This week my psychologist and I spoke about if I were to get well and what it would look like and my fears around it and to be totally honest I can’t remember what it’s like to be well. It has been over a decade of illness and nearly two years since I came into hospital after a handful of shorter admissions.
If I really try to imagine it I imagine a ‘well’ life to be quite good. I wouldn’t be in hospital and I’d be at home again with my family and my dog. I’d bake and cook meals and snacks for myself, I have hoards of recipes saved for when I get better and I can’t wait to try them out. I would enjoy eating, an idea that seems incredibly alien to me right now. I would go to ballet and help out with the younger classes. I would go to the beach with my friends and laugh the night away at karaoke. I’d watch telly with my family and go to the cinema with my dad. I’d play on the 2p machines at Barry Island with my mum. I would have my freedom back and I could go on walks alone, just my iPad and me. I’d experience new things, new foods, new places. I would live instead of exist. I would be able to be an adult although that absolutely terrifies me.
Everything about getting well is full of uncertainty and it completely overwhelms me. I’m scared to eat again, it’s been nearly a year since food passed my lips and it terrifies me to think of the day I have to put it in my mouth again. I don’t even know how my stomach would physically handle solid food after so long. I’m scared of the taste and texture and ‘greasy’ feeling food gives me. I’m scared to gain weight, to be fatter than I am now. I’m scared that none of my clothes would fit me. I’m scared that being bigger would make me hate myself even more than I already do. I’m scared of the responsibilities that come with life, I’ve got a lot to learn, and I’m scared of the day another of my loved ones dies, it feels unbearable to think about my mother and father dying. I don’t even think I could handle my dog dying. I need to reintegrate back into society and that scares me, even the thought of standing in a supermarket aisle terrifies me at the moment because I am so used to these four walls. I also worry that I wouldn’t have anything to blog about. My whole social media outlet is centered by mental illness and if I were to get well then where would that leave me? I’m not sure that I know who I am without all of this and the thought of being an adult terrifies me. I might be in my twenties but I don’t feel ready for that yet. What would I do for a career, I mean I don’t even have A levels, would I have to go back and study? A recovered future is full of questions. If I were to get well then I wouldn’t have a mental health team around me, these people I have known for years will not be in my life anymore and that really scares me.
I want a normal life, a recovered life but I’m not sure that it’s possible and that makes me feel a bit torn when it comes to recovery. Part of me wants to really give it a shot but the other part wants to give up and die and I can’t say which side is winning at the moment although it is probably the latter.
Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of hate and bullying over the Internet…this has taken shape in many different forms including comments and private messages. A lot of the time I delete the hate and block the user but that doesn’t stop it having an impact on myself, my feelings and my day.
For starters sending Internet hate is not good for my mental health. It has the power to bringing me crashing back down to the lowest of the depths of depression even on a seemingly good day. For example on my birthday I received hate because I had a birthday cake I didn’t eat and was told I didn’t deserve it….it made me feel so incredibly guilty and the self hatred soared. Another day I woke to a private message telling me I was a dumb anorexic and should just eat. That wasn’t a nice way to start the day.
It’s not only me that the hate directed at me has an impact on. It spreads to the people around me who have to see me in turmoil but also it affects other people on the Internet who see the hate and it prevents people from being open and honest. It installs fear in people.
Internet hate must also have an impact on the sender themselves. I wouldn’t want to live with myself if I had spent the day saying horrible things to people. I can’t imagine the guilt and self hatred they must feel so please if it’s you sending the hate stop sending it and if you’re on the receiving end know that you are not alone.
I’ve been debating whether to write about this all day because I don’t want to be too negative but then I realised if I truly want to speak out about mental health then I have to talk about the darkest parts too. So yes, last night I tried to take my life.
I feel rather hopeless at the moment. I’ve been in hospital since 2015 and I can’t remember what it’s like to be a part of society and some days I’m not sure that I want to be a part of society. My life has become sitting in a room watching films with two members of staff either side of my bed. I’m scared of my first night sleeping on my own, of tasting food for the first time, of stepping outside, of talking to people. Everything scares me and in a way this has become comfortable. Comfortable but I also hate it. I want to go home and just be allowed to not eat but they will not let me because I will die, because even though I was in hospital I nearly died. I’ve appealed against my section but the chances of my section being lifted are very slim. This is my life and I don’t want it.
I know most people don’t want to hear this but the majority of time I do not believe recovery is possible for me. Please if you are suffering do not let that lose hope for you, that isn’t what I want to do but at the same time I don’t want to stay silent in my darkest moments.
Life is painful right now, each feed is intensely distressing, I have to take it hour by hour and sometimes that’s too much. I just can’t stand being in the body I am in, I can’t stand myself and I wish it was possible to leave this world without leaving a massive black hole.
Last night wasn’t impulsive, it was planned. I had the means hidden for a few days and I knew I was going to do it. I timed it well and knew how to do it without the people next to me seeing. I thought I was going to die but they heard the sound of me gasping and that was it, I was caught and the means were taken from me. So here I am still alive and to be totally honest I’m a bit disappointed that I am. I have dots all over my face and neck from where my blood vessels burst.
I don’t have the means to try again and I won’t for now but I just wanted to speak out from the bottom of this deep dark hole. I just wanted to be honest with my struggle.
It’s my birthday on Thursday and part of me wants to really celebrate it because I nearly didn’t make it due to my anorexia and due to last night but the other part of me doesn’t want to celebrate at all because truly and honestly I wish I hadn’t been born. Then I wouldn’t have caused all the hurt and pain and trouble I have caused by being ill. Then I wouldn’t have to feel all the distress I do. This is my raw honesty.
It’s something I hear all the time, “School days are the best days of your life” and I can’t help but think that is the biggest lie I have ever heard. I can think of little worse than having to go to a place everyday learning about things that don’t interest you whilst being crammed in a room full of people who are only similar to you in age.
For me school days were not the best days of my life at all, far from it in fact. I was bullied, bitched about, I spent my break times in the toilets self harming or purging. I threw my lunch in the bin everyday. I faked ill to stay home. I hated everything about school. I hated that I was practically forced to see the school counsellor, a much older man that I just didn’t click with. No, school days were not the best days of my life.
The best days of my life were sitting in a hot tub with my friends and family giggling and drinking Pepsi max out of milk bottles with paper straws, the day I went on BBC Breakfast, the moments in my ballet classes when I don’t care about my reflection in the mirror staring back at me. Whilst I’m in a dark place now I have had some of the best days of my life and these have all been since I left school. I can promise you this: if you hate school and think these are meant to be the best days of your life, they are not. Your best days are yet to come and I promise you that they will come. School days being the best days of your life is one of the biggest lies I have ever heard. Don’t fall into the trap of believing it’s true.
“I feel fat” is something that runs through my mind and leaves my mouth thousands of times a day but what does it mean? Fat is not a feeling and factually I am underweight. I’m trying to explore what is really going on when I feel fat. I mean I can ‘feel’ it, I get the physical sensation of fat growing on me, I can feel my skin tingling, itching and bubbling. I can pinch my fat but I’m told it’s just skin and I can see I’m fat in the mirror and in photographs but emotionally it is not possible to feel fat. Maybe I feel sad, anxious, afraid or even angry but my brain smothers the emotion and turns it into the feeling of fat. The world of eating disorders is a very confusing place. I don’t know what’s real and what’s not or who or what to believe. I can look in the mirror and see my sickness on rare occasions but just hours later I can see the flabby me reflected in the mirror again. It’s like living in a funhouse where all the mirrors are stretched and exaggerated. I don’t know the truth of what I look like and that can be very scary.
Living with a mental illness is horrible, it comes with really tough times, a lot of emotions and nasty side effects from both medication and talking therapies. By this I mean the pain of opening up your whole life to a therapist or the nausea and sedation from your new pills. Throughout my battle with mental illness my dog, Candy, has eased my distress no end.
When I was well enough to live at home being greeted by Candy’s wagging tail means the world. I am someone and I am wanted. When she cuddles into me whilst I cry it makes me feel less alone. Those difficult, dark hours through the night were made better by the dog I had sleeping beside me on my bed. I have stroked her under the chin and told her that I’m sorry when I’ve attempted to take my life and seeing her with her tail tucked in tells me she understands. Pets get it, perhaps more than humans do.
I have really missed being around animals since coming into hospital in 2015. It’s a real shame that animals aren’t allowed on the ward and therapy dogs don’t visit. I think it’d really help anyone in hospital regardless of whether they are there for a physical or mental health condition.
The other night my mental health team allowed me to do something special. I was allowed down to the entrance in a wheelchair to meet my parents and Candy. She was so excited to see me and she cuddled into me in my wheelchair and I instantly felt relaxed. My stresses and worries from the day disappeared slightly. I became mindful. All I was thinking about was the beautiful animal on my lap. I was 100% focused on stroking her coarse fur and running my fingers over her smooth ears. For me animals are magic. Pets bring humour, happiness, unconditional love and companionship and I dread to think of my life without Candy in it.
A couple of years ago I made a short video with Fixers about what it’s like to be sectioned for an eating disorder. This came about after I saw a comment online saying, “I wish I could be sectioned so that I could have a hug” I was utterly shocked by this. Being sectioned is not something I have ever wanted to happen to me and hugs are very rare when you are in hospital. After reading the shocking comment, I made ‘sectioned’ which can be watched here.
My life has changed a lot since then, a lot has happened and when I watch the video now I wish I could update it so I thought I’d do it in a blog post. In the video I had only experienced being sectioned under section 2 of the mental health act. I have now been detained under section 3 of the mental health act since 2015 and this is still on going.
In the video I talk briefly about the two weeks I spent on level 3 which is where a member of staff remains with you at all times, this includes in the shower/bath, on the toilet and whilst sleeping. I have now been on level 4 2:1 for 2 months and this is also ongoing. This means two members of staff are within arms length of me at all times. So now it’s not one pair of eyes on me while I sleep, go to the toilet, shower etc but two pairs of eyes on me. I haven’t gone to the toilet unsupervised since May 2016.
My ‘choice’ remains the same. I have to drink sickly, gloopy supplements or they go down the tube I have up my nose. The difference is that now I can’t bare to let it touch my lips and so everything goes down the NG tube. I say ‘choice’ because I don’t really get a choice, I have to have the supplement drink one way or another. Some days I am restrained whilst they pump the feed down my tube.
I still feel my skin crawling with calories, itching, bubbling. Maybe this sensation will always remain with me around food, maybe it will never go away and that scares me.
In the video, I say “The final section, I hope it was” and I am gutted to say it wasn’t, I have a few more to add to this list. I wish my update was that I was living a normal life and the facts of the video had not changed. I wish I could say I was well rather than wishing I could remake the video to fit with my current circumstances.
My message remains the same: Mental illnesses are not fashion accessories, eating disorders are not glamorous and being detained under the mental health act is not something to strive for. This is still my life and I would not wish it upon anyone.
Yoda’s wise words “you must unlearn what you have learned” resonate a lot with me when it comes to recovery both with my personality disorder and eating disorder. I have to unlearn a lot of behaviours and thought processes that I have learnt.
I need to learn how to eat normally again. I’ve forgotten what an average healthy diet looks like and I need to learn this not only in my head, but my body needs to learn to tolerate a normal intake too. I need to learn how to just simply eat without compensatory behaviours afterwards. I need to learn portion sizes and be able to treat myself without feeling unbearably guilty or it turning into a binge. I need to learn how to deal with emotions and the total pain and anguish I experience without using self destructive behaviours.
I have been unwell for a long time and I have learnt to live my life this way, now in order to reach recovery and live a more stable life I need to unlearn these thoughts, beliefs and behaviours that enable me to cope with the world around me. Recovery isn’t just about learning, it’s about unlearning too.
I often feel quite ashamed of my mental illness. It’s like by being so unwell for so many years I am less of a person than my peers who have degrees, careers, children, marriages and so on. I always feel embarrassed because I feel my life shouldn’t be like this, I shouldn’t be like this.
My mental illness has put me in situations that have made me feel shame, that have made me feel like a bad person. Claiming benefits made me feel awful, selfish, worthless. I felt like the scum of the earth but I was too poorly to work and needed money to survive. I never ever wanted to be in a position where I had to claim benefits. The night I spent in a police cell made me feel like a bad person. As nice as the police were to me, I was treated like a criminal. I had my belongings and shoes taken off of me, I was strip searched and then put in a cell for many hours. I felt like a criminal. I felt like the whole of society was looking down on me.
I feel extremely guilty for the pain I have put other people through. I have dragged family and friends through this nightmare with me. My dad hasn’t slept properly in 18 months, my mum has cried at her severely anorexic daughter. It’s not nice for me but it’s not nice for those around me who have to witness all this too.
I do feel like a bad person. I do hate myself. But I shouldn’t, having a mental illness does not make me a bad person or any less of a person. It just makes me ill. This is something I never chose to happen to me. My asthma doesn’t make me a bad person, yes it can inconvenience people when I’m having an attack but nobody thinks I’m an awful person because of it. I know there is a difference between physical illnesses and mental illnesses because mental illnesses can impact and influence someone’s behaviour. I feel like a terrible person for some of the text messages I have sent when I’ve been unwell, or for getting angry at my parents for what seems like no apparent reason. I feel like a terrible person when someone makes the effort to spend time with me and I can’t stay awake or I can barely utter a word. I hate myself when I can’t follow your conversation but what I need to learn is that it isn’t my fault.
Having a mental health problem doesn’t make you a bad personal, neither does it make you any less of a person. You are unwell and you had no choice over that. Don’t feel like you are a bad person over an illness that happened to you.
In 16 days I will be spending yet another Birthday in hospital. I hate to think of all the Christmases, Easters, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Bank Holidays and so on that I have spent stuck in one hospital or another.
I nearly didn’t make this Birthday because anorexia almost killed me so this year it’s definitely a mile stone to celebrate. I was hoping that they would give me some leave so that I could go out on my Birthday and I fully expected that to be in a wheelchair and with staff as well as my parents but now it’s looking unlikely, it’s not a definite ‘no’ but it’s leaning closer to a ‘no’ than a ‘yes’. I will still be being tube fed and definitely won’t be in a place mentally where I can eat a slice of my own birthday cake but I still want to have a special day.
So now I’m making plans to make this Birthday special and I’ve reached out to other people for their ideas. So far I think I’m going to ask people to visit me like family and friends. Mum and Dad will be allowed to be here all day and we can play board games and chat and watch stuff on Netflix. I might have a Birthday cake and share it around the ward. A decorated room and balloons are an idea too. I’ve ordered a ‘Birthday outfit’, some little corduroy shorts and a baseball style top with my Disney vans. I’ll paint my nails special and have my hair styled by one of the nurses.
I hate the prospect of spending another Birthday in hospital but I am determined to make it special. I would welcome any other ideas my readers can come up with.