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- Anna, a former patient
- C, a former patient
- CB, a former patient
- The light at the end of the tunnel by Anonymous B-eat Recovery Buddy
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- TF, a former patient
- NN, a former patient
- CM, a former patient
- NF, a former patient
- An outpatient, starting treatment
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- An inpatient, ending treatment
Our expert team have helped many patients and their families to recover from eating disorders.
Here's what some of them had to say about their recovery and their experiences at Vincent Square:
Written by Anna, a former patient
"When I was told that I was being admitted to Vincent Square, I was adamant that I would be leaving as soon as was physically possible. Earlier that morning, I was sat in front of a psychiatrist, a social worker and one of the hospital doctors being told that I was going to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act unless I agreed to immediate admission. I was frightened, confused and alone. More than anything, I was certain that I did not have a problem. I had been in a different eating disorder unit years before, but as far as I saw it, anorexia nervosa was a thing of the past.
"I am sure you are wondering why I chose to start a post in praise of Vincent Square with my initial, rather difficult, experience. Quite simply, I wanted to demonstrate how much things can change. In my later months at the clinic, fellow patients would often remark on my determination and positive attitude. I doubt many of them would recognise the person I arrived as (and I don’t just mean physically). I want to show that change is possible. I would have never believed it when I arrived on the ward all those months ago, but being at Vincent Square did show me that there was a life outside of anorexia.
"The treatment I received at Vincent Square was different to anything I had experienced before; the professionals seemed confident in their field, treated me as an equal, supported my friends and family and were always available when I needed someone to talk to. Despite all this, it took a long time before I was able to trust them fully.
"Even after I had abandoned my earlier, delusional, notions of maintaining a dangerously low weight for the rest of my life, I became stuck at the point of 'almost healthy' – still believing that I could live a fully recovered life, despite not being 'fully recovered'. The staff did not pressure or force me to change my mind. What they did do was give me the facts. The fact that I would halve (and eventually diminish) my chances of relapsing if I were to reach a healthy weight, the fact that the obsessive thoughts would start to fade. For a long time I thought this was all talk, but when I finally decided to bite the bullet and see for myself, I discovered that yes, things really did get better.
"I am not saying that everything improved straight away. And it is true that things got worse before they got better. However, the faith that a more fulfilling life was out there kept me going. It still does.
"I may be physically healthy, but I am not 100% recovered, I often wish that I could speed up the clock and get 'better' quicker. But then I remember where I have come from. Things that I would never have dreamed of doing – going on holidays, eating out with friends, even disagreeing with a colleague at work (!) – have become part of my daily life. So in that sense, maybe I am closer to 'recovered' than I think. Either way, I have nothing but respect and admiration for all those at Vincent Square who continue to guide me along the way. Fighting against the eating disorder is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done. But it is also the most rewarding. Every day, I get stronger. When I think back to the person I was this time last year, I can hardly recognise myself. My complete outlook has changed.
"I know that for many of you still in treatment, the negatives of recovery and of VSC itself can be overwhelming (and I will not deny that there are a lot of negatives), but my advice if things seem hopeless would be to keep fighting. Talk to those around you, and trust that you can come through this."
Written by C, a former patient
"Anybody who has experienced this, or who knows someone who has, will tell you that becoming ill with anorexia takes sheer will power and strength. I definitely had that will power and strength to get me there, but when it came to beating it I felt there was no longer any strength left within me, and the times strength did come to me, I used it in the wrong way to defy those trying to help me.
"My analogy to explain my position was that I was a jam jar with a lid screwed on too tight. Everybody who sees anyone struggling to open it asks to have a go, because they’re sure they can fix the problem. I was that jam jar, I tried more types of therapy and ways to get out of the condition than I can recall. Everybody had a go, but the more people failed fix it, the stronger my anorexia got - feeding off the thrill of superiority and being able to outsmart everyone.
"No analogy however even comes close to depicting the desperation all my loved ones and I were experiencing at this point. It cannot depict the pain, the hopelessness, the feeling that I did want to get better, but I no longer believed that getting better was even an option- and if I was ever going to try, I was going to need someone to tell me how and for them to hold my hand through the entire terrifying journey.
"Around this time last year, I was at my lowest point, ready to give up on any thought of ever being 'an average 18-year-old' again. I didn’t think it could get any worse, but then I got the call saying I was to become an inpatient at Vincent’s Square. I was petrified, or shall I say my anorexia was petrified (but by this point it was hard to distinguish between the two).
"Now, thinking back on it, had I known the outcome of my admission, I would've done it differently. I would've skipped into the clinic full of hope and joy and never put up a fight. I would've also done it a great deal sooner. But unfortunately I didn't know this initially and so I walked in: reluctant, terrified, ready to prove the whole team wrong and ready to be discharged as soon as I got the green light.
"People are always convinced they know themselves better than anyone else - so I cannot express how shocked I was when the clinic made me rethink all of my initial thoughts every day I spent there. The programme and the team at Vincent Square never seized to surprise me.
"Even as the youngest patient, I was always treated as an equal, I was always heard, and always felt included in decisions concerning my care plan. My emotions and views were always taken into consideration and if I disagreed with the team, a compromise would be strived for, from both sides.
"If there is a secret for an effective eating disorders ward - Vincent Square know it well. They strike the perfect balance. As a patient, I found myself trusting the team, while still maintaining the utmost respect for every member and their authority. I felt listened to, but never felt like I could take advantage of the empathy and compassion displayed by the team. I felt like help was always at hand, but also that everyday I was taught how to help myself. I was in control of my care plan to the perfect extent - not letting my anorexia get its way but slowly being able to integrate more of my normal life into it.
"I'm not going to say it was a smooth journey, full of rainbows and singing birds. It DEFINITELY wasn't - it was hard, it was messy and it was full of times where I wanted to quit. But the dedication of the staff makes them nothing short of saints - and my recovery was nothing short of a miracle.
"Anorexia has no place in my life any more, but what I chose to remember is how thankful I am. Everyday that I laugh until my cheeks hurt, everyday I see my family relieved and happy, everyday I leave the front door for college, everyday I kiss my boyfriend - Everyday, I'm thankful. I don’t know what would've happened without Vincent Square Clinic, maybe I would've survived, maybe they didn't’t save my life - but they did save me from a life that I considered not worth living. And for that, I'm eternally grateful - more than this testimonial can express.
"If you take nothing away from reading this - at least let me leave you with one little thing; It’s not easy but not impossible either, and most of all, that leap of faith to recovery - is so incredibly worth it."
Written by CB, a former patient, aged 19
"When I was first admitted to Vincent Square I was not myself. I was consumed by anorexia and both physically and mentally a shell of whom I once was. Through persistence, care and support bit by bit the real me came back.
"I did not think it was possible. Endless arguments, massive amounts of stress and a lot of tears made up my days for what seemed like forever and I could not see a way out. My family thought I was lost. I did. But a bit of me was still there And it was this that the staff at Vincent Square saw and nurtured. I went through a huge transformation in my time at the ward and I have emerged myself.
"I did not just gain weight. I gained life. I gained opportunity. I am now on the journey to my future. I have everything I want and need beside me or in front of me and what has happened will only make me even more prepared and thankful for what will come. University, marriage and having children are but a few of the experiences I will have and I am so excited it’s unreal.
"The staff and fellow patients at Vincent Square have been so amazing to me. The words of encouragement, rationalisation and hugs at the hardest of times have helped me through what felt like sheer torture. The techniques I have learnt will help me and those around me for the rest of my life and for that I am eternally grateful to all at Vincent Square.
"It’s been hard. Really hard. However, a sense of comfort in knowing I was not alone pushed me through and the hope that I can beat this has really helped me. I have learnt so much about myself, relationships and life. I accept myself for who I am and I completely understand and appreciate that life is great just as it is and by opening my eyes to this I feel genuinely happy. This is not something I would have ever thought I would ever be saying nor feeling but it's true. To any sufferers out there or their friends and family, I have been there in the depths of this horrible illness and I just want to let you know that by having faith and putting your all into recovery, it can happen. It takes time but it will happen. It hurts but it will happen. Just believe in yourselves."
The light at the end of the tunnel, by Anonymous B-eat Recovery Buddy
It's like you're a drug. It's like you're a demon I can't face down. It's like I'm stuck, it's like I'm running from you all the time. It's like the only company I seek is misery all around. It's like you're a leech sucking the life from me. It's like I can't breathe without you inside of me. And I know I let you have all the power. It's like I can't think without you interrupting me; in my thoughts, in my dreams. You've taken over me, it's like I'm not me. It's like I'm lost. It's like I'm giving up slowly. And I know these voices in my head are mine alone. And I know I'll never change my ways if I don't give you up now.
So I did give you up. I turned my back on anorexia.
"Jeez not another 'recovered' eating disorders patient preaching to us," I hear you cry. "She doesn't know anything about me. She probably wasn't as ill as me; she can't possibly understand what's going through my head. How can she relate to just how terribly alone I feel? What does she know about feeling like a failure and the self-loathing that engulfs me? I bet she didn't endure the agony of the damage this wicked illness is doing to my family and the helplessness of being unable to change. Or the pure terror I feel when I merely think about relinquishing control and putting on a single pound."
Well you're right, I don't know you. But believe me I understand how this illness is ruining your life, your family's lives and your friendships. Sooner or later you'll have no life at all.
There was a time when I had no life. It was as if overnight anorexia unwillingly gripped hold of me and stole two years of my life. It spiralled from family raising concerns, to my GP forbidding me from returning to uni, to being an outpatient seeing a psychiatrist and nurse having my heart and blood regularly tested, to finally being delivered the threat of being sectioned.
'Finally' was actually just the beginning. The beginning of the toughest battle of my life; the battle for my life. The toughest, yet the most worthwhile battle fighting for. Allow yourself to dream of being 'normal'. Allow yourself to dream of a day without guilt and crippling control. Allow yourself to dream of the future and everything you want to achieve in life.
My dream was to return to uni and graduate. I'm not going to lie to you, it was far from easy. In fact it was a huge struggle at times. But I never relapsed because I kept hold of my dream. Fight for something you want badly enough. For you and you alone.
Now I live and work in London, something that was far too frightening to even consider when I was ill. I do not consider myself 'fully recovered'; I have my ups and downs, days where food and guilt are all-consuming, but I've learnt how to have control over it rather than it control me. Thankfully I have the most loving family, great friends and an incredible boyfriend acting as my safety net if and when I need it. Perhaps one day I will be fully recovered, maybe I won't; but either way I believe I have won the battle.
I want to help you and others fight and win the battle. There is light at the end of your dark tunnel. This is why I am a recovery buddy with B-eat - the UK's only nationwide organisation supporting people affected by eating disorders, their family members and friends. Talking and allowing others to support you is crucial. And tough and potentially uncomfortable. When you contact us, you receive support from someone who understands and can offer skills and tips on how to successfully find your way through changes and recovery.
You deserve a full life. You deserve to be happy. Believe it and start living.
Note: The writer of this inspiring testimonial wished to stay anonymous. However, this piece supports the idea that everybody knows somebody: this serious mental illness is affecting someone you know right now, in your street, school, workplace, even in your own home. If you are the least bit worried about a friend, partner or family member take the initiative, tell them you are concerned, and encourage them to seek help.
Written by a parent
"Last week [my daughter] had two fantastic pieces of news in the same day: She achieved the highest predicted grade of her school for the IB, but most importantly, she was discharged from the clinic's care, with a healthy constant weight.
"The healing of [my daughter] is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle was born from the love and care she received at your clinic.
"I would like to thank you, and all the staff at Vincent Square Clinic, for the love and care you have given her, which resulted in her full recovery. Words are not enough to express the relief and the gratitude that I feel. I cannot even begin to comprehend the dedication that you and the staff of the clinic must have to deal with young girls suffering from such a terrible disorder.
"As a parent, I have never been as scared as when [my daughter] was diagnosed. It soon became clear that the health system in Portugal was not prepared to cope with such a complex mental illness. The decision to bring [my daughter] to the UK was the right one, and we were lucky enough that [my daughter] had the best possible care available in the world.
"Please extend my heartfelt thanks to all the staff at the clinic, and I will be eternally grateful to you for saving [my daughter]’s life."
"My contact with all staff at Vincent Square has been a good experience and communication reliable and helpful, which sadly is not always the case, so thumbs up to you and your team."
"I think no other unit would have worked as well with [patient]. It's been a pleasure working with you as always."
TF, a former patient
“I firmly believe that without the quality of care that I received as an outpatient of Vincent Square Eating disorders Service and the consistent support, respect, and non-judgemental empathy I was given by my care coordinator, I would not be in the happy and stable place I am today.
Through intensive Cognitive Analytic Therapy, with someone who could tolerate and accept my pain, and guide and inspire the confidence in myself to find more safe ways of coping with my distress, I have been able to turn the corner and move from 20 years of institutionalization within eating disorders units, on benefits, with little social contact or hope for the future – to someone who is working, thriving, feeling fulfilled and excited about the road ahead.
With support I have learnt that it is safe to form bonds with and let myself truly trust people, without either becoming either co-dependent, overly dependent, or keeping away from people altogether, always fearing abandonment. Thank you so much to [x], and in particular [x], who taught me that I am “good enough” just as I am.”
NN, a former patient
“There really wasn't anything I wasn't satisfied with. I was initially sceptical about the effectiveness of treatment, however through continuous encouragement "give it a go"! I am grateful this was the case, as without attempting to "try" I wouldn't feel in control right now. My life has drastically improved. [X] was always supportive and understanding. At times I know I was unable to come to terms with aspects of the treatment plan, and my mentality made me somewhat stubborn. However I was given nothing but patience and understanding. Progressing from not even being able to look at myself or my body properly, to finally finding a way to care about myself has all been down to this CBT treatment!”
CM, a former patient
“The group programme is very helpful with a variety of different groups available on the unit. Staff are always there to help me through my recovery process. They are always very supportive and willing to help out when things are tough.”
NF, a former patient
“I have always found the level of care at Vincent Sq to be nothing short of excellent. The staff have been extremely professional, patient and understanding of my requirements and have gone above and beyond my expectations. Supportive and sympathetic as well as constructive and practical advice has really helped me to stay focussed and positive. Thank you especially to [X] who has helped me so much he doesn't even know how being there has helped me. I am still in very early stages i.e. week 2 however, I am optimistic about the prospect of working with [X] to get my life back.”
An outpatient, starting treatment
“Although I've been scared and nervous about seeking professional help, I'm so glad I have done as the clinicians and therapists have already been able to help me deal with some of the issues that have been preventing my recovery”
“Since attending Vincent Square I feel as though it is possible to overcome my eating disorder”
A day patient, ending treatment
“Staff are what make this place. They are so incredibly compassionate, kind, motivated, selfless and driven. They really do the very best they can with the clearly limited resources they have. I will be forever grateful and in awe of them. I cannot thank the whole team enough”
“The attitude and atmosphere on the ward and amongst the staff was amazing. It was so refreshing to be encouraged to take some responsibility for your recovery; being allowed to make mistakes but still be supported. Taking that responsibility is crucial, I think, in sustaining it outside. (But still having that firm bottom line!) Most of the staff were brilliant and provided amazing inspiration of good lives and happy experiences that helped keep me going” – Daypatient (ending treatment)
An inpatient, ending treatment
“I was treated as an individual and involved in my care and decision planning”