recovery involved being ‘disciplined’ (mentored) by a lovely, supportive woman from my church. Today, this continues and I have found my faith and my ‘Church on the Rock’ family to be a significant factor in maintaining recovery.

The past 6 years have seen me experience wonderful times of freedom from anorexia as well as periods of desperation and relapse. I see recovery as something I choose daily, to follow my menu plan, stick to my exercise contract, take my medication and continue working with my Cognitive Analytical therapist. Today, I read as much as I can about CBT and CAT approaches to recovery and have recently put together a book about my journey, entitled “Goodbye Ana” and have included information about what has helped me to remain well.