My day begins at 5:19am, my body wakes me up because I’m freezing cold and my mind wakes me up because it needs to know my weight. I suppose that’s the thing about mental illness, it isn’t like having a headache because it doesn’t just go away when you’re asleep. Neither is mental illness like a broken leg, how elated I would be if I could take some tablets, rest and have a laugh with my friends to distract me from the pain. Mental illness is always there, it invades my dreams, tars my memories and attempts to take over every second of my day.
I tiptoe into the bathroom trying not to wake anyone up and I weigh myself but not until after my ‘pre-weigh’ routine. I must wash my hands in icy cold water before stepping on the scale. I have no idea where this has come from or why I do it, it just makes me feel safe. I’m not happy with the number I see but when have I ever been? I tiptoe back to bed and try to get warm for a couple of hours whilst my thoughts race about food and the day ahead. Then I get up and weigh myself again just to make sure the number is the same. My mum isn’t at work this morning which means I have to eat breakfast, I’m no longer having the two slices of toast I had in hospital because it makes me feel too guilty and in my head I feel like I’ve binged. Forgoodnessake Claire two slices of toast is normal!!
I don’t take my medication, I’m on eight tablets a day taken at different times and my memory is horrendous so they are often forgotten. Today I didn’t forget but I couldn’t take them out of fear. I remembered yesterday and they had me on the bathroom floor sweating, shaking and dry heaving. I didn’t want to feel like that today. I am aware of my stupidity and I know more than anyone how much I need to take my medication but I also cannot function with the side effects from them. It’s a no-win situation and a situation I feel completely alone with. I have told my team how they make me feel, how I cannot cope with taking them but I don’t know how to express the scale to which I cannot cope with my medication.
I live in a house with cupboards that are quite high up and so we have steps in each room to reach them. I was standing on the step waiting for my crumpet to pop out of the toaster at lunch time when out of nowhere I started doing step ups until the toaster popped up. I do not remember thinking about doing it. I was on autopilot and it has worried me because I have one of those steps in my room and I know I am going to end up using it in the middle of the night but I don’t know what to do about it. I notice myself slipping into all my old ways, making excuses as to why I have to eat a small snack for my tea in my bedroom, sneakily exercising, cutting out foods. I recognise myself relapsing but how do I stop it? It makes me feel better, I don’t want to feel like this chubby, worthless freak anymore. It is so hard to stop relapsing once you start.
After lunch I leave the house alone for the first time in a while and then I catch the bus-sounds pretty mundane right?! Except I haven’t been on a bus since before I was sectioned and I struggle to breathe when I’m out because anxiety sets in. Outside in the fresh air it’s okay and I can regulate my breaths but on a bus I get anxious about breathing-what if everyone can hear my breath? I panic about panicking. I wait in town and I feel as though I don’t belong there, like I am so inadequate to everyone else. I worry that someone is going to start taking the mick and that everyone can see I’m not ‘normal’. I engage in another of my safety behaviours and browse around on my phone allowing me to step out of the real world for a while.
I meet Jenny from Fixers and it’s a really good meeting, anxiety is taking over and the thoughts in my head are pointing out all my flaws and errors and it makes it hard to talk but that doesn’t matter because I can listen and I know that I can make a difference with the help of Fixers. I leave feeling positive.
Back at home I make my excuses over dinner and sit in my room covered in goosebumps, the thoughts taking over and my stomach hurting. Food hurts me, it didn’t used to but I let myself get so malnourished that my body is still getting used to food. I end up in cold sweats, nauseous and in agony with a belly swollen so much I look as though I am pregnant. The pain of anorexia does not disappear as soon as you start eating and that just makes it more of battle. I often complain that I felt physically better before hospital put me on a meal plan but that probably isn’t true. Another scary thing about anorexia is that you cannot trust which thoughts are ‘true’ thoughts and which thoughts are ‘ill’ thoughts. Can you imagine how scary that must be to not be able to trust your own thoughts? You can’t even trust your eyes because your illness messes with the messages your eyes send to your brain. I am obsessed with my image at the moment, not in a vain way but because it keeps changing and I am constantly trying to work out the truth. Every mirror, every reflective surface, every photo I am scrutinising and obsessing over in an attempt to figure out if I am fat or not because refeeding has made me feel as though I have ballooned.
I end the day by going to a fireworks display. I have not been to one in over a decade because I am either too weak, cold and tired to go or I am not interested in it because my mood is incredibly low. This year I pushed myself to go. I had a bit of a wobble at first when everyone was jumping up and down to the music and waving their glo sticks because I was stood their biting my lip so hard that it bled wishing that I had friends. I wanted to be joining in with everyone else so badly but I couldn’t. Then when the fireworks started I did some mindfulness, focused on the sounds and the colours of the fireworks because my illness was still there chatting away in the background but if I focused really hard on the fireworks I could at least experience them. I felt alive at one point-my toes were numb and the sky was raining gold and for a moment nothing else mattered and I appreciated those few seconds of respite.
Now it’s time to try and relax enough to get some form of sleep. My mood is low and my energy is wearing out. I feel weak and faint and my illness is relishing in my weakness like a bully finds your vulnerabilities but I know I will be okay. I got through today so I can through tomorrow.