L told me recently about an interview she heard on the abc radio station between Richard Fidler and Dr. Megan Axelsen. The woman was an anoretic for 11 years and now describes herself as “partially recovered”. She mentions in the interview that she believes those who are hospitalised for their eating disorder before the age of 20 never fully recover. To listen to her speak, go here.
I think it’s an interesting idea, really. Hospitalising a bunch of other eating disordered patients together is perhaps not the smartest move to make. Because of the pure manipulative nature of eating disorders and the intense desire to continue to lose weight, individuals are susceptible to learning “tips and tricks” as such, from other individuals. Basically, the eating disordered patient discovers that the quick way out of hospital is to do what the staff want – that is, gain the necessary weight and eat the food they are told to. They leave, and the inevitable happens – the weight is yet again lost, the ED behaviours again begin and the patient winds up where they were 6 weeks ago – in the hospital.
I was thinking today about the circumstances the individual is under when they are hospitalised – they are essentially forced to eat (or fed through a tube if they refuse to eat – so yes, force-fed) and often the idea is for the patient to gain weight as quickly as possible so as to make room for the next anoretic. It is so wrong to think that once the individual resumes eating, they are on a successful recovery path. Obviously those who are actively involved in treating eating disorders recognise that this is not the case, but perhaps it is a myth that needs to be cleared up with the general public.
Here are some general stats for those who find it sorta interesting:
– Up to 20% of people with serious eating disorders die.
– With treatment, 2-3% of people with anorexia die.
– Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychological disorder.
– With treatment, only 60% of anorexic individuals make a full recovery.
– 20% make a partial recovery (ie, able to hold down a job and maintain relationships but are still food and exercise focussed)
– The final 20% remain underweight. They are consistently seeking treatment for their eating disorders and it’s physical and psychological ramifications.
Recovering from an eating disorder takes an immense amount of time, and also deep determination and commitment. I have had a much shorter recovery period than most, though it is yet to end, but I have been so blessed in that I have had the time and space in which to focus on getting better. Living with L and A, ditching uni and work and regularly seeing a team of people I have been able to work through issues quickly – so many people suffering at the hand of this illness still go about their day-to-day lives, working and studying. My weight gain was an ongoing thing – it didn’t just happen overnight, as I feared it would. I was slowly able to get used to hips and thighs and … my body, in general.
I was at a point in my illness where I was either going to be hospitalised, commence binge eating or recover. I wasn’t ready to recover. My body was too malnourished to allow me to lose any more weight. And thus binge eating and purging ensued. I cannot even begin to explain how thankful I am that I was not hospitalised. I know without a doubt that God did not allow that to happen, that there was a huge purpose in it all – and it blows my mind to try to comprehend that God knew all of this was even going to happen before I was even born. That I would know all of these lovely people. That I would be sitting here writing this very blog post today, with these very fingers. That I am recovering, and will recover from this eating disorder successfully. And He knows how the rest of my story goes – He knows, because He wrote it.
Go ahead and take a risk. He knows how your story goes too – He knows because He wrote it – and He loves you.