Why Seeking Treatment for My Eating Disorder Changed My Life

On 4 Jan 2011 I made one of the most difficult yet crucial decisions of my life – I decided to finally seek treatment for an eating disorder that I’ve had for 16 years. With the advice of my psychiatrist, I admitted myself into [an in-patient clinic] and began on a journey that changed my life. A part of me really wanted to get better but the other part of me only knew the eating-disorder-Tracy. I had defined myself for so long by my eating disorder that I forgot who I was. It completely took over my life and consumed me in everything that I did. If you had to label it, I was predominantly anorexic but I’ve done it all. I’ve abused my body in every possible way and manipulated it as a result of this eating disorder that had taken over my life.

Before I went into treatment, I didn’t realise how serious my eating disorder was. If you looked at me, I might have appeared to be normal on the outside but on the inside I was suffering immensely. My health began deteriorating at a rate that I could not keep up with and I just felt like my body was shutting down. This is when I knew I needed to do something. Deep down inside, I’d always wanted help but was afraid to take the leap. It’s never the right time. People are going to judge but in the end I realised I had to make the best decision for me at the time, despite what anyone else said.

It was hard enough and scary admitting that I had a serious problem but it was even scarier entering a clinic for an eating disorder. There’s a huge stigma attached and I was so concerned about what others would think. I was also ashamed but I began to learn that my eating disorder was no longer a choice and that it is an illness. I had high expectations and I was afraid that if the treatment at the clinic didn’t work, I was doomed for life. I was immediately setting myself up for failure and was not actually focused on my recovery but when I saw how committed the team was, I began to take the process more seriously.

In terms of care, they had it covered. There were 24 hour nurses and a specialist team that I personally saw one-on-one and in group sessions, consisting of: a social worker; a psychologist; a psychiatrist; a dietician; various occupational therapists, and a GP. Where else would I receive this kind of care and attention? This is what the 12-year-old girl inside of me had craved for so many years. There was such a lack of nurturing due to circumstances growing up and in turn I never learned to nurture myself. In [the treatment centre], it was all about nurturing. Not only did the staff care for me, but they also began to give me the tools to start caring for myself. They also gave me the motivation to look after myself.

I was fighting the eating disorder for 21 days. I gave up all the unhealthy addictions that came with the eating disorder: caffeine, chewing gum, hot drinks, diet cool drinks and many other triggers. Today, almost 50 days into recovery, I am still fighting the eating disorder but my experience [in treatment] was profound enough to motivate me to keep on fighting. It’s not an easy fight but it is certainly worth taking on. I’m now getting my energy from food and I can actually function. I’m much happier generally and I feel much stronger (physically and emotionally).

Since leaving the clinic there have been many challenges I’ve had to face and I would normally turn to my eating disorder but I’ve realised that I cannot rely on it any longer. It does not serve a purpose in my life anymore and it does not help me – it actually crushes me and makes me underestimate myself and my own strength. I was diagnosed with Coeliac Disease (I can never eat gluten again) but I’ve somehow managed to incorporate this into my life. I have not used the Coeliac Disease as an excuse to cut corners or to abuse my body and cut out important nutrients. I consulted a dietician and I’m managing my eating disorder and my Coeliac Disease.

Treatment did not stop when I left the clinic. I’m still regularly going to my psychologist, dietician and psychiatrist. I firmly believe that a team approach is best as an eating disorder has many facets (physically and emotionally). I trust the team and I’m 100% honest with them and committed to my recovery. I’ve also learned to be honest with my friends and family and to ask for help from them when I need their support. They would much rather be there and support be than see me suffer and lose the battle against an eating disorder.

I hope that those suffering from an eating disorder realise that there are options and that there is help available. I was at the peak of my career, a newlywed and was certainly not “ready” to put my life on hold and go to a clinic for treatment but it was the best decision of my life. I will never look back and I will never regret seeking treatment.