Why we need a 24-hour eating disorder support line

Why we need a 24-hour eating disorder support line

A 24-hour support line for eating disorder sufferers will save lives. It will save relationships. It will save thousands of taxpayer dollars in health care. This is why I started a petition to raise awareness. To sign the petition, click here.

A Girl Called Tim - oh, for a 24-hour help line.

This year marks 50 years since I developed anorexia. It’s an illness that continues to make people’s lives a living hell. I am lucky for I have not only survived but also recovered my life – and live it to the full. But many sufferers of eating disorders don’t survive, or recover. They die by suicide or organ failure. Anorexia has the highest death rate of any psychiatric illness. Of those who live, and resume a normal weight, many live a part-life because the illness remains in their brain, manipulating, controlling and tormenting their every thought of every hour of every day.

A 24-hour support line is essential for both sufferers and carers. An eating disorder (‘ED’) is like an insidious, sneaky, manipulative internal saboteur that takes over your thoughts. If an ED thought is triggered, and not quickly defused, it can undo months and years of hard recovery work.

When you are in recovery, and know you want to regain your life, you know you need help lines – at every hour of the day and night.  You know you need to reach out to others who can guide you through this scary moment. If you miss this moment, your illness can swoop in, convince you that you don’t need help and quickly set about regaining control by destroying your fledgling sense of self. This horrid illness imprisoned me for more than four decades. I lost decades of the ‘real’ me, became alienated from my parents and sister, and lost my marriage. The cost is incalculable: for me, and for thousands of Australians who are suffering eating disorders today.

Diary extracts during my 20s, 30s and 40s:

Completely out of control today. I am ready to end it all. I go to pieces when left alone. I eat, eat, eat and eat. It’s a wonder I haven’t burst. And then I hit my head until it bleeds. It helps.

If not for my children, I would gladly die, and free my husband to be with a woman not troubled like me. I cannot escape the blackness in my head.

All but stabbed myself with a kitchen knife. George snatched it from me. Instead I’ve bruising – self-inflicted – on my breasts and abdomen. The strain is too much.

I must escape this torment before I go insane. I don’t know if I can stick it out until I get help. I hate that the children see me crying so often

I’m out of control. Sinking, sinking, silently screaming inside. Help me! I am losing my identity. I thought I would not get like this again. I am scaring myself.

I got out of this ‘hell’ six years ago at age 55. A help line, especially in the evenings, on weekends and during public holidays, would have facilitated recovery immensely by defusing the loud voice of ED.

Even today, if I feel an ED thought coming on, I get on the phone. My now adult children (my carers), their dad, my friends, are my after hours support lines at any hour of day or night. They know what to say and do.

But thousands of sufferers and families don’t have this crucial support. They need it. Now.

Last night a mother wrote:

It is like our daughter is not herself anymore…abusive, rude, defiant. Hospital discharged her today even though she has not eaten for nearly four days. In the four years of her illness we have never seen her so mentally ill and determined to never eat again.

It’s 11pm and she has fallen asleep, exhausted. We are desperate….

An adult sufferer:

I’m trying so hard to eat but come up against ED every time. The scary part is that I know it is ED and not me that is stopping me from eating three meals a day…. Today I had a coffee for breakfast, ‘up and go’ for morning tea and actually went into the shopping centre next to my work to get a sandwich for lunch but walked out instead with another coffee. Now it is 9pm and I haven’t eaten dinner. I wish I had someone to hold me accountable.

Support the call for a 24-hour eating disorder help line. 

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