White toast x 2, butter. (…Marmite on one slice)
Pulled ham, bagel, butter, salad.
Pear, ‘Golden Balls’ ‘Muller Corner’ yoghurt.
Thai vegetable curry, rice.
‘Daim’ cake slice.
White chocolate ‘Kinder Bueno’.
…& the usual PINT of semi-skimmed milk.
So I wouldn’t usually be posting today, seeing as I’ve reduced my blogging to every other day, but as I didn’t get round to finishing yesterday’s post, here it is continued…
…and I reached breaking point Tuesday night, when I wasn’t sure how I was going to continue being able to commit to my eating disorder recovery, whilst being wrapped up in this other big anxiety that I wasn’t aware was even THAT big. But it prevented me from feeling able to go to one of the groups yesterday. And then it snowballed a little bit, and I then felt overwhelmed by dread about going into the dining room and having to sit with people, whilst having this nagging, painful parrot sat on my shoulder, making me feel so small, unworthy and inadequate.
So I laid on my bed, wondering how the h*ll to move on from here… I wasn’t even sure what I wanted or what would even be possible for my long-term recovery…
…now I’m in a much more accepting, motivated place with food, was I putting too many problems in one basket – eating disorder and social anxiety? Could they be dealt with separately? Am I putting myself through extra pressure of being exposed to that social anxiety every single day, amongst people with similar mental health issues and are also vulnerable – or is it a case of persevering and gritting my teeth and hoping it passes?
…instead of switching off and continue to lay on my bed feeling unworthy to eat, despite not feeling able to muster up enough umph to enter the dining room, it wasn’t the most ideal situation, but I put my name on the board, and left the Unit for a couple of hours… to get something to eat. I knew I needed to escape. And I also knew, that yes I crumbled to social anxiety, but I was here, in treatment for my Eating Disorder… so I could still prioritise that, right? I wanted to create a long-term positive solution, for a sticky situation of non-compliance…
…at the bus-stop, one of support workers happened to see me passing during her break outside. So she approached me asking what I was doing – but I reassured her I was completely safe, I know it wasn’t ideal, but I knew I wanted to stick with my recovery progress, and if that meant breaking the rules and getting off the Unit, that’s what I would do.
I was partially aware that I was putting my treatment compliance in jeopardy, especially with not being able to face the group either earlier, but I felt drunk in anxiety. I’d had enough, so there had to be a give somewhere. I think we all know our limits, and this was mine. My priority was to eat, for my long-term recovery, not to stay on the ward and comply, if it meant not eating due to not being able to face the dining room.
I had no idea of a plan or where I was going, but after escaping into Leeds and literally feeling the wind through my hair, I marched the streets trying to shove the thoughts aside, feeling stronger than any rein of ‘freedom’ that my Eating Disorder before may have manipulated. In all honesty, it took a long time to decide, to settle somewhere. I was in a tug-of-war between spending money and sitting in a restaurant and that making me feel more guilty about the food, but then actually wanting to eat something substantial.
So I settled for a ‘Subway’ sarnie in the end, found a bench (then realising I’d lost my phone, so, in a flurry rushed back and THANK G*D it was there!)… and by this point, as I genuinely felt hunger screaming at me, I didn’t fanny about, getting myself all neat and tidy and ‘prepared’ to eat in order to make myself feel deserving as I would have done in my struggling pre-recovery phase, I started eating as I walked…. which sounds ridiculously miniscule in terms of achievement, but for me, that told me how far I’d come with recovery. I might have been wandering the streets, unintentionally breaking the Unit boundaries, but I was obeying my recovery. I was eating for practical and hunger purposes, instead of seeing my sarnie as a golden bucket of coins, a reward at the end of a rainbow, that I had to earn.
For pud, I stumbled across a posh and quirky little ice-cream shop and ordered myself two scoops of delicious-ness. ‘Pistachio’, and ‘Madagascan Vanilla’…
…this actually ended up costing more than the sarnie itself, whoops. But my tummy told me it was worth every penny. And that’s okay.
So yeah, I was kind of dreading returning to the Unit… how the response would be, wanting to shrivel away from causing a drama, and also wondering how the h*ll I was going to get through the remaining months of this claustrophobic atmosphere causing my head to spin in anxious, self-destructive thoughts.
But somehow I got through the night, I asked if I could eat my supper in my room, but luckily there were seats free outside the main lounge area where I could stay safely away from the group that I felt I had such an inadequate purpose in. I felt embarrassed, misunderstood and inferior.
I remember a night of hot and sticky tossing and turning, wondering where to go with my life… how to solve this thing that I felt I now might have f*cked up, that I didn’t have answers for…
…early in the morning before breakfast I’d asked one of the support workers’ advice, had a chat and a cry and expressed how I think I did want to commit to treatment here, but I just had no clue how to go about my social anxieties, as that was taking over. I was worried I’d jeopardised my chances because of a slippery, what felt like a drunken day, before.
Again, I asked if I could eat breakfast in my room, but she explained the expectation was to attend the main dining room. And obviously, due to my non-compliance the day before, I knew I had to grit my teeth again and just do it.
So I did. Feeling embarrassed, inadequate, un-belonging, ashamed, snotty and lost.
Then came group. It was ‘thoughts and feelings’ which meant I had the chance to talk about the past couple of weeks, to explain myself, to finally express what had been compressed inside me about my worries socially, and how I might come across, to hopefully correct the misunderstandings about me, due to how my insecurities and mood affects my interactions with people. I’ve never shaken and cried so much. Or apologised for crying so much. Yes I felt extremely pathetic. I really did. But I was also relieved that I’d got it off my chest, and clearly also out my eyes. Rightly so, one of the nurses leading the group explained how other issues that come up through recovery can make it look as though someone is not ‘engaging’ in treatment, which is actually triggered by something else. Something else that is powerfully distracting and distressing… for me, my social worries. And she also explained how identity gets lost somewhere the more you let go, which also made sense.
I’d heard that due to what happened the night before, my nursing team had contacted my consultant about what was happened. They were concerned that currently being in treatment, in this space, was detrimental to my overall mental health. Which I can see, typing from the hotel reception area back in my own space and sense of peace, that was probably true. I began to become more hateful against myself, which made the food feel more undeserving and then it became a vicious cycle. Staff were worried that me being on the Unit, would put me at more risk of harming myself due to the little things around my anxieties and over-preoccupation with what others were thinking of me, that had escalated over the past couple of weeks.
After a meeting with two of my nursing team, I then was advised to take the 72 hours leave (mainly due to the breaking of the ward boundary by leaving the ward at an unplanned time). Hearing this, due to my negative mind-set, it was difficult not to take it as a punishment… and this is something I expressed. But the lovely couple of nurses on my team (don’t be stereotypical here guys – one of them’s a bloke! Just in case you were picturing two made-up ladies in tunics, haha)… reassured me that this was just ward procedure. And they explained that having a break away from the environment, and pressure socially, should be useful for my attitude upon treatment.
All patients are granted one 72-hour leave period, during their treatment program. You only get one, which you can use at any time, with the intention to come back to the ward and decide if you want to carry on, and if you do, what perhaps could be changed about your care-plan.
Ultimately, I argued that as I was due to go on my first overnight leave at the forthcoming weekend, surely it would be more detrimental to take three solid days out, when, in almost 4 months, I’ve not had any overnight leave whatsoever. But, of course, as it was the ward boundary, this still had to go ahead.
I decided not to go home. I know how loving, caring, but equally worried my mum can be. And also, from the outside of this situation and not being in it, I can see how it’s easy to get the wrong end of the worry stick about what’s happened. And I also felt it would be useful to be in my own space, as this is what I’ve missed.
Not for my Anorexia’s purposes and to ‘rebel’ with that sense of freedom sometimes you can feel vulnerable too when you’re in the claws of an Eating Disorder… but for MY, genuine purposes. For that peace in my own independence. I enjoy observing the world, and I take after my mum being a ‘reflector’. I enjoy reflecting, because it helps me take a step back from what I’m actually striving for, and to make sense about what’s helpful for me, and what I eventually want out of life.
After getting over the ‘hangover’ of feeling like this 72 hours was a punishment, and seeing it as an opportunity to test what I’d learnt, to see where my head was at…. I threw things in a suitcase, grabbed some bits and pieces out of the therapy kitchen, booked a hotel in Leeds that had a pretty good offer on (and was also an apartment-style too, which meant I had my own kitchen space to prepare food)… and hopped on a bus.
I make that sound a dead, dead simple breeze. But actually, I had a chat with my bloke nurse, that I was scared about what to do with my meal-plan. I was gutted I’d spend so much time planning this week, LAST week. And now it all felt like it had gone up in flames, all that work for nothing.
But then my GUT told me, I knew more than I thought. I didn’t ‘need’ a carefully written up, detailed plan. I had 101 days of eating a full-portion meal-plan, of knowing what I required…. so instead of planning to a tee, since then as I sit here on night 2 of 3 in the hotel, I’ve used my meal-plan as a guide, and have made food fit around my life and my plans instead of altering my plans around my food, as I would have previously.
Previously, I would have panicked and sat spending a good few hours planning, writing down, and probably calorie counting everything for the next coming 3 days.
I had a ‘vague’ idea, but no plan. Not a flicker of a calorie-count.
I was shocked by my own shift in mind-set. This was the first time I’d had by myself, since the beginning of May, when it came to handling and making full choices around food. I wasn’t as panicked about not having a plan. That panic had just been an unconscious habit when Anorexia had had much more of a hold. I had some kind of quiet strength in me that I didn’t realise.
I don’t feel like a fantastic person, I feel lost and purposeless… yet the difference was this time, and still is, I still crave and want and DO eat nice foods. I eat enough, I’ve stuck with what would have been expected on the meal-plan. I’ve turned this experience, this reflective leave, into an opportunity. And I’m proud of myself.
As well as an unplanned McFlurry experience yesterday…. I’ve found enjoyment in being able to use the toaster in my hotel room, and have a full breakfast I would have had to have at Unit. I’ve enjoyed extra milk in my coffee with my sister earlier. I’m letting my choices and pre-occupation around food, not be determined by my sense of self-worth.
I may not feel confident, worthy, adequate, mature, independent, successful… but I’m still letting myself eat nice things. I’m listening to my body and feeling satisfied. This is when I recognise that recovery doesn’t equal ‘fixing’ your life, but your creating peace with your relationship with food, and sending the emotional signals AWAY from what you choose to put in your mouth.
Even treated meself to an unplanned, ‘un-needed’ (but totally required and worthy of my craving) ‘Salted Caramel’ flavour hot choccie in bed, after supper last night.
I may be taking a break from the inpatient Unit… but by far, far does that mean I am taking a break from my recovery. I’ve learnt about the capabilities in me that I didn’t know were there, because I was relying, psychologically, so much on the structure of the ward. And this lesson, I can return with on Saturday to the Unit, as a bit of confidence in my pocket.
I’ll say it again, not with a big head but an honest heart…
I’m proud of myself. I know I can do this.