Fighting a Battle Against Anorexia That Never Ends
By Gareth Rose
ATTRACTIVE and stylish, Janice Bayne sits near a corner window of a West End coffee shop, nursing her drink and talking articulately.
She is the very picture of a successful, upper middle-class Edinburgh wife and mother. But the reason the 46-year-old has chosen a corner window is to avoid being overheard as she talks about her ongoing battle with eating disorders anorexia and bulimia.
Having previously battled with anorexia as a teenager, her world began to fall apart two years ago, as she tried to combat the apparent effects of stress.
The 5ft 4in mother-of-two began to suffer chest pains in the summer of 2006 as she balanced the pressures of family life with completing an Open University degree in psychology. As part of her treatment, she was referred to a psychologist specialising in relaxation techniques.
Her anorexia began to return as she started talking to the psychologist about other potential causes of anxiety, particularly a trauma she suffered as a child.
“I think it was my default way of dealing with stress, of controlling events,” she explains, “and there was also the prospect of those sessions ending and nothing replacing them.
“My eating just became haphazard – small amounts and nothing regular. I could easily go an entire day without eating anything, sometimes I could go three or four.
“At my lowest I weighed about 6st 4lbs. It got to a stage where I could not function and was extremely ill. That was when I was most ill. I had swelling up and down my legs. My liver function was all wrong. I’ll have liver problems for the rest of my life.”
Even when she could see the damage she was doing to herself she couldn’t bring herself to stop. Not even when at Christmas in 2006 she had to go to hospital as her organs started to fail.
She said: “It’s just a path out and you don’t think about the consequences. You kind of step outside your situation.
“The truth is that you don’t think. That’s what it does to you, it allows you to get into a space where you don’t think.”
As her problems grew, she was referred to NHS Lothian’s Cullen Centre, which specialises in eating disorders. However, she had to wait several months until she could see a specialist there, and in the meantime hit rock bottom.
In early 2007, her anorexia morphed into bulimia, which physically allowed her to put some weight on, but emotionally was a disaster.
“Anorexia feels like you’ve got everything under control, you feel like you can function – bulimia is like living in complete chaos. You lose the ability to think and plan, it takes over your whole life,” she says.
Once she was offered treatment at the Cullen Centre her sessions with the psychologist stopped.
She was then left waiting seven months before her sessions with one of the centre’s specialists could start.
The prospect of losing any outside support plunged her deeper into despair.
“That’s what triggered the dissociative syndrome, which can be really, really disruptive to normal life.
You lose periods of time.”
Dissociative syndrome causes sufferers to phase out of a conversation to the point where they have difficulty communicating at all. The diagnosis often follows stress and once the person returns to their regular state they can struggle to remember what has happened to them.
As Janice talks about her battle for her health – only the nature of the childhood trauma she suffered remains off-limits – she frequently turns to her husband John, 58, to check facts and dates.
She decided to talk about her illness to raise awareness of the problems and what she sees as a lack of support for sufferers.
John, a former United Distilleries manager, who took early retirement, is furious at what the couple see as a lack of support from the health service. He has kept a record under the pseudonym Calum Carr at calumcarr.blogspot.com.
Both say John has had to take on the role of father and mother to their two children as her condition has deteriorated.
John says: “I would find her just sitting there, breathing, but nothing more. It was like someone had turned the standby button off, you could ask her something and she wouldn’t say anything.”
Janice is quick to agree: “I physically could not get out of my chair from depression.”
After her counselling ended, she was given medication, but last June she took an overdose.
“I took 30 antidepressants. I don’t remember much about it.”
John found a suicide note after he had rushed his wife to hospital. She recovered and in January finally started treatment at the Cullen Centre. However, after just ten one-hour-a-week sessions, they were stopped.
NHS Lothian says she was not co-operating and therefore the treatment was not helping her, although Janice puts this down to the dissociative syndrome.
Tim Montgomery, director of operations, Royal Edinburgh Associated Services, which includes the Cullen Centre, said: “Staff at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital have been doing everything within their power to help and support her and we are sorry to hear that Mrs Bayne is unhappy with the treatment she has received.
“However, treatment is a two-way process and the outcome is limited without the full participation of the patient. It is vital that patients take responsibility in order to affect change. “
A Scottish Government spokeswoman added: “Across Scotland, eating disorder services are expanding and improving both in community and in hospital settings and a new NHS specialist in-patient unit for the north of Scotland will be operational by next January.” Since her treatment at the Cullen Centre stopped, Janice has received counselling, which she says has managed to keep a lid on their problems, although they have not gone away.
Janice says: “The children have not had a functioning mother for 18 months.
“It is a whole family who is suffering here, and how many more are like us?”
She won’t disclose her current weight, but admits she is still anorexic, with a dangerously low body mass index.
She says: “We want referral to a specialist centre capable of dealing with all of it, including dissociative disorder.
“The eating disorder is only a symptom of a bigger thing, that is what needs to be cured.”
Anyone wanting advice about eating disorders can contact the leading UK charity Beat, the Eating Disorders Association, on 0845 634 1414 or www.b-eat.co.uk. Alternatively, advice can be found by calling the National Centre for Eating Disorders on 0845 838 2040.
STARS’ GUILTY SECRETS CAME OUT
THE death of pop star Karen Carpenter was arguably the moment anorexia stopped being some people’s guilty secret and entered the public consciousness.
She suffered heart failure at her parents’ home in Downey, California, and was taken to Downey Community Hospital, where she was pronounced dead 20 minutes later.
Other high-0profile anorexia victims have included Scottish singing star Lena Zavaroni, while Princess Diana talked openly about her battle with bulimia.
Her revelation forced the world to open up to the problem of eating disorders which are estimated to affect 165,000 people in the UK, with ten per cent dying.
The most common eating disorder is anorexia, followed by bulimia and compulsive eatin
Originally published by Gareth Rose Health Reporter.
(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.