Hippo on a feeding frenzy. What my stomach would say about me for the past few days… however, at least now I’m making an effort to re-train my brain, and recognise when I need to pull a few screaming babies apart. By that, I mean separating my relationship with food from the relationship with myself…
My thoughts and feelings from what’s in my mouth… my self-esteem and self-worth from the North-climbing number on the scales… enjoying the taste of food from how productive I am that day… how clean and tidy I feel I look on the outside from feeling deserving enough to sit and eat that meal.
And it’s extremely bloody hard! Re-training my brain in favour of chopping the head off Anorexia, is definitely not an easy task. It really is hard and a constant work-in-progress. But a status of ‘in progress’ is much better than ‘given up’ and ‘out of use’.
Yesterday’s lunch felt extremely difficult to sit with afterwards. Choosing tuna mayo with jacket potato for the first time since being here, was my challenge for the day – only because it ended up being my only option on the meal-plan. (without even more scarily breaking Anorexia’s other rules) I’d seen staff members order it, and the ratio of mayo to tuna, looked an absolute ridiculous write-off to Anorexia. The odd fish flake drowning in sickly white sauce was how it looked to me. But due to my ‘no two meats in one day’ rule (daft?) and not allowing myself to pick a cheese sandwich yet, it had to be done.
The consistency of the blob on my plate made me feel sick. I guess, before I started recovery, I used to weigh out a very particular number of grams of tuna from the can, and a very small drop of the ‘extra light mayo’ to mix. It had no taste, so Anorexia you do me no flavour – but made it damp. I don’t know if perhaps my taste-buds had a bit of a shock to the system from what it was religiously used to. Having to have margarine on the potato sent me over the edge; I’ve never understood (personal preference) what it adds to the spud experience when you already have a topping – especially a creamy, saucy one.
I can’t believe I’m going to type this for real and put it out to the world, but I would have enjoyed the taste of the rhubarb crumble and custard, had it not have followed such a challenging first course. The taste was there but Anorexia killed it. But yes, I, Yasmin, declare my enjoyment of rhubarb crumble and custard. I just feel like the shame is often round the corner to trip me up.
To be fair, what probably didn’t help the tuna mayo struggle, was my ‘eating food groups separately’ – my main behaviour barrier at the moment. If I can crack that, I can move into the ‘Stage 2 dining room’ which is where the majority of the patients currently are, and out of the intense smaller one. Perhaps it would have tasted nicer ON the potato… so I wasn’t really helping myself. (well, Anorexia wasn’t) I’m still yet to explain in a blog post my thinking behind the importance to my Eating Disorder of eating things separately, which mostly becomes a problem when I have had no control over the preparation of a meal – unknown measurements, calories, fear foods etc.
Anyway, that whole rant so far was meant to be a quick point to skim over! My main thing to talk about today was the pair of screaming babies I feel I am slowly, successfully being able to pull apart… the distress of my irrational thoughts and behaviour, from my personality and how I react to people.
Those that have been a patient in a mental health unit, might be able to relate to the fact there are always some particular staff members you (or your illness) come to blows with.
Sometimes we meet people that we simply can’t ‘click’ with. Or find floating on the same wave-length… the colour/pattern through which we see the world might contrast too much with theirs. Like chalk and cheese, parsnips and white chocolate – you can’t make it work. (apart from probably Heston Blumenthal)
If you’re a ‘people pleaser’ I think that’s what’s really hard to accept. That there’s some things, no matter how much you work for, or try to change, you can’t control…
…I don’t know if people experience this with other mental health problems, but that’s where it gets confusing when you have an Eating Disorder. Your personality can completely change. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re reacting as you or the illness. You constantly beat yourself up for your thoughts and behaviour towards others, once the goggles of Anorexia are off and the situation has passed. By these situations I mean when any kind of negative behaviour/reaction is influenced by the irrational thoughts and beliefs.
And feeling bad about your behaviour makes you turn to it’s thoughts and behaviours even more. The quickest way to rid of the guilt. The only way to accept yourself. It’s even more difficult to let go. You keep digging yourself a bigger rabbit hole instead of looking for another way out.
I’ve found a way out of Anorexia… and the simple answer? Food.
Weight gain. Experiencing exactly what you fear to be set free. Feeding away all that irrational brain chemisty. Giving it the cement to build new bricks…
Get your body to a happy place, where it wants to be, where it was born to be and it will give your head an easier time. Your brain will turn it’s attention to everything else it will have the energy to think and breathe for. People it will have the energy to care for. Relationships it will have the time to invest in. Life can only literally get better.
When I was first admitted to the Unit 24 days ago, during those first couple of weeks I came across those handful of staff members that were covered in chalk and cheese. I felt the grudge build inside me every time we spoke, passed, every time I knew they were on shift. And it felt like they thought that about me. There were many heated discussions and tense atmospheres. They made my Eating Disorder feel like a criminal when I thought it was my best friend. I guess you could say I became very protective.
Now I’ve conquered some very destructive behaviours and have my head on track… I’m learning to sit in my own discomfort, to swim in it and learn from it… I’ve discovered that it’s my Anorexia that was threatened by these particular people. That it felt challenged and vulnerable in their presence. These people were telling it it could not get it’s way…
…but over the past few days, for the first time I’ve experienced some very pleasurable moments with these staff members. One of them who I’ll name Hetty (for confidentiality purposes) who was on eyesight observations with me yesterday for example. We went to sit in the garden and talked about normal stuff, I asked her about her life and I felt like we were two buds finally opening up. Like a couple of flowers that had just been watered. Whereas not too long ago, when I wasn’t complying with the meal-plan and my blood sugars and pulse were all over the place, I took her as stern and mean, when she kept reminding me not to be so active, for my best interest. I started convincing myself that all the staff hated me and that they were probably pulling straws to see who would end up on observations with me for the day.
I didn’t know how ill I was at the time, because like most people with Eating Disorders, you feel perfectly fine, even when you may not be far from death’s door if you haven’t got the right support around you. I remember telling Hetty I really hated her approach. That it didn’t work for me and that’s why we couldn’t get on. Bollocks, Anorexia… her approach didn’t work for YOU, and you were scared to let me out of your arms.
I think it’s the first time I saw Hetty smile today. Which felt even better knowing that she was a hard one to crack! I enjoyed feeling relaxed in her company. And suddenly the hot coals that we were treading on had vanished. I thought I knew myself but I’m only just beginning to through my recovery…
One of the other staff members I thought I would always have to keep my distance from, for chalk and cheese purposes, not far off my age (I’ll call Kirstie)… I cried when I thought she had personally over-portioned my potatoes because she didn’t like me, I thought she was having a personal attack making me eat more than I actually needed to of my yoghurt when I was on half-portions, there would be moments of angry silence when my restless behaviour was challenged… I constantly felt like she was giving me evils… I thought things were personal, maybe because we’re too similar in age or maybe I’m just not a good enough person. Anorexia is a paranoid, negative creature.
Today we sat and had a sunny, casual chat and it was like the evil spirit of Anorexia had packed it’s bags for it’s hols… I feel like I am becoming a calmer, more friendly, less tense/sensitive person to be around. Which makes me accept myself more. Which reminds me I’m going in the right direction towards my goals and not want to turn back. I introduced Kirstie to ‘Buttermint’ tea and we were able to talk about normal stuff and find it enjoyable… later, for the first time she told me “well done”. I’ve started timing short breaks of sitting down to challenge my obssession with standing and have taken staff feedback on board. I think it’s shown me that I’m starting to trust other human beings… which is a break-through for me, ha! I have been so stubbornly mis-trusting of anyone but my own old ways. But I’m now starting to think a lot of that is my Eating Disorder’s ways.
It’s not until you start being able to see things a little clearer once you start taking them steps to getting some control back from your Eating Disorder, accepting weight gain. When you take those irrational goggles off and the view’s a bit clearer, once you’re committing to the food and starting the repair process… that you start to realise things were all for your best interest. That others weren’t attacking you, they were fighting your Eating Disorder when you didn’t have the strength.
I’ve not seen that ‘Exorcism of Emily Rose’ film that people tend to watch on Halloween. I’ve heard about what exorcists do… about how they force an evil spirit out of a person, cleansing them. When trying to explain best how re-feeding your body, gaining weight to a healthy level… not only feeds your brain and starves your irrational thoughts, it re-balances and re-paints your personality… exorcism is exactly what it does to Anorexia, give it enough time.
Food is my exorcist.
“No food will ever hurt you as much as your Eating Disorder.”