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Break the Silence

Eating Disorders Awareness Week 20-26 February 2012

The Retreat is backing this week’s eating disorders awareness campaign run by beat, the eating disorder awareness charity, to encourage people to break the silence and speak up about their eating disorder.

The Retreat, in York, is a not-for-profit specialist mental health provider, working with the NHS to provide care for people with complex and challenging needs.

Staff and patients from Naomi, a unit specialising in treating women with complex eating disorders, want people to speak up about their eating disorder and seek help. 

Dan Round, Clinical Nurse Specialist on Naomi, says “There is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding surrounding eating disorders and we firmly believe as a team we need to break the silence.  Eating disorders are not just about food and wanting to be thin.  It is a serious, potentially fatal, mental illness that affects 1.6million people in the UK and requires professional help”. 

On hearing about the campaign a patient wanted to tell her story to encourage others to speak out –

 “A year ago, I never thought I would have the life that I have now. Life seemed unbearably painful and unmanageable. No matter how hard I fought, I couldn't break the ties that my illness had over me and I was sinking further and further into despair.

I was admitted in January, terrified of the fight I would have to face. The illness hadn't given me the peace and safety it promised and it certainly hadn't made me or anyone else happy. I knew that this was my chance at life.

The journey was slow and each day was a struggle, but it was made bearable by the constant support from staff and other patients.  For the first time, I was surrounded by people with similar illnesses who were fighting together to become well. There were people just ahead of me and people almost ready to continue their recovery out of hospital. Watching the others regain their lives gave me strength to carry on and seeing them do what I thought was impossible for me gave me the determination to do that too. I made deep and lasting friendships that I hope will stay with me forever.

The groups on the Naomi programme enabled me to develop the skills that I needed to fight back against my thoughts and I learnt new ways of coping with life. In individual therapy, I opened up about things that I had hidden even from myself and unlocked the reasons behind my illness. It was terrifying and yet strangely relieving to accept my past.

I developed close relationships with all the staff and felt valued and supported all the way. Naomi became a safe place to test out my beliefs about the world and, little by little, my confidence grew.

Through family therapy, we began to heal the scars that my illness had left on my family and we learnt new ways of communicating. I am finally able to talk openly and honestly with my parents and for the first time, they have a reason for my illness. Our family is now much closer and I look forward to visiting home, rather than dreading it.

I am now back at Uni. Each day, I turn to the skills I learnt and draw strength from the friends I met there.

Eating disorders aren't just about food or thinness. They aren't a plea for attention and they aren't easy to overcome. If you are struggling - please ask for help, and keep asking. There is help out there and you DO deserve it. If you are worried about someone, don't put it off - the sooner somebody gets help the better. Be there for them, support them and encourage them to seek support. Don't suffer in silence - recovery is possible!”