Anneka Reay discusses how she overcame anorexia with support from Together’s community mental health service in Warwickshire.
I started using Together’s Warwickshire Your Way service in November 2012. I have noticed big changes in myself and my life, and I firmly believe much of this is a product of receiving support from Your Way. Prior to working with Your Way, my experiences within the mental health system have been quite difficult, and very up and down. I suffer with anorexia and depression. I often felt that my symptoms were being categorised in order to make me fit into a larger group of patients. Despite the obvious genuine care of staff, it was difficult to make progress when my individuality felt lost within a system.
The approach Your Way offered was so refreshing.
I don’t feel like I’m being passed from pillar to post – I feel at the epicentre of my recovery. It is my choice what decisions are made and this alone has a very positive impact. I have spent a large amount of time as an inpatient, and so decision making was something I handed over in order to focus on eating. I think that over a prolonged period of time, I lost the confidence to feel able to make decisions without someone else’s approval. I have had plenty of gentle encouragement to believe in myself, and learned that my opinions are of the same value as the company I keep. This was something initiated by my keyworker Rebecca, and was something that I was unaware of until I started noticing differences in myself. For me, this has been a fundamental aspect of the recovery that I have made.
I can’t stress enough how important it was to build up my confidence and with hindsight, I’m not entirely sure if I would have regained my confidence had I not had such positive thinking keyworkers to support me.
I still have many down days, but I find it much easier to think of these moods as temporary, as I have a wealth of evidence now to demonstrate that I can and do bounce back, no matter how long it takes sometimes.
This is making me more and more resilient to feelings of despair and it was that that held me in a dark place for a long time.
I see my keyworker twice weekly in my flat. The work we do on one day is then re-enforced during the next session of the week and this has enabled me to make progress. Anorexia is extremely manipulative, and so the re-enforcement of a second session disables anorexia from interfering with achieving goals. When my mind starts to sabotage efforts made in the first session of the week the thought patterns can be undone in the second, preserving the progress.
I am learning the value of repetition and planning, and gradually, with a very good support network, I am taking back the control over my own life.
I’m currently back in Stoke at university, finishing off my degree from 10 years ago part time, and I’m due to graduate next summer. I have also recently been taken on by a gallery in Kent.
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