Catch-up from yesterday’s thoughts…
Day #3 of full portions. So much has gone on today and it’s felt like one big emotional volcano. Fuelled by the fact it’s been plaguing me all day that it’s weigh-day tomorrow. The first since full portions. The first GUARANTEE of weight gain. Like physical recovery is actually in motion NOW. Something Anorexia has put off with fighting force in all it’s sneaky ways for two weeks of this inpatient admission. Absolutely terrified. I’ve spent the day feeling like a fraudster, feeling all this food, expecting to catch glimpses of my face in the mirror and scared I’ll be confronted with a sudden change to remind me recovery is happening all too quickly. It’s so confusing. Today’s been lots of heated nags from staff on observations with me, telling me to sit down, not to be shaking my leg, reminding me I should be compliant with ‘bed-rest’ rules and reminding that I’m ‘really poorly’ but it’s felt like such a lie all day. I’m not purposely being restless to ‘burn calories’ but it feels like even worse punishment to sit and let myself relax after allowing myself to eat all these foods that Anorexia feels I shouldn’t be allowed to taste. But I’m learning that’s the Eating Disorder punishing me, and not the person I am wanting and trying to become. I DO enjoy the taste of foods, but that’s what’s difficult and all feels so wrong and messy. But I’ve also learnt so much from today as it’s caused me to experience emotion, to have heart-to-hearts with staff, to make sense of it all and fuel a driving force in me to change my behaviours. I’m finding it so useful being reminded of when it is my Eating Disorder controlling my negative thoughts and behaviour.
I find my restless behaviour is isolating me, and having a negative impact on my experience on the Unit; I’m feeling like a negative person to be around, which is why I’ve struggled to socially engage with other patients since being here. Other patients seem so much more relaxed into the weight gain process and look to have developed friendships that have supported them through this. I’m not saying by relaxed that they find it easy at all, but it makes me feel selfish that my head won’t allow me time to interact with others because I’m so focused and worked up about what is going on with the food changes and now mental chaos in my head. So I feel like when I walk in a room I have an intensity about me that makes me unapproachable. I expressed this worry to staff, and they reassured me that is because of my starved thinking processes, and as the others are at a slightly higher BMI have more capacity to allow a bit more space in their head to think about other things, such as being social and that will come in time. Also, everyone else is allowed to take breaks outside in the courtyard or go out on leave, whilst I sit (try to) pathetically watching them all up and down the corridors, which only motivates me to want to put on weight and reach those rewards.
But equally, it worries me that because I’ve invested so much of my life in this waste-of-space disorder – what if it’s too late to develop meaningful connections and friendships after all these years? What if I’ve lost the skills? I’ve spent so much time alone, falsely thinking I wasn’t alone – you can liken it to being in a besotted relationship that turns out to be a whole life of lies. Turning to my food diary, calculating, planning, weighing, recording, passing the time between eating by myself in a controlled manner, it’s all numbed that loneliness. I felt comforted. And after sitting down to plates of uncontrolled food that is to be eaten for the sake of ‘eating’s sake’ which still feels so alien, that’s when it hits home about Anorexia’s lies. And makes me feel how pathetically alone the real person I am at the minute has become.
Today has made me reflect on the fact that Anorexia wants you to be alone. It wants you to spend your time not only beating yourself up about what you’ve eaten, but also to make you find any excuse to feel a bad person. To use behaviour that will push others away, so that you will repeatedly turn to food for that falsely familiar comfort. The friction between myself and staff at the moment as on ‘bed-rest’ boundaries (which doesn’t mean you have to stay in bed all day, just be sat most of the time), has been an ongoing issue. Which is feeding into the guilt around the food and adding lava to the volcano. I have to keep repeating that it’s nothing personal towards them and I am not disrespecting their feedback when they remind me to sit down/stay still, but they are serving a purpose just being there, because if they weren’t, the compulsive exercise would still be a problem. and surely that’s the main thing that matters? So why would a bit of restlessness that was helping to calm my head a little bit make any difference to the scales when I am complying with the meal-plan?
It’s lovely having chats with staff when they’re on observations, during the times it feels more relaxed. They’re all incredible, lovely people. Which really makes me angry about this Eating Disorder, because I’d like to give these conversations more attention and to allow my interactions here to be positive, instead of coming across agitated. I had an interesting couple of chats with one of the Health Support Workers yesterday. She made it hit home about a couple of things. Reminders of detaching myself from all the little tangles of Anorexia that could potentially be mentally harmful and destructive in the long-run. The daft thing is, I KNOW I am here to be dedicated to full recovery… but my head simply won’t let me relax in panicking at the pace of how quickly things will go. At the moment I’m on the constant what-if train, and not really allowing myself to look inside about who I really am and want to be. I guess I’m scared of that person. Also preoccupied with constantly trying to splurge out my thoughts where I can, either after meals or scribbling in my notebook out of fear I won’t be able to express how I’m feeling as I’m stripped away more of my coping mechanisms.
Something useful I learnt from that chat with the HSW, was that shaking my leg/standing etc. may NOT have a negative affect on my weight gain progress, but that is not fundamentally the point of trying to support me to stop those behaviours. By still acting on these restless behaviours I am still giving in and listening to the Eating Disorder by still not allowing myself to relax, even if I am complying with the meal-plan and not ‘exercising’ in an obvious, intense way. She made me realise how actually, in the long-run to keep up these habits is making long-term mental recovery much harder for myself. She warned me that (from what I’ve learnt from past inpatient admissions) what I really don’t want at the end of this, is to go through the physical motions (gain weight, see the admission through) and all the motions, but still be clinging to Anorexic behaviours and compulsions. I can absolutely see what she means, but it took her to say that to shake me up. Yet, today (a day after starting to type this post – day 4) I am still stood here at the windowsill, shaking my leg – because I’ve just sat and eaten two slices of buttered toast only two hours after full breakfast and a full lunch with pudding yet to come…) I KNOW what I’m here for, and I know how desperately I want to re-invent myself and completely let go of this disordered identity – but HOW do I cope with my head? I keep thinking, at least when I’m off bed-rest, because I will be free to walk about, perhaps that will enable me to be less restless at other times and I will be able to relax more with staff and other social situations. But will I? Am I just setting myself up to fail? Am I just feeding my Eating Disorder? I know it’s boring to hear, but I’m just scared. It feels all so wrong and messy to currently be sitting down so much after eating so much food. Indulgent foods too. But AGAIN these are all things I WANT to be able to sit and eat in an ordinary life, everything just feels overwhelming and like it’s all happening at once.
Relating to ‘pushing others away’ and making myself feel punished, I confided in the same particular Health Support Worker about one aspect of my behaviour I DID want to address. To stamp out RIGHT NOW. As that, she reminded me, was the only way to effectively STOP any addictive behaviour. To start today. Not tomorrow…
Even if I couldn’t always feel capable of controlling my restlessness, the one time I did recognise it was making me feel more guilty and get myself into a trap of negative thinking (feeding into the Eating Disorder and pushing others away, then creating more guilt/anxiety around the food) was during our 40-minute ‘rest’ period after meals. It made me upset that I was likely to be triggering other people because if I was someone else in the same room as me, I would be very pissed off with myself. I knew how stubborn Anorexia was during that moment of feeling such a physically full stomach and mentally not knowing how to exert the chaos, it wouldn’t let me think of those around me. But it’s started to hit me how I can avoid feeling like even more of a ‘bad’ person by choosing to address this problem immediately and banging the nail on the head. I asked the Health Support Worker if she would hand over to the other staff that when they remind me to keep my leg still in rest periods/communal areas, to remind me to ‘think of the people I’m impacting around me’ because I knew the guilt would be enough drive to stop me. Because the fear of the guilt building more unbearable than it needs to be, is something I feel will be enough motivation to stop. She also suggested using a flashcard to remind me and I said I will also use an elastic band to wear on my wrist if I feel like the Eating Disorder needs to make me feel a small element of punishment, to remind me I can’t relax after eating food that feels so uncontrolled and undeserving. I know it’s not ideal, but it is the least self-destructive method and also means I know I won’t be affecting anyone else.