Elaine's story

When I was 13, I was put into an adolescent psychiatric unit after taking an overdose of paracetamol. My behaviour at school had been deemed intolerable. I had felt ‘different’ for some time and did not have a great relationship with my mum. I had been ‘acting out’ and think this is when my eating disorder started. My mum was counting her calories and mine and I had to watch what I ate. It all got too much for me.

The school did not want me back following discharge, so I moved to Sweden to live with my dad at 14. My anorexia developed into Bulimia as well. I returned to the UK at 16 and went to boarding school in Oxford to do my AS levels. I took a major overdose at 17 and was referred to the John Conolly Wing at Ealing hospital. At 18, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and prescribed Clozapine. My eating disorder was stabilized and I had a healthy weight. I went to live in a hostel.

Then my anorexia returned, and I stopped eating completely. I was referred to Vincent Square, a specialist eating disorder service. However, I still was not eating and was referred to Chelsea and Westminster hospital where I had a PEG tube inserted to feed me. I was discharged back to Vincent Square after 6 weeks as I now had a healthy weight.

At 20, I was discharged from Vincent Square and given my own flat. I went back to college and then to Kingston to study pharmacology. I did not enjoy the course and due to the pressure, my eating disorder returned. I went back to Vincent Square in 2005, where I achieved stability and was discharged after a few months.

I got my first job working at the foreign exchange and was living in my own flat. I had a boyfriend and we lived and worked together for 5 years. I tried a few different jobs and then broke up with my boyfriend in 2009. I remained stable and started a job as a dental nurse, which I kept for more than a year.

Then in 2011, my mental health started to deteriorate again, and I went back to the John Conolly Wing. They referred me to the PICU at Beckton and I was in and out for about a year before being well enough to be cared for by the Home Treatment Team. I got a dog, had a new job and was doing well. Then my mum referred me to the mental health team as she was concerned about me. I threatened the two social workers who came to assess me, with a knife and the police were called.

I was ‘recalled’ and sent back to John Conolly, where I was assessed and sent to the Orchard. I spent 5 years there as my mental health yo-yoed and I was ‘secluded’ for a time. I worked in the League of Friends café there when I was stable. I was admitted to Ealing General twice for Nasogastric (NG) feeding. In 2017, I was placed in the low secure unit and referred to Vincent Square as a day patient. I was discharged and moved to Equinox Marron House in 2018 but was still being monitored by Vincent Square.

At Marron house, I settled into my flat quite quickly and was supported by staff from the outset. There is always someone to speak to if you’re having a bad day. You can go to the office for anything and they helped with my medication, one-to-one support, activities, help with benefits etc. It’s like a family in some ways. My weight stabilised and I got paid work in a café as a barista and was working with and riding horse. I was discharged from Vincent Square. I then got a job in a GP’s surgery and life was going well.

But I relapsed in 2019 and was sent to the Hope Ward, Ealing after threatening to commit suicide. I was in seclusion for 5 days then was sent to Campden PICU. From there, I was sent to UCH for NG feeding, then re-admitted to Vincent Square for 5 weeks. I was discharged back to Marron House and returned to my job.

I am still an out-patient at Vincent Square and my weight is almost healthy. My mental health is also stable. I was pregnant and had a miscarriage at the end of December. I went to a support group but found it depressing and stopped going. I am taking the positive from it, in the sense that I know I can get pregnant. The staff have been there for me once again and I speak to them about things. I have no big plans for the future, just to work, remain stable, and eventually move to independent living again.

My family has been impacted by my illness, but my parents remain supportive. I want people to know that you can be in and out of hospital for a long time, but you can get jobs and have relationships.

I have done well at Marron House and whatever life has thrown at me, I have bounced back.

I’m feeling positive.