The first time I realised my address had an impact on the treatment I could access was when it was too late.
I had moved to a new area which I loved, but when my anorexia became more difficult it dawned on me that the help I could receive was limited due to the type of place I live and the funding that area receives.
My appointments became entirely online as we decided that once a weekly 4-hour round trips were impossible due to my studies, money and time spent travelling. My physical health was monitored at the local hospital outpatient clinic which was fine, but no one had training in eating disorders: they were general nurses so could not properly spot signs of someone struggling with an eating disorder and they never questioned the warning signs. I was very lucky to see an Occupational Therapist within the community. But this OT was with the general mental health team and had no specialist training. They meant well, but would suggest remedies wholly inappropriate to someone suffering with anorexia.
It was hard being far away from the team that had supported me. I felt quite removed: I could put on a show for a zoom call, but behind the screen, my life was a wreck. I couldn’t sleep but was constantly tired, and the things I used to do for enjoyment had become a chore. As I spiralled further and further, I asked to see a dietitian. I found that the one that was available only worked one weekday, which left me shocked and at a loss. I wanted this help, but I could only be offered so many sessions due to patient numbers, time several other factors. I felt helpless as I was getting worse but there was not much more to be offered.
In the end I came clean with my team, and I was admitted to a specialist eating disorder inpatient hospital; after this, I was transferred to one closer to where my parents live. It was here I then realised what other eating disorder services offer to their patients. I started to realise that treatment is a postcode lottery, and that the treatment you have access to is completely dependent on where you live.
It makes me sad that this determines treatment as it simply shouldn’t and means that so many who need help will not have it available to them – where you live should not be potluck of the help you can receive but it now is. How much your NHS board pours into eating disorder services should not be sheer luck. Your postcode is a postcode. It never should be a treatment-death sentence.
Contributed by Maddie Ridge