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Sandeep Ranote, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist,
Andrea Phillipou, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne,
Susan Rossell, Director of the Centre for Mental Health and a Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychology at Swinburne University,
David Castle, Psychiatry at St Vincent's Health Australia and the University of Melbourne
‘Who wants to recover? It took me years to get that tiny. I wasn't sick; I was strong.’
– Laurie Halse Anderson (2011)
Looking back, I didn't think I was ill at the start. I felt in control and I felt good because I was thin, which made me feel strong and successful. Aren't all successful women thin and beautiful?
That was when I was 15 years old; at 19, I know that none of that is true. I did have an illness, a real illness that hit me in secondary school, preparing for important exams while also breaking up with my first boyfriend.
I thought I wasn't beautiful enough for him and the breakup meant that I also lost my peer group at the time. I felt alone, under pressure and hated myself. I started to diet, like most people do, and joined the gym. I started getting results, which for me was important, in the same way exams were. I lost weight and saw this as positive, so I began to do more exercise, eat less and stopped eating sugary and fatty foods. I didn't see my headaches and dizziness as a problem, I just thought I needed to sleep more. But eventually I wasn't sleeping and my grades began to drop. I felt tired and low and remember sometimes having thoughts that I no longer wanted to live.
I didn't understand why my parents were anxious and arguing with each other about me. They could see something was wrong but I couldn't see it; they tried to talk to me but I couldn't hear them. When I fainted, I was taken to hospital, and this was when I accepted and started treatment with a specialist eating disorder team, who became almost part of our family. They gave not only me much needed support but also the whole family.
My message to you all is that there is hope and you can get help. Don't delay, share your concerns, get the treatment and don't let this illness steal your life.
Self-starvation in women is not a modern phenomenon. Medieval women in the 13th century believed it would lead to sainthood, sometimes referred to as ‘anorexia mirabilis’.
The Rainbow programme was introduced in January 2004 as a structured in-patient treatment for anorexia. There were two strands to the programme evaluation: a notes review of a cohort of in-patients and a series of questionnaires to users, carers and staff.
There was an improvement in adherence to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidelines and 94% of staff responders found the Rainbow programme framework useful.
The Rainbow programme improved the level of care provided. There is scope for improvement in the distribution of the programme manual.
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