When I arrived at the University of Sheffield I had just been diagnosed with anorexia. I had not discussed it with anyone at this point except for the GP who diagnosed me. It is only looking back on it that I realise how confused I felt. Part of me was desperate to talk about it to someone. However, I must admit that part of me was reluctant to seek treatment.
Firstly, my experience with my GP had not been very helpful. Also, if I am really honest, part of me was scared to try and change. The idea of someone forcing me to put on weight terrified me. I thought that as soon as I saw a nurse my weight would soar, that I would have to be a size that I did not feel comfortable with. I think also that by then the anorexia had come to dominate my life to the extent that I could not really imagine my life without it. I felt as though the illness was a part of me and that by losing it, I might lose a part of myself.
However, greater than this was the feeling that my life could not go on as it was.
One day therefore, I found courage to go to the university health service and seek help. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I can honestly say that if I had not done this, I do not know what would have happened to me. My nurse was fantastic. She was specially qualified to deal with dietary issues and working at the university health service clearly had experience working with young people. It was so different to talking to a GP. I did not feel that she was ever judging me, or patronising me, or giving a look I had sometimes felt I was given, of ‘oh no, another young girl starving herself’. She talked to me like a person. She always emphasised how normal what I was going through was and I think that it was talking her that the realisation hit me for the first time that I was not alone.
It was not always easy. At first particularly she did used to threaten me with hospital referral and potentially being forced to leave the university. However, that was what I needed, I needed to be forced to change. I needed that incentive to do the thing that scared me the most. Then as time went on, it got a lot easier. The sessions went from being things I dreaded to times I actually looked forward to. I felt I came out of each of them with a better understanding of myself and a greater control over my life (I know this may sound cheesy, but it is true).
She did not force me to put on lots of weight all in one go. She couldn’t. I realised that the only person that could make me put on weight was myself. I had targets of small weight gains, so that I never really noticed the weight going on. Also, the weight gain was far harder than I thought it was going to be. It certainly was not a case of me eating a few big meals and pieces of cake, it was a long, difficult process. Also, it was always my choice as to whether or not to know my weight. In fact I was always given a lot of choice, ‘was there anything that had been particularly concerning me’, ‘was there anything that I wanted to talk about?’
Though the best thing and I think the thing that made the most difference was that she seemed to really care. I trusted her completely and I felt that she genuinely wanted me to get better. I remember the first time I put on weight she had a tear in her eyes.
I could write far more pages then this and still never fully convey the gratitude that I feel towards the woman who treated me. As I wrote in my card to her when I was discharged, she didn’t just make me well again, she made me me again.
To anyone who is currently struggling with weight problems, I would beg you to seek help. It is not easy, but it is worth it.
- Sophie Clark
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