Sunday, 31 December 2017

Looking Forward

Well, it is the last day of 2017. It's been a year of two halves - the first half spent in hospital and the second here at the supported house. It's not been the greatest of years but it has been a year of progress and personal growth. Perhaps by others' standards I may not have achieved much but these baby steps are steps nonetheless and actually, seem at times like big strides to me. I know in my heart of hearts that I have been authentic this year and this is what matters most. I have pushed myself hard in my recovery and it has in no way been plain sailing but I am learning so much. This time last year I was so sick. I didn't want to see in another year. I had no hope for 2017. I have hope now. I have hope for 2018. I hope that I can continue my progress. I hope that I can, for the most part anyway, be happy and enjoy what life has to offer. I hope I can appreciate the little things and not sweat the big stuff. I look forward. Happy New Year!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Earth Goes Round the Sun

News of the death of 19yr old Averil Hart hit me hard at the end of last week. I felt so angry that it was allowed to happen - that in the 21st Century in a First World country, a young woman could starve to death. But the reality is, this happens. I have known people this has happened to. An adult with an eating disorder in this country waits on average 5mths for treatment. A child or adolescent 4wks. This is not acceptable. But what is worse is that Averil was known to services yet still slipped through the net. My first crisis happened nearly 13yrs ago. I collapsed like Averil and was admitted to hospital where I was left to my own devices and lost even more weight. As with Averil, no ED specialist came to see me for several days. It got to the point where I could no longer walk, I had no control over my bowels and was slipping in and out of consciousness before they even thought to place an NG tube and administer IV fluids. Basic surely? I nearly died. Averil did die. I was lucky. 

I am lucky. And today I am really feeling it. It was my birthday yesterday and what change a year has brought about. I spent yesterday with my family at my parents' house. As I watched my little nieces play I was very aware of what I so nearly lost. A year ago I was in hospital recovering from a broken spine amongst other injuries. I was in nappies. I was in pain. I was starving. I wasn't physically strong enough due to my anorexia to do the physio I needed. Yet somehow I still found the strength to pace the corridors, ignoring the agony. I was refusing my pain medication, believing I deserved to suffer. I was broken and I thought I was beyond repair. I refused to see my family - I was too ashamed. They were hurt, angry and pretty much devastated. But just the other day my mother told me she is proud of what I have achieved this year. How my heart sang to hear those words from her! I can't take away what I did last year. I can't undo it. But I am determined to lead the best life I can. For now that is taking things one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time. I can't erase the past and I don't know what the future holds for me so the best thing I can do is cherish the present.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

A Big Shadow

"Worry gives a small thing a big shadow"
- Swedish proverb

I have really been struggling this week, mainly with my anxiety. I'm generally a nervy person so am used to 'background' anxiety but recently it has really escalated, bordering on panic on occasion. Talking to professionals I am pretty sure the cause of it is me not using my old coping mechanisms, i.e. restricting, OCD behaviours etc., and not replacing them with new, healthy ones. I am left unarmored. Medication helps to an extent but I need to put in some work too. My outpatient nurse is helping me to put together a 'toolbox' I can go to in times of distress. Things have been so bad that I, who normally sleeps like the dead (due to meds), have been waking up throughout the night. And I'm worrying about ridiculous things such as not walking up the stairs the 'right' way, wearing the 'wrong' pyjamas, changes to my routine etc. But I'm also panicking about loved ones getting sick or dying and wondering what my future will look like, whether I will ever be able to survive on my own. I could go on and on - the list is endless! Why doesn't it help that I know what I'm stressing about is pointless, often stupid??! Surely my intellect should help me combat my issue, but it doesn't seem to. I am working through some really tough stuff with my therapist at the moment and I leave her office feeling exposed and very vulnerable. My emotions are all over the place and tiredness doesn't help. I know I'm really making progress in terms of my recovery and they always say things have to get worse before they get better but this sucks!

"If you're going through hell, keep going"
- Winston Churchill

Thursday, 9 November 2017

What a Thrill!

Last night I went to the theatre to see 'Thriller Live'. Wow. I felt so alive! I had forgotten just how much I love good theatre. I thought my passion had gone but no, it was back with a vengeance. I was up and dancing and I didn't care what I looked like. I felt free. I am already planning my next theatre trip! I also found that it was a very body-positive experience. The dancers were rather scantily clad but they all had curves and looked so comfortable in their skin (obviously I'm not inside their heads but that is the way they came across). They were strong and healthy and could belt out the songs whilst leaping about. I found them inspiring. I love to sing but when I am very unwell with my anorexia my voice is so weedy and weak. I have been singing a lot recently and I can feel the power returning to my vocal cords. I'm so near my target weight and, whilst in a lot of ways this is a very tricky time for me, I am really appreciating what my body can do now.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Shit Stinks But It's Warm

There's been a lot of drama where I live over the last few days and it's not been easy. I've had enough drama of my own over the years to last me a lifetime so I find my tolerance low. I just want a peaceful life now. I have been beating myself up for not being more sympathetic but all this has opened my eyes to myself and my own actions. I was a self-harmer for a number of years but, apart from a minor blip during my last hospital admission I have not cut/burnt/overdosed etc for over 3 years. I rarely even get cravings. I tended to do it after eating as self-punishment and a hatred of my body. When very ill with my anorexia I have at times even had the delusion that I could cut the fat out of me. Seeing old behaviour mirrored back at me recently has not been comfortable but it has enabled me to feel what it must have been like for my family and friends. I think this has strengthened my resolve not to go back. It's perplexing. People don't understand when you don't use words to express your distress. Whilst all the mayhem was going on downstairs I had a little chat to my guinea pig and I found myself admitting to her something about my past that I have never admitted to anyone (I have since told my therapist). I am deeply ashamed but I guess it just shows how deeply cunning and strong my anorexia was. I used to overdose on a certain medication a) because it would make me violently sick and I was never any good at purging, b) because I would inevitably get admitted to hospital where I could then stop eating and rapidly lose weight - something I couldn't do at home because I was scared of my mum but also couldn't take the guilt of how upsetting it was for my loved ones, c) I would get a brief 'high' from doing something dangerous. It became an addiction. Of course, I used to say I wanted to kill myself but I would always get myself to A&E and an admission would follow. I would become very physically unwell and end up being transferred to an ED unit for refeeding. What a pointless exercise! I always said I didn't want to be in hospital but I think I felt safe there. I spent a lot of my childhood around hospitals for my sister, then became a medical student and finally a patient myself. Hospital isn't pleasant but it's familiar. "Shit stinks but it's warm" I was told by a counsellor. 

Now that I have this insight into my behaviour, my confidence in my ability to recover has increased. It's taken me all these years to actually admit to myself what I was doing let alone to anyone else. How did I stop my self-injury? The 12 Steps. It works if you work it, as they say. Through therapy I am learning more and more about myself, not all of it pleasant as you can see. But with these discoveries and with my new-found voice, I am becoming more authentically me, warts and all. Next on the agenda: self-acceptance.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

You Don't Look Anorexic

When you have an eating disorder, why does everyone think this gives them the right to pass judgement on your body or your food? I feel like I need to scream it from the rooftops - eating disorders are MENTAL illnesses and sufferers come in all shapes and sizes! Eating disorders are NOT about food! Someone said to me this week, "but you don't look anorexic". That should be a good thing, surely, as it shows I am getting better, but my anorexia was NOT happy. I felt scared. And this was just before I sat down to dinner. My dinner came out of the oven and I was told, "that's massive! You're not going to eat all that are you?" I wanted to cry. I just had to keep in mind that the meal was prescribed by my dietitian and this person was actually clueless as to what healthy eating looks like. I live in a house with people with a range of mental health problems and, whilst I would hate to have say, schizophrenia, I do envy them the privacy over their disorders that they have. When I moved in it was obvious what my diagnosis was and it seemed to fascinate the others. I felt and continue to feel very exposed. 

Friday, 27 October 2017

It's Okay Not To Be Okay

I had a bit of a wobble this last week but I didn't write because it made my recovery 'messy' (for want of a better word). My perfectionism didn't allow for this blip. I want to recover but, as with everything else, I want to do it perfectly. Mainly because I want to show other sufferers that it is possible but also because I am in a desperate hurry to 'catch up' with my peers from treatment who have substantial clean time and are living life. Of course, the reality is that recovery is never a straight line on a graph, but rather a zig-zag with a general trend upward. It's two steps forward, one step back. It is going to be different for everyone. I was in recovery for three years before relapsing. Some won't relapse at all. Some will relapse several times before 'getting' it. We're all individuals so our journeys will be unique to each of us. The important thing is a forward momentum. It is certainly not a race. It's okay not to be okay. 

So what did my wobble look like? Well, I think I had been getting a bit ahead of myself, putting pressure on myself, and I experienced some very bad anxiety (tears, the works). I started to freak out over the weight-gain, the latest increases to my meal plan, the going cold turkey with my OCD. It all felt too much. But, hey, I'm here to tell the tale. Nothing terrible happened, I just felt terrible. I am so grateful to be living where I do as I had people to talk to and it was that simple act - talking - that got me out of my panic. (I say simple but I still don't find expressing my fallibility, my vulnerability, easy). I just needed to put the brakes on for a bit and take it easy. I have needed more sleep these past few days so I have allowed myself to rest. I have been for gentle walks in the park (yesterday accompanied by my mum's dog!). Today I took myself on a coffee date and spent a good hour nursing my americano and working on my novel. I popped into the supermarket and bought myself some chocolate on the way home. It's the little things that make a difference. This being kind to myself is new to me. Today I am feeling much more me and it's just such a relief.