Jesska Denise

Jesska Denise is an Irish beauty, fashion and lifestyle blog


The Fight for Inpatient Treatment

ed recovery blog ireland
(Trigger Warning for numbers and pictures.)
It's weird writing on here again. I feel like I've gone so long without posting any sort of real update, that in a way, I owe it to my blog to continue the story of my journey and ongoing recovery. My last two posts were pieces I had written whilst an inpatient. Which may lead you to think 'wait what?'. Yes, because I haven't updated. I've been very vocal on Instagram *ahem* here btw, but not on here. My little corner of the internet, so lets rewind.

If you don't remember last year, (I do) I wrote a piece on how the HSE had refused to fund inpatient treatment for me. And you're probably wondering how it all happened. What changed? How did I eventually get the treatment I needed and deserved? I fought. I fought tooth and nail until I was pretty sure the head of CHO8 hated me because of my numerous phone calls and emails.

It came to a point last August where I wanted to know, why was it refused in the first place, what was the reasoning behind it. I was desperate for help, so I wanted to know what I did wrong to not get the funding, how could I access inpatient treatment. My team had said it was BMI related, but I wanted it in writing. I contacted Jim Daly, Minister for Mental Health in Ireland. He passed my case onto his office, and correspondence went on and on and on for some time until mid-November when I received the following email.
anorexia treatment ireland
(Email form Jim Daly's office in November 2018.)
The funny thing about this email was, that it took into account my BMI in September 2018 and not my BMI from December 2017/January 2018 when the original request for funding went in, which was lower. It also states that in order to access inpatient treatment, the minister for mental healths office thinks they should have a BMI of 13. If that was the case, why does Lois Bridges (where a number of patients are there on HSE funding, and some have been funded twice) refuse to admit patients with a BMI of less than 13.5? 

Anyone with a BMI of 13 or less is seriously ill and needs to be admitted to an acute hospital. “We had good results with these high-risk patients before but now we don’t accept anyone with a BMI of less than 13.5. Our program is suitable for patients who are not at risk of suicide and who are cognitively able for an intensive program,” explains Molloy. Source: Irish Times

Completely glossing over the fact that early intervention is key and that the severity of the mental illness cannot be measured by physical aspects.
At the time my dietician and I had agreed not to discuss numbers and weight so the reference to my 'current' BMI in the above letter was badly thought out. I was fuming when I saw this letter. If BMI is such a factor, how are people who are diagnosed with bulimia or binge eating disorder supposed to receive specialist help? And why is the severity of a MENTAL illness, being based on a physical symptom such as weight loss? Is schizophrenia or OCD looked at in the same way? Or is just anorexia?
I was left feeling like in order to receive the specialist help I desperately needed I have to be on death's door, if I had a tumor would it need to be bigger before chemotherapy is suggested or is it again, just unique to anorexia? This letter severely triggered me, my weight started plummeting and prior to being admitted, I was maintaining at 47kg. 
anorexia recovery ireland
(November 2015)

Four years ago I was on death's door, my weight dropped to 37kg in December 2015. At 5ft6, this put my BMI at 13.2. But inpatient treatment was barely mentioned at the time, yet I was physically compromised and very mentally ill. The above picture was a few weeks before December.

When it was discovered in November 2017 that I had osteoporosis in my spine and osteopenia in my hips, talk of HSE funding began. I was assured it wouldn't be an issue getting funding as they 'knew the woman over it quite well'. 

leinster eating disorder clinic
(This is the HSE premises Dr. Moorhead works out of, leaves in the building.)
It was suggested that I return to see Dr. Teresa Moorhead to help with the application, but I refused as it had been some time since I had seen her (a year) and I wasn't able for a journey to Dublin. Apparently, this decision of mine not to see her was a factor against me getting funding.

Then the talk began of applying for funding again. I was relieved, but I knew I had a fight on my hands to get it. I did everything that was asked of me, I jumped through every hoop, I went to see Dr. Moorhead so she could back up the application. I knew I needed the treatment, that without it, my weight would keep dropping and I would be chronically ill or dead. Once I knew the referral for funding was put in, I found out who I needed to pester. I discovered that the HSE is broken into sections, and my section is CHO8. I found out who was the top dog of CHO8 thanks to google, and I got onto emailing them, and ringing them and speaking to their secretary. I wanted them to know I needed this. My entire team helped push as much as they could, and I pushed as much as I could from my side.

I had lost two inches in height, my blood results were starting to come back with problems, my blood pressure was very low and upon standing I would get dizzy and nearly blackout. The physical complications were becoming very apparent and I became physically complicated with chest infections and colds that my body couldn't fight off. Resulting in a scary trip to midoc were I couldn't breathe because my lungs were so weak and full of gunk. It was terrifying. I didn't know how to break the cycle I was in. 

I got in touch with the hospital I'd been referred to see if they had heard anything. Then the unthinkable happened, funding was approved. Verbally approved that is. After many emails, they eventually did confirm it in writing and it was just a matter of waiting for the bed to be admitted. I never gave myself time to think about what inpatient would entail, I was so focused on fighting whoever to get there. But I fought. I fought the two hardest fights I will hopefully ever have to fight and now I'm home, after 14 weeks inpatient.

anorexia before and after
(Before treatment, after treatment.)
I still have a long way to go in terms of recovery, I begin aftercare in the hospital next week, but I'm better than I was. I feel less obsessive and needy for control and structure. I eat regularly. Something I haven't been able to do in years. But I did it, I fought the HSE for funding and I got it.

My mission is to make sure no one ever has to go through what I did to get the help they deserve. If the HSE was properly equipped to deal with eating disorders and had beds publically, they wouldn't have to fund people to stay in private hospitals with eating disorder units, and it would be one less thing for parents and sufferers to worry about.

The personal fight isn't over, but damn, it's a lot closer to over than it was before Easter. The hospital and the group saved my life, and I'll be forever grateful to all there and my little hospital family.


Inpatient Treatment

jesska denise

I spent two years fighting for inpatient treatment. Two years trying to get the specialized care I knew I needed because outpatient treatment just wasn’t working. It was like I was swimming against the current and was barely keeping afloat. Inpatient treatment was the life jacket I needed to save myself from drowning and I’m glad I fought so hard for it.
I hounded the HSE, I contacted the minister for mental health Jim Daly, I jumped through every hoop they made me jump through because I knew it was sink or swim. I felt like an inconvenience, I was ringing people every week, I pestered my own services, I didn’t stop until I got the word that the HSE would fund my treatment. Eating Disorder treatment in Ireland is poor. There are limited inpatient options, and the ones that do exist are private. I don’t have health insurance and I had no other option but to have the HSE fund treatment. Treatment isn’t cheap, but my god has it saved my life.
Before I was admitted I was lost, hopeless and had resigned myself to the fact that I was either going to die or remain the same unless I get specialist help. My local services did the best they could with their limited, underfunded resources and it’s not their fault that things rolled the way they did. It’s an issue from the top that has just filtered its way down to the bottom.
I fought so long for inpatient treatment that I never truly gave myself the chance to stop and think about what I was getting myself in for. I was so concerned with getting here that I didn’t allow myself to think about it in case it never happened. No one hopes they will go into hospital, I certainly never thought I would. I remember being told that if I kept going the way I was going I would end up in hospital but I never thought that would happen, I was stubborn and very ill.
Inpatient treatment is unlike anything I thought it would be. The nurses, the patients, the staff are all so lovely and supportive. Everyone is here for their own reasons, and everyone just wants each other to get better. The ED program is a small number, but god are we mighty. I feel like I have my own cheerleading squad in the back every time I finish a meal. Their voices silence the one in my head that berates me for what I just did. There’s high fives, hugs and a resounding cheer of ‘smashed it’ after every meal.
We all get each other’s struggle. None of us want the other to feel like we do. The group knows the right thing to say, at the right time. They can read my face and know when I’m struggling. They help me reach my weekly goals and to challenge myself at mealtimes. The group has helped save my life.
13 weeks ago, I was cold, tired and sad. Today, I’m happy, warm and full of optimism and hope for the future. Anorexia felt like a life sentence that there was no way out of, I was running in circles, getting nowhere. Now I’m a person again. I feel alive. At times it felt like the darkness was forever and there was nothing else. I was embarrassed about needing to come into hospital, but it is what I needed to do. There is nothing to be embarrassed about, I needed this to get well again. And on my road through recovery, I’m going to ensure that I continue to talk about this, show everyone there is no shame in getting help. Whether that’s outpatient or inpatient. Mental health is important, and it’s twice as important to talk about it, which is what I’ve been doing on Instagram @JesskaDenise.
If you’re struggling and trying to get help, don’t give up. I feel like everything happens for a reason, and had I not come in when I did, I wouldn’t have made the greatest group of friends or made as much progress as I have. I didn’t want to come in here, but I chose this because treatment was necessary.

Previously posted on A Lust for Life here.


A Letter to My Body,

a letter to my body anorexia

I'm sorry. Sorry that I have continuously tried to destroy you. For pushing you to your limits. For ignoring your warning signals and going against them.

I'm sorry. Sorry that instead of providing you with proper nutrition I deprived you of it. That on a quest for control and safety I pushed you to pull from reserves and ration. To shut down what you didn't think were important right now to power the things that were. That every morsel of food was like gold dust in a mind consumed by calorific currency.

I'm sorry. Sorry that I made you run. Run for hours on end whilst you screamed at me to stop. That I told you to get it together we're not finished yet. That we needed to do another 1,000 steps, another 10mins, another. Any excuse to keep moving. And not enough fuel to power you.

I'm sorry. Sorry that I kept you up all night. That getting 5,000 steps before we could sleep became the norm and sleep itself become so foreign that it was something to fear. That the fear became so consuming I added marks to your surface in an attempt to make sense of it. That because I couldn't find my voice and the proper words, your surface says everything I couldn't permanently and will only fade with time.

I'm sorry. Sorry that you screamed for help and tried to hit the breaks. That you roared at me to stop and only got louder. That dizziness, bruising and coldness were red lights and I ran straight through them with no thought of repercussions. The burns because you felt the heat on the outside but I couldn't feel it inside. That my bones became a source of calcium, and now they're thin as paper.

I'm sorry. Sorry that you're haunted by memories. That you will bear the brunt of them and this reach for control and manipulation for years to come. That even though you'll think it's the end that someday without knowing, you will be reminded. A pair of jeans, a glimpse of the mirror, happiness cannot be found in numbers and perfection.

I'm sorry. Sorry for starving you, overworking you, hurting you. For being unkind to you. You deserved better. You are my only home, and I tried to burn you down with us both inside. But despite the roaring flames, you kept us safe, the fire is now burning out and now it's time to rebuild.


Top 3 Things To Do: In Malta

things to do in malta

From time to time I receive messages on Instagram asking about my two trips to Malta; what is there to do in Malta? Where should we go in Malta? and so on. Which is why I decided to put this 'Top 3 Things To Do: In Malta' post together. I'm pretty fortunate that I've been able to visit Malta twice now. Once during winter, and once during the summer. Summer being my favourite time to visit. The weather was fab and the island was covered in beautiful flowers. However, if you can't handle the heat - winter is for you. I have family there and thankfully I've been able to stay with them on both occasions, meaning my advice is limited in terms of hotels and accommodation. But the island itself and things you can do? I think I'm pretty clued in there. There really is so much to see and do and there are still a few things on my list to see yet, but these are my Top 3 and I'll definitely be doing them again.

malta bay

Thankfully the island of Malta is quite small, and as a tourist I found the transport service to be pretty decent. There's a number of bus stops and routes across the island to get you where you want to go, so if you're staying in the South of the Island, getting to the north isn't that far of a journey. My family are located in the North of the island close to Mellieha Bay which is the ideal spot if you're looking to take a boat tour to Gozo or engage in some water sport activities. 

  • Island Boat Tour
    We took an 'English rose cruise' out to camino and spent some time at the Blue Lagoon. With this tour we managed to get the best of both worlds - clear blue waters, and the opportunity to get up close and personal with the number of caves scattered along the way. I recommend booking a tour for early morning, that way you have the cool evening to explore other areas of the island.

malta caves
blue lagoon malta
malta island
malta boat tours

  • The Blue Lagoon Comino Island  
    is truly stunning. I've never seen anything like it. The water was so clear and clean, it reminded me of when we were kids and would look through travel brochures and questioned if the water really was that incredible. I was disappointed, because I can't swim so I couldn't fully enjoy the waters, but I did dangle over the edge. It's a shame because there's so much going on out here, and it's like a big party and everyone is so relaxed. There's people on the island selling ice cream and water, but I recommend bringing your own little picnic, save you having to climb over all the people and lose your spot by the water.

malta blog post
jesska denise
  • Sunset at Mellieha Bay  The last thing I recommend doing before you leave Malta? Take in the sunset from the beach. It was top of my list of things to do because lets be honest, everyone loves a good sunset. We headed down to Mellieha bay one evening and had a little picnic alongside the docks and watched as the sun slipped behind the hill in front of us. The fairy lights really added to the experience, watching them twinkle over the water. It was so pretty and peaceful. If you've had a busy day checking out the sites, I really can't recommend this enough. A few blankets, some fruit and good company and it will be the highlight of your trip. The best things in life are free after all.
sunset malta

On both my visits to Malta I didn't really venture too far from the North East of the island. But I thought I'd throw in just a few more suggestions. 
  • Shopping in Malta? Head to Sliema. 'The Point' is three stories and home to shops like New Look and Bershka and the best bathroom for selfies. We've been known to take a selfie or 10 in there. Sliema is pretty hilly so wear your comfy shoes that day, there's tonnes of cute shops and cafes and it's a really nice day out.
  • Night out in Malta? St Julians is the place to go. Dragonara Casino is one of the prettiest buildings I saw when I was over there, if you're looking to do something a little different this is the ideal thing to put on your list.
  • Game of Thrones fan? There's a number of locations across the island where scenes from the show have been filmed, it's top of my list to go back to Mdina and imagine myself being in GOT season one haha.
There is really so much to do, and depending on when you book your flights you can get a decent enough deal. I always check on skyscanner, and have never spent more than 120€ return. It is a long flight, so make sure you have enough to entertain you.

(If you're looking for a nice hotel in the Mellieha area, the Pergola was opposite my cousins apartment and it looked fabulous, you can check it out here.)


Thank You.

irish mental health blog

I just wanted to start this post off by saying a massive thank you for the response on my previous post, honestly, I was blown away by the response and number of messages I received. I didn't expect that reaction. To everyone who shared, thank you. To everyone who took the time to read, thank you. To everyone who took the time to write me a message, thank you. There are no words that could ever express how grateful I am to all of you. A number of things struck me after writing the post, that (1) people were surprised about how open I had been and (2), just how many of you were in similar situations. I would be lying if I said this didn't haunt me because I know how it feels and I just wish there was something more I could do. Which brings me to my next point, I'm going to continue with this openness on my blog and social media. Stigma and shame just add to the pain and loneliness. No one should ever have to feel that way on account of their illness. No one.
I took a year off blogging, I fell out of love with it. My inspiration and creativity was non-existent. But now I know what I want to achieve with my little corner of the internet and I'm excited to get writing again, I've missed being able to write freely. To watch words flow across my screen, I find it relaxing. Whether you're Irish or from overseas, please never hesitate to reach out to me for advice or  how you can help a friend or family member.
My next few months will be a round up of last year. I went abroad twice, went to a concert or two and experienced my first seaweed bath. I have a ridiculous number of pictures to share on here so get ready!

ps. I was asked to speak on 98fm Dublin Talks about my eating disorder and the post I wrote. It's available as a podcast here if you would like to give it a listen. I also spoke on my local radio station ShannonSide but unfortunately that doesn't seem to be available online.