"You don't feel like you're sick enough:" Meet the Irish blogger fighting for eating disorder treatment
“There’s three public beds and 2,000 people with eating disorders in Ireland..."
One of the more recent times Amanda Lynch was admitted to hospital with an eating disorder, it took her six months to secure funding from the HSE. The time before that, she waited four months. The first time she tried, the funding was declined. She was just never told about it.
"It was only when I ended up in A&E and we were asking, where the hell is this funding? And then they said it had been declined," she tells Her. "My family had to go fighting for it and it was eventually given to me, but that had such an impact.
"I was going into treatment and believing that I didn’t deserve to be there, that I wasn’t sick enough. That’s what an eating disorder does, it twists everything. Its goal is to kill you. On your death bed, you’ll still be thinking that you’re fine."
As it stands, there are three public beds available for eating disorder patients in Ireland, all in the same Dublin catchment area.
Amanda was was admitted to Beaumont Hospital for five weeks, where she was on an NG (nasogastric) feeding tube. She was recently discharged to a community mental health service who she says don’t specialise in eating disorders.
Some people she knows stay in treatment for six weeks and are okay to leave. Others, like herself, need far longer.
"I wouldn’t even say I relapsed because I never got to the point of being in recovery," she says. “There’s three public beds and 2,000 people with eating disorders, you couldn’t make it up. It’s the most fatal mental illness. It blows my mind."
According to the HSE, approximately 1,757 new cases of eating disorders occur in Ireland each year. An estimated 188,895 people across the country experiencing an eating disorder at some point in their lives, with the vast majority globally (85%) reporting difficulties in seeking treatment.
One of the more common experiences of eating disorder patients is the belief that they are not sick enough. Anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and binge disorders are not weight based illnesses, they are mental illness - ones often detailed by strict routines, a need for control, and the inability to recognise how bad a situation has become.
Amanda says that time and time again, she has struggled to believe that her condition is serious and that she needs immediate help.
"I could be on death’s door with doctors telling me I’m going to die, and I’m like, 'ok you’re over exaggerating, I’m not going to die. I don’t even feel sick enough to be here,'" she says. My life was at risk and I still couldn’t see it."
Last month, Big Brother star Nikki Grahame passed away after a long battle with anorexia. According to her mother, she relapsed during the first lockdown when the gyms shut and her routine was thrown into disarray.
When Amanda heard the news of Nikki's passing, she was on a feeding tube. In a similar situation to the reality TV star, she didn't feel scared for her own life, but sad that someone else had lost theirs.
"Scare tactics don’t work with eating disorders, you could tell me I’m going to die in an hour and I wouldn’t believe you," she says. "I just felt so sad that she couldn’t get that treatment earlier. She was the same as me, she thought she was going to be okay.
"People are still learning about eating disorders, and now since Nikki's death, they've realised they can kill."
There are resources available for those hoping to educate themselves about eating disorders, and those who are living with them. In Ireland, Bodywhys provides the most comprehensive and support-focused resources, information about treatment and recovery, as well as a national helpline and email support.
Elsewhere, social media has given patients, educators, and dieticians alike the platform to share their own knowledge of eating disorders and information about maintaining healthy relationships with food.
Among them is Amanda, who for months has been sharing her experience online in the hope of educating others and lending some support to those who might need it. Although sometimes she may have to bite her tongue when responding to messages, overall she loves interacting with her followers.
"Someone messaged me and said ‘why would you want starve yourself?’ She genuinely didn't understand," Amanda says. "I was like, 'it’s not a choice.' When a person is being abused by their captor they can’t leave.
"It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week once a year. Then for the other 51 weeks, there's silence. There’s people I know who have died from this, some are underweight and some are overweight. Eating disorders don’t discriminate. It's a mental illness, it's not a weight disorder."
Despite the reams of resources out there, Amanda is adamant that people do their research before believing everything they read. She points to Dr Jennifer Gaudiani's book, Sick Enough, as a good jumping off point - as well as Instagram accounts like the Confidence Club and Diets Don't Work as helpful pages interested in intuitive eating and building healthy relationships with food.
As always, a person's GP should be their first port of call, but it's important that someone who might be struggling finds the right doctor for them - a feat that Amanda says may take some trial and error.
She says: "My GP now is brilliant, but my other one said she wished she 'had my will power' to not eat. She told me, 'would you not eat some broccoli, that doesn’t have any carbs?' So I changed GP."
Amanda is finding it hard to stay on track. Right now, she's on a meal plan, seeing a dietician, and soon she's due another appointment with her team. She's trying to stay hopeful, but says she is struggling.
"I'm not better," she says. "They were talking of sending me to the UK but the unit they were looking at isn’t available during Covid, which is understandable.
"I feel like I’m floating, like the wheels are coming off. I don’t want to go back in. I feel like it’s like a revolving door, people keep getting readmitted, and I don’t want that to happen to me."
If you have been affected by any of the details in this story you can contact Bodywhys on 01-2107906 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can follow Amanda Lynch on Instagram here.