Why do we want ED victims to get treatment quickly? By now, you likely have a good idea of a few reasons....
1) ED can kill victims quickly and without warning, even if the patient looks and feels 'fine'
2) ED is hard to recover from and the longer it goes untreated, the harder it is to recover
3) ED patients need a lot of help and support, so they need professional assistance
But what about the damage that ED does to the person's LIFE? I'm talking about quality of life (QoL), a general term for your health in all aspects (physical, mental, emotional, financial, etc.). QoL is like a summary of your entire life: is it good or bad? Do you have enough money? Are you eating well and healthy? Can you afford to buy what you need and want? Are you happy? Do you have people to support you? Do you feel relaxed once in a while? How stressed are you? Do you ever feel depressed or unable to engage in daily activities of life?
Now let's shift to the effects of ED on a patient's QoL. Finally, I found an interesting article about this: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11136-012-0157-z. Basically, this article followed some sufferers with ED (anorexia, bulimia, and binge) over time. Some recovered, while others did not. The goal of the study was to see how ED influenced their lives in the future - not just on a short-term basis. Can you guess what they found?
Sufferers described that ED had lasting impacts on their lives. Some were depressed, while others stated that they recovered fully. Some still struggled with eating enough (or too much, depending on the ED), while others stated that they still ate by the clock to be safe. Some patients described that they were stronger from their experiences, while others stated that they would never recover and would die with an eating disorder. The researchers were able to make a bold statement: recovered or not, ED has a significant impact of the QoL of patients. In a way, this is bad because some never get treatment and thus do not recover. On the other hand, it may make patients who recovered become stronger, healthier, and wiser. But in the end, whatever the outcome of the ED was, the life of a patient is forever changed.
I can relate to this. My life will never be the same again, now that I have experienced ED. I used to think that I would die with ED because I would never recover. In recovery, I would cry that I would never be able to sit and eat a meal without crying. But now, after so much hard work (and crying, screaming, shouting, yelling, feeling full, gaining weight, and dealing with all that stress!), I can strongly say that YES, my life is changed. But not in a bad way. Yes, I will always remember my experiences with ED. I will remember the hospital stay and how depressed I was. I will remember how many times I was poked with needles and medications, and how I cannot remember the three months in the ICU when I was sedated. I will remember how I gained weight and had to get rid of all my favourite clothes.
BUT I will also remember how I became stronger and wiser. How I wrote this blog and did many interviews and got published many times. Or how I gained the support and love of family, friends, and people who read my blog. I will remember how I suffered and how this taught me to take care of my body and ignore people who judge me based on my appearance and body shape. I will remember how I became a better nurse, caring for all my patients with love and respecting their dignity. I will remember how my experiences in the ICU made me appreciate life and my family.
Did ED change my life? Of course. But the great news is that it does not all have to be negative. With complete recovery and health, I can remember what I learned and gained from this experience. I can use my experiences and suffering for the greater good - to appreciate my health, life, and to help others. My quality of life IS changed - but for the better. My message to those suffering with an eating disorder or any other illness - whether it be physical, mental, or emotional: your illness does not define you, nor does it have to be a life-long battle that negatively impacts your happiness and life. Be strong and do what you can to help yourself, and realize that all experiences will make you stronger in life and teach you new things that you never imagined you would know. Do not give up - and do not let anyone tell you or make you believe that your illness will inevitably cause you to be depressed or sad for your entire life. My dad always tell me 'the stick that does not break you makes you stronger'. And I never believed him until now, two years after surviving a deadly mental illness.