I'm going to write about a pretty taboo subject. A few people know about this but it is something I tend to keep to myself. Why? I am ashamed and I am scared about the reaction I might get. People generally don't know how to respond and that's because it is such a taboo. People get angry, they get upset, they turn it into a joke but they also judge. It's natural, it's what people do, but because of this I keep silent and that's not always helpful for me because sometimes I need to talk about it. So what is it? Suicide. Ten months ago I tried to end it all. I was desperate. I couldn't see any other option. Was I a coward? Was I selfish? I guess yes is probably the answer but, more importantly, I wasn't well and I was suffering. I nearly wrote "but that's no excuse" but I'm not going to. No one could feel worse than I do about it. No one could beat me up about it more than I do myself. I feel like a criminal, indeed, not that long ago suicide was a crime. Many still consider it a sin (I was helpfully informed not long after the incident that I had sinned against God). The guilt is immense but I need to learn to forgive myself because I 'use' on guilt - perhaps leading eventually to another attempt on my life, me being such a terrible person etc. How do I move on? Will others let me move on? I read somewhere online about 'Survivors of Suicide' and I thought it might be an article about people like me and thus helpful, but it was about the people left behind after someone has opted out of life and reading it made me cry. I am not going to talk about what I did, (a) because it's not very nice, and (b) because someone vulnerable could be reading this and get triggered. What I will say is that I regret it every day and every day I am reminded of it because my body is different and I am in pain a lot of the time. (Nearly wrote, "serves me right - I deserve to suffer"). Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder - this includes medical complications of starvation but also suicide. According to one paper I read, sufferers of anorexia have been found to be 31 times more likely to make a fatal suicide attempt than the general population. I didn't know this until recently. I thought it was just me who felt that way. I am incredibly lucky to be alive after everything I have put my body through. Something out there wants me to live. Do I feel lucky? On the whole, yes. Life isn't easy but I am trying to take things slowly with baby steps. I am trying to be kind and gentle with myself (which really goes against the grain). Suicide is a terrible, terrible thing. For everyone involved, and that includes the person making the attempt. I wish I could do something to help my fellow sufferers but for now, all I can do is write and be open and maybe others will be able to follow suit. I would hate for anyone else to be in that dark place I was in last year but sadly, many people are.
Since we began at CapeRecovery three years ago, we are increasingly seeing more and more people coming to Cape Town because it is the home of some of the best Eating Disorder treatment in the world. We work with the wider recovery community but I see everyone who comes here for any addiction, behavioural addiction, dual diagnosis issue, co-dependency issue or indeed, eating disorder, as an integral part of that community. The complexity of treating any eating related issue is so great that it is a highly specialist and ever evolving part of what we do.
So, why have a dedicated site for eating disorder treatment?
Well, I personally know many people here in Cape Town who are enjoying life free from the pain and confusion that they been subjected to because of their eating disorder but also because of being given the wrong advice and directed to inappropriate places for treatment. Inappropriate placement and inadequate aftercare and follow up is keeping people sick and ultimately leading to fatalities that could otherwise be avoided. I don't profess to be an expert on eating disorders but I do understand the complexity of them and the need for planning treatment and never treating in mainstream rehabs that cannot fully support the needs of the person. I never want to lose touch of our original goal of always putting the client first in any decisions and we stick by that.
As a result, we have partnered with the best eating disorder clinic in Cape Town and we have plans for more focussed aftercare and sober living just for these clients. In terms of continued care, eating disorder clients require a special level of support, very different from that of our clients who are being supported through their addiction issues. Monitoring people who are dealing with the behaviours related to their eating disorder is more difficult as they are subtle and less easily detectable. With an alcoholic or addict we can simply do a test. We need to implement support with the things that most people take for granted like cooking, mealtimes and eating plans. Though the continued care facilities and re-integration homes that I work with are incredible, we need to provide more re-integration support where eating disorders are concerned so that is what we are doing!
I love what I do today with CapeRecovery and I am truly blessed to do it! I want all our clients to experience all the gifts that recovery can offer and that includes our eating disorder clients, they are a huge part of this incredible and vibrant recovery community in Cape Town! Let's continue to make Cape Town the recovery capital of the world!