An inspirational teenager has shared her journey to recovery through Anorexia Nervosa in a bid to raise awareness of the condition.
Caitlin Lynch was an inpatient at Beechcroft Child and Adolescent Unit in Belfast for six months last year, after her health deteriorated.
The 15-year-old Castlederg girl is now ‘doing well’ on the road to recovery and wanted to reach out to others living with the eating disorder to let them know they are not alone.
Caitlin recently posted a status on social media site Facebook, in which she shared her journey and told how she is slowly getting her life back. Her honesty and willingness to speak about her own experience resonated with so many people and the status was shared numerous times, as far away as America.
Caitlin had a number of reasons for posting the status. Not only did she want to let others know that recovery is possible, she also wanted to raise awareness of Anorexia itself, which she told the Journal ‘is not just about losing weight and being thin.’
She outlined how there are many aspects to the condition, both mental and physical and more people than ever are suffering from it.
Caitlin also wanted to highlight the Beechcroft Unit, without which, she said, she ‘would not be here.’ Despite the excellence of the facility and its staff, Caitlin told how it is severely underfunded and under-resourced.
She spoke of a friend of hers who had been placed in an adult ward for two weeks.
The unit is not specifically for young people with an eating disorder and young men and women with various mental illnesses are treated there. Caitlin said the facility needs more support and added that more eating disorder specific centres should be opened up in Northern Ireland.
The Loreto, Omagh student told how she developed Anorexia ‘slowly’ at the beginning of 2017.
“It was very gradual. I started exercising a bit more and it got to the point where I was only eating an apple a day. I was also doing two hours of exercise a day and doing at least 20,000 steps. It became an obsession.”
Caitlin’s mother saw that her daughter had lost a substantial amount of weight and was concerned. But, Caitlin was ‘in denial.’
“I felt like I needed to get to a certain goal weight and then things would be okay. But, each time I reached my goal weight, I would just set it lower and lower.”
Caitlin outlined how weight loss and ‘being thin’ is one symptom of Anorexia, but it is much more than this. She told how she had a ‘constant voice’ inside telling her she was fat, worthless and did not deserve to eat. She added how there were ‘constant arguments’ with her family about food and she had days where she felt so low she wished the world would ‘swallow’ her up.
Caitlin attended her GP last June and she was referred to CAHMS . However, after a week she was transferred to Beechcroft, where she also spent one month on bed rest due to her physical health that included a low heart rate and blood pressure.
At just 14 and having never been away from home before, Caitlin found her stay initially ‘very difficult.’ But, she credited it with saving her life.
“I wouldn’t be here to tell this. I never wanted to be there but I don’t know what would have happened without it.
“I was in complete denial and I genuinely didn’t see anything wrong with me. The turning point for me was the girls I met there. They opened up my eyes. I remember sitting at the table one day and a girl told me: “You need to get your life back.” That was my realisation. Also, seeing my family in distress and in pain, it hit me that something wasn’t right.”
Caitlin paid tribute to her family and friends both at home and in hospital and her school for their constant support and encouragement. She left Beechcroft last December and is continuing to improve.
“I’ve come on a big way. I’ve a long way to go, but I’m very far from where I was.”
Caitlin told how she has received messages from others who are going through the same thing and pointed out how both women and men experience Anorexia, which, she said, is “more common than anyone realises.” She added how she could not be ‘more grateful for this second chance at life.’
There are a number of websites and resources for information on help and support for anorexia, including the NHS site, as well as www. youngminds.org.co.uk, and www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk