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Wednesday, 7 September 2016
Glasgow Eating Disorders Unit
Dear Whoever Can Help,
I am asking for some help. This is by no means an easy thing to do, and there are so many people who struggle to ask for help. So I am also asking on their behalf.
1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness, and it is widely suggested that around 1.6million people in the UK are affected by eating disorders, and over 725,000 of these being sufferers. With Glasgow accounting for 42% of Scotland's population, the most densely populated Scottish City, why are there only 4 NHS beds dedicated to helping people suffering with eating disorders? And why is this not in a specialist inpatient unit?
My experience in a mixed psychiatric ward at the age of 18 was by no means fun, but it saved my life. That is a fact. Without the help that I received, I wouldn't have been able to return to university, study the subject I love, and reconnect with my family. I wish that every person who suffers from an eating disorder can receive the specialist help that an inpatient eating disorders unit in a hospital can provide, even if they struggle to ask for the help themselves.
When I was first encouraged to go and see a doctor by my concerned mum, I knew that something was wrong. I knew it wasn't healthy to obsess over ingredients, calories and sugar content. I knew that I was doing too much sport, and not eating enough to compensate. I knew I was ill.
My doctor also knew I was ill. He told me so himself, however, as my BMI was at the top range of underweight, he said he couldn't help me. He told me to imagine I was like a ball at the top of a hill, just about to teeter over the edge. He could help me get out of the ditch I was about to roll into, but couldn't give me the help to stop me tumbling down that slippery slope. And tumble I did. To my ill mind, he had just told me that I wasn't thin enough, that I wasn't a successful anorexic, and so I became one.
8 months later and 2 stone lighter, I was admitted to Stobhill hospital, in the north of Glasgow - the opposite side of the city from where my parents live. Had I been able to engage my weary and shrunken brain, I would have been terrified. I was in a strange place, surrounded by strange people, totally alone and having to face my fears of food every single day.
At first, it was a struggle. There were other people there who were so very ill, some with eating disorders, but most with some other form of psychiatric illness. This meant that it was hard for the 4 of us eating disorder patients to get the specific help we needed - some days there wasn't a trained specialist working, or those who were were busy dealing with a difficult situation with one of the other patients. This meant we would get nurses who weren't trained in the complex world of eating disorders and may say something that could trigger eating disordered thoughts, even if they were trying to help. In the depths of an eating disorder, the mind is fragile and easily influenced, and therefore needs specialist nurses that understand this delicate balance between help and hindrance.
I am by no means complaining, I owe my life to that place, I simply request for a little help. The eating disorders unit in Glasgow is far too small to accommodate the hundreds of people who need its help. While those 4 beds are almost always full, there are still people dotted around other hospitals, suffering from eating disorders, with limited help. Yes, the nurses will go and visit them, but it's not the same as having that help round the clock - which is exactly what is needed when you are too ill to help yourself. You need people who can spot the signs, people who can support at every stressful meal, comfort at every purge, and reduce every secret bit of exercise.
We may not like to admit it in the lowest points of our illness, but we need help. The kind of help that only a specialist unit can give us. So I ask, in this letter to anyone who can help MSPs, MPs, charities, anyone who is willing to donate to helping people recover from a life changing illness - please can we have a specialist unit in Glasgow for eating disorders. All I ask is one unit, with 8 to 12 beds and at least 2 specialist nurses there each day. It saved my life, and it can save so many more.
If you would like to donate to b-eat, the UK's eating disorders charity, please donate to my just giving page here. If you don't want to donate, that's also fine, but please help me raise awareness of this terrible illness and get sufferers the help that they need and deserve.
Read this post to learn more about my battle.