A few months ago I came across a link to an eating disorders conference taking place near where I live. I got in touch with the organiser N and asked if she needed any help on the day as my friend and I were interested in volunteering. She was chuffed that I had emailed and took our offer on.
After a few email exchanges it became clear that we were both in similar positions; that neither of us are the scary, formal, older professionals we had assumed the other one of us to be, but that we are merely two young women recently out of formal services who want to make a difference.
In fact, after looking at the website in more depth, I realised that N was actually an ex service-user of the hospital I myself was in when I attended CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) from the age of 13. The page also listed a few familiar names from that service who were planned to be speaking at the event.
This weekend was the weekend of the conference. My friend and I arrived at the venue, both giddy with nerves and excitement. We met the girl organising it, and clicked with her instantly. We shared memories of our favourite member of staff who was helping out at the conference, and bonded over old times we had experienced within that service.
It turned out that N is the kind of person you feel like you have known for years despite it only having been a few minutes. I have never felt so inspired by or proud of someone I have only just met! And the event was truly amazing.
By the end of the conference I had met and spoken with some of the clinicians who treated me when my anorexia was at its worst, about 8 years ago. I was elated to hear that they still regularly talk about me, sharing my update letters in staff meetings and reminiscing about all the mayhem I got up to when I was under their care all those years ago.
There were two clinicians I was particularly close to who I could not stop hugging and cracking jokes with. I felt like a small child lapping up their attention and love, desperate to make the most of my time with them – and to make that time as plentiful as possible. They both expressed such pride and warmth towards me; and I really felt their genuine glee at seeing me there as a much healthier, cheerier version of myself.
I also bumped into other ex-service users who I knew (either through friends or hospitals… once way or another) – talk about the small world of mental health service users and staff!
After the conference the volunteers headed back to the organiser’s for some food and drinks. As the drinks were consumed and the stories shared between myself, my friend and N, a vast number of similarities and connections became apparent between us.
- All 3 of us suffered with anorexia (and other things) and were under the same service. We all were inpatients in the same ward.
- N was a patient in a specialist unit that my late cousin was also in, before she passed away.
- My friend and N both lost their mums to the same type of cancer, at around the same time. They both have 2 younger brothers. They are also both descended from the same region.
- One girl there randomly knew my friend through her brother. (And other connections like this)
- N lost a friend to suicide a few years ago…. the same girl who’s Mum went to parenting classes with my own Mum, before we were even born.
Last, but certainly not least, was the craziest connection of all –
- We somehow got onto the topic of blogs. N realised that SHE KNEW ME FROM MY BLOG, and that she has followed it for months.
She started reminding me of things I had written which even I had forgotten about! I have never met someone in real life who is a fan/ reader of my blog, (and especially because I’m anonymous, the chances are more than slim!) She told me how much my blog has helped her, and how much she relates to my writing. She was treating me like a celebrity, whilst I remained in drunk hysterics and shock 👍
Overall the entire day felt profoundly meaningful in a way I cannot explain. The whole thing from start to end was inspiring, the speakers brave and interesting, the people loving, curious and open-minded, and the atmosphere one of connection and appreciation. Meeting N and the start of this new friendship was just the icing on the cake.
Some things are just meant to be – and today I had the real and rare sense of many beautiful things coming together precisely as they were meant to.