I am currently doing an elective with the eating disorder unit in the mental health department as part of my end of the year medical school training. I drew this years back but my recent experiences have made me reflect on these thoughts again.
Many people are unaware but eating disorders have one of the highest mortality rates of all mental health diseases. Physiologically, premature death is most commonly due to severe electrolyte imbalances, particularly potassium levels, the electrolyte most important for setting the threshold to our heart beat. Along with this, many also struggle with co-morbid depression and weak support networks… which, of course, makes them especially vulnerable to more active forms of self harm, the most extreme being suicide.
Today, I saw a symposium with three recovered patients, each with a unique story of triumphs and set-backs, all equally powerful for the sense of hope they instilled in both the clinicians and patients listening. I think when looking back at this panel I am no longer sure if one sees a monster in the mirror. I am not completely sure what one sees but it is definitely not enough. I suppose it never is.
Later, in the outpatient clinic, I sat with an older woman who has been fighting her own battle for the last 50 years. Married, two kids and grandchildren. Sweetest lady you’d ever meet.