Anna’s story is truly inspiring. She suffered anorexia for 10 years and was treated at the Bethlem Royal Hospital where she received amazing care from the staff who helped her on her journey to recovery. She is now doing her dream job as a learning disability nurse, and this year she raised money for research into eating disorder treatment by abseiling 100 feet down King’s College Hospital!
Here is her story of hope and recovery.
‘I developed anorexia in 1996 during my mid-teens and underwent several different inpatient hospital admissions during the 10 years I was ill. I was referred to the Bethlem Royal Hospital in 2001 after several relapses in my anorexia, associated self-harm, OCD, substance abuse and attempted suicides.
I underwent three admissions between 2001 and 2004, one of which lasted for almost a year under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act due to my emaciated physical state and distorted mental health.
I left the Bethlem Eating Disorder Unit in April 2004 and have become firmly grounded in recovery since.
‘The staff brought me through it’
‘I have so much gratitude in my heart for the care I received from the Bethlem and the staff’s refusal to give up on me when I had lost all hope in the possibility of recovery.
The nursing staff patiently continued to re-feed me despite my fear, reluctance and hostility toward them and treatment. I underwent psychological therapies and family work which I found extremely difficult but persevered.
I had to face what I can only recall as the most frightening time of my life as I was completely entrenched in the world of mental illness, isolation and paranoia. Yet the staff brought me through, in particular the ward social worker who tirelessly gave more than her job’s worth.
Doing her dream job
‘Since leaving hospital I have gained an ICT diploma, I got my first full time job at Mencap at the age of 30 years old and graduated from university in September 2013 as a learning disability nurse/social worker. I am currently living my dream, working as a learning disability nurse in a medium secure unit for adults with autism, mental illness and associated forensic history, something I never believed possible.
I joined the involvement register in 2010, whereby I engage on an ad hoc basis in various work within SLAM NHS Trust, inclusive of the role of service user consultant in the Psychological Medicines and Psychosis CAG Group to inform and shape policy, link working between service users and professionals to ensure high quality mental health provision delivery, interviewing for band 5 RMN positions and within carers workshops for inpatients with eating disorders.
Fundraising for research into eating disorders
‘The Bethlem not only helped me transform my life they saved my life. Sadly, though I have lost many friends to anorexia.
I am passionate towards promoting recovery, relieving suffering and preventing what I strongly believe can potentially be avoidable deaths. These days there is a glimmer of sunshine even through the thickest of clouds.
So I chose to complete the abseil to raise money to fund the continuing research into eating disorder treatment within the Institute of Psychiatry. The abseil was so scary but excellent, and I’ve raised lots of money which I’m still collecting, so I’m very happy.’
If you’ve been inspired by Anna’s story and you would like to support the work of South London and Maudsley, we have lots of ideas to inspire you.