Helloooo to you all, 8 days short of a year since blogging! The question is, in what size nutshell could I summarise what’s occurred since then? Walnut? Pistachio? I’m not even sure what other nuts come in shells (could Google it, but I won’t fake my intelligence) so we’ll go with the first, slightly chunkier option.
Well, eating disorders and body image are both still a passion/struggle of mine. I’ve now gone 61 days without binging and purging (which began the day I was discharged from a 5-month admission on my local mental health unit). However, body image is still a torturous thing for me, daily. It’s that war inside between wanting to reduce myself to a weight I feel most content in (5 months of limited movement in hospital had a lot to answer for)… and being wary of not shit-stirring it all into a full-blown eating disorder.
I had a short go with the eating disorder team last year, however the thought of being weighed became too overwhelming, that it led to a crisis situation and I overdosed in a wooded area, found by the police. It seems such a lifetime ago as much more has happened since then, unfortunately. And the eating disorder team are not equipped to deal with such risk.
The biggest thing of all really, has been coming to grips with my other diagnosis ‘Personality Disorder’. I did the assessment for this 2 or 3 years ago. But what made it difficult to accept the diagnosis was the fact that the psychologist, who is yes – proper intelligent, but also totally up himself (and most probs has a shrine at home with an enlarged photo of his head encrusted with gold) did not for one minute seem or want to understand eating disorders. He claimed that all the years I’ve spent Anorexic and Bulimic were down to the Personality Disorder and were not separate issues. However, since then, my eating disorder diagnosis has sat alongside the newer one, instead of being ditched like none of my experiences meant anything. Sometimes one diagnosis overshadows the other, like an eclipse – and vice versa.
For those that don’t know much about Personality Disorders – there are a few different types you are assessed for. Mine uncovered to be ‘Borderline’ and ‘Avoidant’ (as well as, back then, ‘Obsessive Compulsive’). The diagnosis name couldn’t really bring much more stigma if it tried, could it. The name suggests that your whole being, your character has defects so you must be inferior to other human beings. The biggest magnet repellent to any kind of worthwhile, dignified life. Let alone a partner.
Despite this mental health condition having the most awful name (which is in the process of being changed for the better), what it means actually does make sense. Although I get waves of anger at the Personality Disorder label, like now – when I think to myself – if someone had long-term acne or a permanently wonky nose – you wouldn’t say they had a face disorder, would you? Same applies.
Everyone has a personality. The main struggle for people with Personality Disorders is how they regulate their emotions, so – how they cope with emotions as they arise and how much it impacts their everyday life. It can be disabling at times and lead to suicidal ideation (thinking obsessively about suicide) and suicide attempts. Because of this, it can affect relationships, how we approach work, sleep and so on.
People without the diagnosis do still struggle at times to regulate their emotions too – everyone is on a spectrum, just like anything else. The ‘personality’ part I suppose then refers to the whole way in which we interact with the world, and the character we portray because of our struggles. The thing is, there are times when you can function ‘normally’, well and professionally. We’re not complete misfits. People in very successful careers have Personality Disorders too.
A couple of months ago I got offered a golden ticket to turn this diagnosis, and my life around. With potential to ditch the label altogether. This happened when I was in hospital for that 5 months. A lady of high rank in the mental health service appeared at one of my review meetings on the ward, and I was filled with frustration, not fearing of making that quite clear in front of her face. “What’s she doin’ ‘ere? She’s probs going to try and sell my that TC, and there’s no chance I’m doing that.” The TC (therapeutic community) is a very specialised type of therapy – almost day patient therapy, over a 2 year programme. Members attend 3 times a week and there is a structure to each day. The idea is that as a community – staff included, we work through problems and emotions as they arise and what things are holding us back, and also are taught a variety of prescriptive life skills. It’s meant to be really successful for those suffering with ‘Personality Disorder’. However, my view of the TC up until the final few ward reviews on the unit, was that it was some kind of ‘cult’ – and for stereotypical people I had in my head that might have a Personality Disorder.
I thought they were all goths who cut themselves, dressed in black and listened to screamo music. But stepping into my first week amongst the existing and new-like-me members, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Yes I did end up deciding to give it a bash, after some relationship and trust-building with the lady in charge. And turns out, she’s an incredible person who actually set the service up for people like us with the diagnosis that most healthcare professionals have little time for, and don’t know how to treat. She’s raw, honest, highly respectable and has a heart of gold.
I allowed my perspective to shift, and to be open to learning new ways of thinking. There’s actually not one goth, dressed in black, who listens to screamo music and cuts themselves everywhere. Instead, when I walk in each morning, I see a rainbow of colours, of personalities and age. And when I say personalities, I mean in a way not through Personality Disorder glasses. You still see strong glimpses of the real person for who they are, and how they tick.
For sure, it’s such a precious opportunity for me – as I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with some kind of once-a-week therapy anymore. However, it’s definitely not been a smooth ride. In less than 2 months in the TC (therapeutic community) I’ve had 3 admissions to the acute ward, gone to some scary places and had the police involved. But that doesn’t tell me I should give up the therapy (even though at times it’s deffo been a strong thought), it says to me that this is my journey getting into motion. It’s just the start. It means I’m facing challenging situations and conversations that trigger off the most vulnerable parts of me. Things I need to uncover and explore, so they don’t cause me distress forever.
I sit here, from the ward, hoping to be discharged tomorrow – to reset things and jump on the rollercoaster of life again, instead of the repetitive black hole ride. This admission has been my most undignified to say the least. Staff restraining me to take my clothes off, being dragged down a corridor with nothing on my bottom half, and being injected in my bum. And for the body image-sensitive side of me, this was the worst torture. The shame was unbearable and it felt like I was being put into one of those wooden things (stocks?) in public, like they did back in the day – with wrists through 2 little holes and one for my head for people to throw tomatoes at. But at the end of the day it is me who was responsible for this, which is hard to admit. At the moment I’m feeling quite level, my medication has changed, and I’m looking forward to going home to a routine of normality. Well, as normal as it gets.
How’s that for walnut-sized.