I’m breathing a little sigh of relief today as it feels great to back in my normal blogging routine. As you may or may not have noticed, my slightly ambitious goal to post 7 days in a row for Eating Disorder Awareness Week fell after the first hurdle! It would have been a nice thing for myself to accomplish but to be perfectly honest, normal life (in a good way) took over last week. However that’s not to say I didn’t learn and observe a few things over the course of the seven days and I was tweeting my butt off whenever I had the chance (@Healthy_Image).
I mention Twitter specifically as I found it a fantastic tool over Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW). On a daily basis there seemed to be more articles of interest than usual being shared and circulated whether they were blogs, scientific papers, interviews, etc. and it was pretty overwhelming just trying to keep up with all the reading material at my fingertips. Even though I stated last week that every week is awareness week and I’m sure this is a similar mentality shared by others who actively work in this field, it felt as if everyone raising awareness had raised their voice a little bit louder which was exciting to feel a part of. There seemed to be (at least from my perspective anyway) a strong sense of community spirit in the twittersphere and that in itself is comforting. Therefore I hope it also sent positive messages to anyone suffering in silence. The amount of people sharing their own experiences was fantastic and from my own observations I noticed the trend of ‘you are not alone’ written in a lot of other people’s personal accounts of their own eating disorders which was hugely encouraging. If this message is reinforced again and again from different sources then it will hopefully begin to ring true to someone who is doubtful in being honest about themselves.
Whilst Twitter I felt was a success, Facebook was a complete let down. As I mentioned in last weeks blog, I posted a link and short message last Monday about the fact it was Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Out of about 400 people there were 2 likes. Interesting. I probably should posted something every day but something tells me I still would’ve received the same response. I guess on Twitter I’m surrounding myself with like minded people who are promoting the same thing but it would’ve been amazing if others had shown just a little bit of interest. And this isn’t purely fuelled by an observation on few ‘likes’, this is from not noticing anything posted on facebook at all. So what does tells us? I witnessed very little in the media about the fact it was EDAW so it still needs more attention and promotion for the future.
A lot of focus during EDAW also was given to role of GPs and the NHS in relation to eating disorders, in particular the ability of being able to recognise the signs of disordered eating as well as the length of waiting lists for treatment. Now by no means do I know all the facts about this but in general, most of the stories and news pieces written on this specific subject were on the negative side. I’m not denying that the negative aspects are true – I have my own horrid experience with my previous GP which I’ll go into further detail in the future (maybe next week!) – but coincidentally I had some interesting insights from my working week as well.
I frequently work as a role player for universities such as playing patients for medical and dental students and clients for trainee lawyers. Last week I was hired for final year medical student exams and it just so happened I was playing a patient with severe mental health issues. As I hope you understand I don’t want to go into too much specific detail here since this was an exam situation and I need to respect confidential information and not compromise anything. However what I saw first hand throughout this experience and in years before this was the obvious pressure and hard work medical students endure – as well as the amount of information and different areas of medicine they have to learn, study and prove their knowledge of in a very short space of exam time. I’m sure no one is doubting or questioning their dedication to their field of work and speaking to older, more experienced medical professionals proved that the hard work, stress and pressure from their chosen careers never really fades. I suppose what I’m getting at is that sometimes the media can portray the NHS and GPs as the bad guys (and don’t get me wrong I know there’s bad eggs out there – as I said I will recount my own bad experience) but before we demonise doctors, I often imagine myself in their shoes and appreciate the very difficult and demanding job they do – and if one doctor performs bad practice I know it is not a generalisation for the rest and there are plenty of great practitioners out there. Trust me, I interact with a huge variety of students and it is incredibly uplifting and reassuring to know that there are a lot of empathic, understanding and knowledgeable doctors in the making.
As well on this, to my delight there was also an examination station which centred on eating disorders. This proves that training is being treated with importance when it comes to eating disorders which gives me great hope for the future generation of medical students and professionals and I commend the examination board/university/whoever was responsible for including it in the exam curriculum.
Finally, what I also learnt during EDAW was to not forget how far you’ve come, and let the ones who have helped you – no matter what stage of recovery you are at – know that they are appreciated. Sometimes I have taken it for granted that the ones closest to me know how influential they have been to my own recovery, but it’s not always the case that they do. I may know how pivotal they have been in my life but that doesn’t mean they automatically do either unless you explain it to them. I am incredibly lucky to now be in a place where I can publicly share my thoughts and experiences with ease – something only a few years go I would have never even fathomed. I would never have been able to help others if others had not helped me first and given me the strength, confidence, love and acceptance I now have for myself if they had not loved and accepted me first and they deserve credit. There have been a few specific individuals who have been instrumental in my life and recovery – but there is one person in particular who without them I cannot imagine (and neither do I want to) where I would be and that is my future husband. If we had not met or not started our relationship I honestly don’t know where I would be today, and I certainly would not be who I am now; the most positive, happiest and content version of myself that has existed. He saved me from myself and he makes every second of my life worth living. Love was a void in my life that made me incredibly unhappy which fuelled my problems with eating disorders. His love was my antidote.
Remind the ones who have helped how much they mean to you. Not only will they appreciate it but it will also remind yourself of how far you’ve come and reinforce the significant changes you have made too. It never hurts to give yourself and others credit for the achievements you’ve made, you earnt them together.