My Experience with First Steps ED: ICS and Psychotherapy

I was first introduced to First Steps when I had just been discharged from a hospital and inpatient admission. I had eaten to get out of hospital in order to relapse; I had no intention of getting better. CAMHS referred me to First Steps for ‘meal support’ (ICS), to me this meant being strictly observed over a meal while a complete stranger commanded me to pick up my fork.

I was extremely reluctant to accept however I felt like I didn’t have a choice, so I decided to allow my ICS worker (Sharon) to come, with the plan to sit and wait for our allotted time to be over without eating anything (it wasn’t until recently that me and my support officer actually ate anything together.)

The supposed ‘meal support’ offered to me by CAMHS was nothing that I imagined it would be. We never wasted time over a meal that would be refused; we talked about my experience, my future, potential goals, anything I wanted and felt comfortable with. The support I was given was entirely led by me at my own pace, I never felt pushed too hard or pressured in any way. With First Steps ED’s help I managed to find the motivation and strength to get back to college: something that opened up my life completely, and I began to see a future for myself.

Due to the rigidity of NHS policies, CAMHS were extremely resistant to offer me therapy for my eating disorder. It was First Steps ED who fought to get me professional help for the mental side of my illness, I know that she would always push and advocate for what is best for me.

The psychotherapy I received from First Steps truly saved me. For years I felt that my thinking patterns and behaviours could never change, I was convinced that I would be stuck in the same cycles forever. It’s given me a totally different outlook on life I never thought I could’ve had and I can now say that I’m actually looking forward to a future where I’m free.

When I started with First Steps I was in such a different place to where I am now; I didn’t want to get better and I believed that nothing would help me, as I craved the false sense of security and comfort anorexia promised me despite it destroying my life.

I used to roll my eyes at these kinds of stories, it seems so crazy that I’m writing my own now, but ICS and psychotherapy with First Steps helped me to completely change my mindset and ultimately my life. They never tried to recover for me, instead they supported me in choosing to recover for myself.

Recovery has to come from you, but others can help; having someone to talk things through with whether that’s an ICS worker or psychotherapist can make such a difference. Someone else’s perspective can challenge the way you think and help you question your own (or your eating disorder’s) ‘reasoning’, which is so important when it’s so deeply rooted.

Maybe you don’t want to get better. Maybe you don’t want help. I didn’t, but I’m so glad that I did. A life with an eating disorder isn’t a life, it’s an existence, and with help I realised that I want more. Accepting support can be terrifying and may seem pointless, but just try it; you never know where it might lead you, it might just save your life.

Contributed by Anjuli