Sometimes, when I’m lost in daily life, Eating Disorders Awareness Week feels a little bit pointless to me.
The moment you walk through the door here at Ellern Mede Derby, you’re aware. From the poster talking about effective meal support, the board displaying all the staff that support the young people here – dieticians, nurses, psychologists, healthcare assistants and so many more, to the leaflets on physical restraint, we are all aware of the insidious and all consuming effect eating disorders can have on anyone.
And personally, I am aware every day of the Venn diagram where my life and experiences cross over with that of the young people. The emotions I once felt. The frustrations I encountered, the difficult decisions I had to make and the difficult decisions the team taking care of me had to make are mirrored back at me.
Seeing the road far behind me that led to an eating disorder taking over my whole life and closer to me is a path well-trodden.
The path that led me here, that led me to recovery, and when I look back, I see the young people scattered behind. I can’t always put myself in their shoes but I remember the scenery. I remember the hard trek to get here, to the elusive recovery that I wasn’t convinced existed, but here I stand, shouting back, “It’s real, it’s possible, and it’s so worth it.”
When I joined Ellern Mede, as a Ward/Hospital Administrator, late last year, I believed that it would be nice to be close to something I feel so passionate about but far enough away to keep the emotional distance from my experiences in an eating disorder ward. I was partly right. It is nice to work somewhere that involves something you are passionate about but every time I walk through the gate, I am reminded of how my personal experiences make me better at my job. I know the value to making each part of their care person-centred, and the value of a friendly face and someone getting to know the you outside of the eating disorder.
But I am also aware of the experiences my Venn diagram touches increasingly less. Beat, the eating disorder charity, are focusing this year on the experiences of men with eating disorders. The less seen experiences, from men, different ethnicities, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, are the all too often forgotten about, the less likely to be taken seriously when seeking help, the stigmatized at a higher rate. Research suggests 1 in 4 people with eating disorders are men, a number higher than many would assume.
I then remember exactly why we need Eating Disorders Awareness Week.
For all of it, for the stories less heard, for everyone with an eating disorder to be met with empathy, support and understanding. Those of us who are aware can keep working to ensure all people with eating disorders are taken seriously, are not judged or ridiculed, and feel comfortable sharing as soon as they start to struggle. And last, but by no means least, we must all be aware that recovery is possible. Our ethos here at Ellern Mede is “We Never Give Up!”, and knowing just how much better recovery is than I possibly could have imagined. I won’t be giving up on anyone any time soon, and I know my colleagues won’t either.