Jess McCaul tells her story of accessing inpatient care as a supportive environment where recovery is possible.
I spent two years fighting for inpatient treatment. Two years trying to get the specialised care I knew I needed because outpatient treatment just wasn’t working. It was like I was swimming against the current and was barely keeping afloat. Inpatient treatment was the life jacket I needed to save myself from drowning and I’m glad I fought so hard for it.
I hounded the HSE, I contacted the minister for mental health Jim Daly, I jumped through every hoop they made me jump through because I knew it was sink or swim. I felt like an inconvenience, I was ringing people every week, I pestered my own services, I didn’t stop until I got the word that the HSE would fund my treatment. Eating Disorder treatment in Ireland is poor. There is limited inpatient options, and the ones that do exist are private. I don’t have health insurance and I had no other option but to have the HSE fund treatment. Treatment isn’t cheap, but my god, has it saved my life.
Before I was admitted I was lost, hopeless and had resigned myself to the fact that I was either going to die or remain the same unless I get specialist help. My local services did the best they could with their limited, underfunded resources and it’s not their fault that things rolled the way they did. It’s an issue from the top that has just filtered its way down to the bottom.
I fought so long for inpatient treatment that I never truly gave myself the chance to stop and think about what I was getting myself in for. I was so concerned with getting here that I didn’t allow myself to think about it in case it never happened. No one hopes they will go into hospital, I certainly never thought I would. I remember being told that if I kept going the way I was going I would end up in hospital but I never thought that would happen, I was stubborn and very ill.
Inpatient treatment is unlike anything I thought it would be. The nurses, the patients, the staff are all so lovely and supportive. Everyone is here for their own reasons, and everyone just wants each other to get better. The ED program is a small number, but god are we mighty. I feel like I have my own cheerleading squad in the back every time I finish a meal. Their voices silence the one in my head that berates me for what I just did. There’s high fives, hugs and a resounding cheer of ‘smashed it’ after every meal.
We all get each other’s struggle. None of us want the other to feel like we do. The group know the right thing to say, at the right time. They can read my face and know when I’m struggling. They help me reach my weekly goals and to challenge myself at meal times. The group has helped save my life.
13 weeks ago, I was cold, tired and sad. Today, I’m happy, warm and full of optimism and hope for the future. Anorexia felt like a life sentence that there was no way out of, I was running in circles, getting nowhere. Now I’m a person again. I feel alive. At times it felt like the darkness was forever and there was nothing else. I was embarrassed about needing to come into hospital, but it is what I needed to do. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, I needed this to get well again. And on my road through recovery I’m going to ensure that I continue to talk about this, show everyone there is no shame in getting help. Whether that’s outpatient or inpatient. Mental health is important, and it’s twice as important to talk about it, which is what I’ve been doing on Instagram @JesskaDenise.
If you’re struggling and trying to get help, don’t give up. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and had I not come in when I did, I wouldn’t have made the greatest group of friends or made as much progress as I have. I didn’t want to come in here, but I chose this because treatment was necessary.
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