Anna is so busy getting ready for tomorrow’s fundraising event that she has asked me, her mum, to write something today.
I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have an eating disorder but I do know I’m affected by one each and every day. As a mum, your child’s pain is inevitably yours and you want to do everything you can to help them. From the minute your child is born and placed in your arms, feeding them, helping them to grow is key; should you breastfeed, when should you wean, should you make your own baby food or will a jar do, are they eating enough vegetables, should you buy organic, is their school serving turkey twizzlers or Jamie Oliver approved nutritionally balanced wonderfulness… it goes on. So what happens when you CAN’T feed your child? Anna has written before about people saying the wrong thing and making things worse and I know that some of those things have come out of my mouth, sometimes carelessly , sometimes angrily but always from a place of love and wanting to beat this disease which has blighted her life for so long now. Our battles are not with Anna, they are with the ED and understanding that difference is key.
I am so proud of her for fighting this every single day and I know that we will get through this, because we have to, anyone who has read this blog knows that she, Lucy and all the other friends she’s made on this horrible journey through anorexia, are worth way too much to give up the fight. Doctors have told us that most of the young people that are affected by EDs are highly intelligent, talented, attractive young women and in my experience they are right and we can’t give up on them.
One of my favourite quotes about mental illness is this (to the right)
We all need support from friends, family, teachers, doctors and other professionals at times and unfortunately it isn’t always available. Mental illness is still very misunderstood in this country, you wouldn’t tell someone with a broken leg to stop being so soft and get up and walk so why do people still expect those with mental illness to “pull themselves together and cheer up!” Or anorexics to “just eat something”. Recently a health care professional told me Anna “just needed to eat more”. If only I’d thought of that….
I love the National Health Service. My family have used it a lot and having lived in the US (pre-Obamacare) I am very grateful for the welfare state as I’ve seen young people suffering but unable to get the care they need because they didn’t have insurance. However, mental health funding for children and adolescents is disappointingly low within the NHS and this needs to change. Anna has been an inpatient at several different hospitals in the last three years and none of them have exactly been local. Taking already vulnerable young people away from their parents, their family and friends is not helpful and we need more beds, more units, more locally. There were times when I was only able to visit Anna twice a week and there were other young people who didn’t see their families for weeks because they were so far away from home; teens with family on the Isle of White being treated in Manchester, young people from the South East are being treated in Scotland because that’s the only place with a bed suitable for their needs. So I was incredibly proud when Anna told me that she had spoken to our MP Ben Wallace about funding for mental health care – we all need to let those in power now that it is not acceptable for teenagers who already feel emotionally or psychologically separate to be forced geographically apart from those they love as well. Mark Austin, the ITN newsreader has spoken publicly about his daughter’s battle with anorexia, and like me, admits that he got things wrong sometimes and said things that he regrets.
“So we tried to get help but there wasn’t really the help there,” he told the BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. He said she required “quick, significant intervention” but was instead offered counselling once a fortnight.
“Had it not been for the fact that my wife is an A&E doctor, I’m not sure what would have happened, but she was getting close to organ failure…There were no beds available, there was no specialist unit available, she needed to be in somewhere where they were looking after her with people of her own age.”
He has called on the government to spend more money and to ensure there are specialist units available for young people and I would like you to join me in supporting him in this. Mark said “We were very lucky. I’ve got money, I can have private insurance. I’ve got a wife who is an A&E doctor but what about the people who don’t have that? What about the people who don’t have the resources to go private?”
I would ask you to write to your MP and ask them to join the debate, or go straight to the Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt whose contact details can be found by clicking on this link.
Lets show our amazing young people that they are not alone and help their “I”llness become”We”llness.
Thanks for reading,
Quick message from Anna:
Thank you for reading – I’ve been swamped today getting everything ready for tomorrow (I’ll post some pictures in the next blog to show you all just how much I’ve made!), and thank you to my amazing Mum for being ‘guest writer’ today and for all your continued support and help -I really don’t know where I’d be without you x