This week it’s Eating Disorders Awareness week (see the Beat website for more). A topic very close to my heart. I have worked in the field of eating disorders for about 7 years now.
Remembering back to my first few days in my NHS post I was pretty petrified! What was I going to say to someone who was refusing to eat? How could I help? How much of a challenge was this really going to be and was I up to it?
7 years on I’ve completely fallen in love with working in this field. It’s flipping hard work most of the time, but it’s so rewarding too. I’ve met some amazing people who have shown such strength and grim determination. It hasn’t always been enough and it certainly hasn’t always been a happy place to be, but it is a job that makes me thankful for my life and my health almost everyday. Most of the people I’ve worked with have talked about a raging battle going on in their mind, to me that’s one of the key challenges – how to overcome this battle.
My approach to working in Eating Disorders has been to celebrate the small successes, however small. There have been moments when I have literally jumped up and down in excitement when a client has managed 1 mouthful of a slice of toast. In fact I feel like celebrating all over again now – WOOHOO! If that doesn’t make you excited then a career in Eating Disorders probably isn’t for you 😉 In my job I have to be empathetic, caring, patient, calm, focused and have attention to detail, but also direct, firm and in charge. To my clients I am the authority on nutrition and I have to show I know my stuff or they aren’t going to trust me. Fortunately for me, this has all come pretty naturally. I’m not sure my husband would say I’m a naturally patient person, but put me in front of a client with an Eating Disorder and suddenly I am.
Recovering from an Eating Disorder takes courage, tenacity and TIME. There is no quick fix. Living with someone who is recovering is amazingly hard too. If you know someone who is struggling then be patient with them and be kind. Try not to tell them they look like they have put on weight or that you’ve noticed they are eating more. Just support them quietly and gently, ask them if/how they need support. Give them time. It takes time to become ill so it will take time to get well also. Lastly remember that just because someone is a normal weight does not mean they are all better.