“For a line of dominoes to fall, one has to fall first… which then leaves the others choice-less to do the same.”
It’s about time us who suffer behind ‘healthy-looking’, ‘okay-you-must-be-doing-brilliant pictures’, secretly living a life controlled by Bulimia, and the vicious mental cycle of self-destruction that comes with it, pinged off that mask of shame. (and how’s about we break the elastic while we’re at it?!) It’s definitely not as attractive as those Ant and Dec, or Prince Harry, Cilla Black, (whichever takes your fancy most) party masks.
Okay, so this is me lifting up the rock I’ve been hiding under. For 85 days, it appears. That’s 85 days since I last posted on my blog, this little (but pretty BIG I suppose) space, which was my crutch since the threatening of an NG tube and the begging at my latest inpatient admission. Well I’ve returned, back to my tip-tapping laptop ventures out of hope that this crutch could help me again. Because hell I need it. Secrecy and shame only work together in forceful ways, the more I stay private and scared about sharing my struggles. So I am posting this to chop a nice fancy pair of scissors right down the middle of that strong bond those two ‘S’ geezers like to share.
The pain of typing out my thoughts and ongoing experiences of my Eating Disorder recovery, as well as ongoing ‘human’ struggles, sussing out this whole being alive thing… I’m putting hope in the fact it can help me. And help me mould a healthier, happier me into a New Year.
I’d love to say the past 85 days has flown by… and I suppose you could say so, but ONLY if we’re talking about a cross-eyed pigeon floating through space. Yep – probs about that speed.
These past 85 days, has encompassed so much change that I wasn’t prepared for. But then, can you really prepare your brain for any recovery journey? When you’re erasing and changing the script that’s been written in your brain for soooo shittin’ long? There’s bound to be a few temporary pencil smudges, and pesky little rubber bits hanging about that you’re still unsure how to flick off without making a mess on your surrounding brain cells… it’s like that annoying bloody dirty rubber in your pencil case, that makes more of a mess than when you started. It FEELS like that anyway… but I understand, that’s not how it actually is.
So back in Leeds – until the end of October – as hard as it was finding the functioning of my newly, fully determined and committed recovery brain, during my last inpatient admission – social anxiety being a clingy little kitten and body image starting to feel fragile, as well as my mood dipping like an old creaky, wooden rollercoaster at times, and the shedding of Anorexia revealing how much of a bad person I felt I was/am – the focus I felt more than ever, and the hope despite all the mental pain of change, was worth it. It was difficult, and that’s exactly why I knew things were positive. I knew difficult meant I was letting things move forward, in hope things would eventually feel better… and life would take on a new dimension.
I thought this next post I would be writing, I would still be sat on a baby blue bed, still a part of the computer game world that recovery in hospital kind of felt like. My hospital room was my station, to re-charge between meals, the time to reflect between the parting of my brain cells and emotional reliance on using food to control my sense of value and purpose on this earth.
But what I didn’t expect is that I’m actually sat on my own sofa, in my own flat – not in Leeds, in Cleethorpes. This is actually 19 days before I was due to be discharged, at the end of my ‘full recovery’ treatment program. To be honest I feel like part of me is grieving about what’s happened, but I can’t help but now feel grateful for this diversion – things are difficult, but this independence has also been empowering and I can throw my creative splatter and love of colour into a little place I can call my own.
Although it’s not quite as simple as that. I’ve realised that wherever you choose to move, the most important place you should make comfortable before anything around you can feel that way, is your mind. Habits will follow, and if your mind is grey, foggy and cold, it doesn’t matter where you are – or how beautiful the surroundings, you won’t see it through all that mental clutter. Sometimes it won’t be enough to lift you up and out of your polluted mind.
So although I love my little flat, I’ve also experienced moments of fear – that wherever I take my head, it is a dangerous and untrustworthy place to be. But that’s been of course when my mental health takes over.
There’s times when I feel like Snow White, I want to whistle about how happy I am to have my own special space to call home, to have the excitement of upcycling old furniture and play with my own ideas of colour… and times when I dread having to face the walls in which I have allowed my Eating Disorder and mental health to pollute the atmosphere.
But back to the reason I’m here now, and no longer in Leeds…
…(trigger warning, just for the record.) At the end of October, returned to Leeds after a weekend at home. I was waiting for the bus to the ward, from the city centre after arriving back on the train. My mood was so mushy, I felt so lost and vulnerable like a toddler on it’s own down the aisles of a supermarket. My friend (and close friend of my sister) had recently died, who had also struggled with her mental health – which had thrown up a lot of thoughts about life itself, and I had also only recently reached ‘Stage 3’ of my treatment program – which is the crucial ‘maintenance’ period of discovering my set-point weight. This was where I was supposed to be, I was supposed to somehow accept this body in which I feel trapped and useless and pathetic. Facing real life, when you’ve spent so long in hospital, is difficult anyway. Those couple of days out of the whole week – spent in the spontaneity and overwhelming elements of ‘real life’ compared to the structure and safety of the ward, away from emotional attachments with the people that you love, can be quite mind-blowing.
I remember being stood at the bus stop, dreading the thought of going back too early to have to be around people, because I felt like a bad person, and I felt as though being around people would poison them and if I knew I was contaminating other people with my stupid self I would feel guilty. I no longer had food as a weapon to control that guilt – I made that choice back in May when I was first admitted on the ward. I had no idea what to do or how to feel, but all I know is that I felt guilty wherever I went and now my brain was not starved I didn’t know how to compress that feeling. I was going to hang around for a couple of hours, with nothing to do in the city centre, just to wait until supper was over and I’d have it out, on my own, to save having to be around people.
But then I felt too down and lost, that I thought I’d go back. Realising I knew no-one around me, I was starting to feel like no longer a person and I thought that when I got back at least I could shut myself away in my room.
So I did end up catching the bus… I got back… and due to the discomfort of the guilt and confusion on my brain, I felt impulsive and desperate for a way to control that feeing. I then realised, I still had a load of medication on me from my weekend leave. THIS BIT IS PART OF THE CONTROVERSIAL ISSUE… I was given 3 weeks worth EXTRA of medication, of period of 2 days leave. So of course, feeling trapped, I took it all, not knowing what would happen, and knowing, pathetically, it wouldn’t do enough damage to kill me, but wanting to feel something different to what was going on in my head at the moment. It wasn’t until a few hours later, in the middle of the night when I got up and felt a bit weird and told the staff on shift. Luckily one of the nurses from my team was on, and I felt safe to tell her and that I knew it was a stupid thing to do, that it didn’t make sense.
It felt like being drunk, and I can’t say I quite remember it, but sitting round a table and the nurse trying to calculate how many mg of both tablets I had taken… ringing the ambulance, speaking to the ambulance ladies in the back, being in A&E and then feeling disorientated and wobbly.
Luckily, after tests, and some sleep, by the next morning, I was told I would be okay and I didn’t need treatment. Returning to the ward (luckily I had my favourite support worker with me at this point)… little did I know that from then on, that one decision changed everything.
There was a meeting with staff and me about what next – the policy for the ward was that if a patient was to take an overdose or similar, they would have to be transferred to an acute ward, and cannot be re-referred for 2 months until ‘stabilised’. But as they seemed to be considering me as an individual, that this was the first time I’ve done something like this, that they understood that for me to return to Grimsby would not be the most helpful option. I saw Leeds as my fresh beginning, and after discharged was hoping to settle there, due to the wider opportunities. I was excited to start exploring the city for open-mic events and ad started getting hopeful about playing my guitar again.
But then… after speaking with the consultant, and 3 days of being on eyesight observations, I got called in. Quite hopeful, that they understood my needs. Looking to my occupational therapist, who I got on well with, more-so than anybody else I’d met on the ward… I sensed that slight smile that says sorry, and the avoidance of eye contact. I knew.
Before the consultant said ‘we’ve decided we can do longer continue treatment with you’ (but you can be re-referred in 2 months) – so yeaaaaah I’m sure I can just ‘pause’ m recovery after all these headaches and emotional tearing apart I’ve done, in order to leave Anorexia behind, and come join you again.
Seriously, I understand they have to risk manage etc. but the thing that makes me angry is how shallow, obviously, some services portray of an understanding for Eating Disorders. As soon as you don’t start ticking one of the boxes, they ship you out. I’m sorry, but recovering from an Eating Disorder of any mental illness, is pretty much taking heroin off a long-term addict, and guiding them to find their way in the world. You CANNOT expect for a vulnerable person being stripped of their coping mechanism, to be able to juggle emotions around their life without them being of a danger to themselves, in some way or another.
I realised straight after that incident, and the fuss it caused that I would never do it again, and reassured the team it’s something I’ve never considered doing before… but then, it felt as though I was punished, for taking a diversion in my recovery. I fluctuated between shock and tears for the next couple of days. But STILL, whilst the team were waiting for a bed on an acute ward to become free, attended my meals. I was terrified to commit to the meal-plan with all this chaos, anger, shame and disappointment… but even more terrified of Anorexia creeping back to control my emotions. So I knew I had too. I was ashamed to eat, when I felt like I no longer ‘belonged’ on the ward, that I was being shipped out… but now I realised, I really was doing this for myself. I never quite realised how much I was doing this recovery thing for MYSELF, until now.
The day the acute bed came up, back in my hometown, a taxi was ordered and two staff members came with me. In a weird way, seeing the trees and the roads of somewhere so familiar, as much as I didn’t want to see it, they felt kind… they felt trusting and they felt more like home… after the disappointment of what happened in Leeds.
Going onto the acute ward, I actually felt embarrassed – I knew, or I thought I wasn’t a danger to myself so was convinced I would be discharged the day after I was admitted. Well one night ended up being nearly 8 weeks. Yes I struggled with my mood, I felt like I had lost everything. I had two mental health assessments (which I thankfully ‘passed’). I felt like all that brain energy and commitment to recovery was wasted. I felt my heart tear out of my chest. I felt stuck in this body… when I’d just reached the point I was to be supported with my thoughts around body image as I’d reached the maintenance stage, I felt terrified that I now needed to find a way of doing this myself. And would I ever be able to?
The reason I ended up being on the acute ward for 8 weeks… wasn’t because for the whole while I was a danger to myself – yes there was a couple of incidents at the start when I felt as though I wanted to self-destruct, but the rest of the time, I realised actually it was because my care team really did CARE where my next move was… and how to create the best plan for me to move forwards. So they supported me with the idea of finding my own place and learning to live independently, which would be empowering. They were patient with the whole process, and I wasn’t discriminated because of any aspect of my mental health.
No, often, my Eating Disorder was overlooked. But just because my Eating Disorder made an appearance at times, I wasn’t shipped out because they weren’t ‘equipped’ or used to certain behaviours. I was seen as a full person, with an individual brain, and felt that people had hope for me that there was a way forward. I wasn’t a tick-box exercise… and shock horror, I was actually a person.
My disappointment with the Leeds service continues, how they can make such a rash decision on one incident, without viewing that person’s full and long-term recovery is a crucial error. If it’s a case of risk management, then I think it’s about time they updated the staff/service training and risk policies in order to accommodate the fact that someone suffering from and Eating Disorder, and in recovery, is not exclusive to simply behaviours and thoughts around food. You’d think that a service, with actually such a brilliant selection and outlook on treatment programs, that they’d have a better well-rounded view on seeing an Eating Disorder as a mental ILLNESS. There needs to be some empathy and understanding behind the fact that, through recovery, as sufferers, it takes practice and patience in order to learn new skills with how to cope with the emotions that the Eating Disorder has masked.
My brain has been tied with an Eating Disorder on-and-off for 9 years for jelly’s sake… and this being the FIRST time I’ve wanted and committed to embrace every aspect of a recovered lifestyle… for me to be shipped off after one minor incident, concerning the medication that was issued on THEIR part, to me is unjust and extremely unfair. I worry, regarding their medication policy, for the safety of their future patients. Because I know how desperate you can feel, and to have fire in your hands to play with during those moments, is dangerous.
My mum and I did get in touch with the manager of the particular ward I was on, and had some lengthy discussions. She was appalled too at the decisions around what had happened, and as I said I was worried that the consultant thought I either went out of my way to find/buy medication, or that I stored up unused medication, she reassured me that she would be speaking with the consultant to inform him that wasn’t the case.
A couple of weeks after my transfer, the same manager got in touch to say that they would be looking into their medication policy, and what happened in terms of the excess they gave out shouldn’t have happened. She also said that they would like to hold a bed for me to come back to within 2 weeks… by this time, it had taken me a HELL of a lot to get my head around to accepting where I was, and taking up the support that I could TRUST from my home team… that it didn’t feel right to go back. There was too much mental baggage and disappointment lingering, that it all felt messy… I’d started to accept the whole situation, so to be offered this back was also a shock.
I went with my gut and I stayed put. And now I have my own home.
What I was going to go into… what I was going to touch on… was the behaviour within Eating Disorders that are masked, that aren’t obvious, but are as equally soul-destroying as being addicted to restricting and losing weight. My Eating Disorder actually started as Bulimia, a short phases 9 years ago, and in-between my Anorexic phases, it has become a yo-yo. The only way to stop the binging and purging is to become very strict with food and start counting again… my head says. To lose weight and to feel numb and to take discipline to the extreme.
It’s like being haunted by an abusive boyfriend and being scared of my own shadow… I’ve been experiencing this part of the illness, quite excessively now, since the last chunk of my time on the acute ward.
What’s different this time? Yes my head is still saying that the only way to escape this evil controlling behaviour is to count numbers and commit to rules (Anorexia clawing me back) but I’m now on a new adventure of completely rebelling against that loud pull, and re-discovering ‘health’, by living in the grey area. My Eating Disorder behaviours/relationships have been all very black-and-white over the years, but I’m trying with every inch of me not to return to restricting, weighing foods etc. etc. and since I have my own place, this gives me a new outlook. Yes, there have been lots… and I mean lots of very difficult evenings (as this is when my binge/purge compulsions take me hostage)… but I now don’t see Anorexia as my only way out.
I’m continuing to hold the hope.
I hoped to go into more detail/break the taboo around binging and purging, but realised I had a fair bit to update on! So I’ll do that next time!
I ALSO intended to re-start my blog on the 1st of the month, to help banish the binge/purge behaviours in the evening and to share my journey…. but unfortunately recovery from Eating Disorders isn’t as simple as making a New Year’s Resolution
I may be sat on my own sofa, and not in hospital… but ‘FULL PORTIONS’ shall continue! On the plate and on the page. You don’t have to be in hospital for your recovery or your illness to be valid! Let’s gooooooo…………………..