A memory sprung to mind the other day thinking back to when I was first involved in eating disorder services. I was given a questionnaire to fill out and one of the questions on it was, “Does your eating disorder make you feel you can have your cake and eat it too?” And I just think now how inappropriate and insensitive that question was. There was surely a better way to word it, it almost seems as though someone was having a joke at patients expense.
Easter with an eating disorder can be extremely difficult, just like Christmas if not harder. This year whilst I’m stuck in hospital being tube fed I won’t have to face any Easter eggs or family feasts which is a relief in a way but it also makes me feel sad. I wish I could join in with the world and celebrate. I wish I could be around my family and go for a nice Easter walk. I wish I could taste chocolate on my tongue. I wish I could tuck into a roast…but even when I’ve been home Easter has been a challenge.
Just like any other celebrations, birthday, Christmas and Easter became days I tried to give myself ‘off’ from my eating disorder but of course you can’t just have a day off from a mental illness. Generally suffering from anorexia means my diet is restrictive but on these days I would almost give myself permission to eat and with the mixture of excitement, fear, extreme hunger and excuse my language but ‘fuck it’ attitude I would end up binging. I would be scared of the Easter eggs I’d received and would want them out the way so I’d eat them all and then physically and mentally I’d end up feeling rubbish. But it wouldn’t just last one day, it’d last weeks. It’d trigger a splurge of binging and everyday I’d be cramming all the food I could find into my mouth. Easter would ‘ruin’ a restrictive intake and my weight would increase to a number and size I was uncomfortable with. One tiny day would make me spiral out of control for weeks to come. What was meant to be a happy celebration would become a nightmare.
I hope that next year I do get to have a happy Easter. I hope I’m home for it and that I can eat a cadburys creme egg and an Easter egg and have lunch with my family before going for a walk in the fresh Spring air.
I would like to wish all my followers a happy Easter and I truly hope it is a happy Easter. I send you all my best wishes and hope the day doesn’t bring trauma and fear to you.
I got ill with mental illness very young and in a way it stole a lot of my childhood and teenage years away from me. I didn’t get the experiences that other young people had. I never went to university and experienced freshers week, I never experienced my first drink on my 18th Birthday or pizza parties, school canteen food, having fun. Instead I experienced self harm, starvation, suicide attempts and binge eating. For all of my secondary school life I was in a very dark place. And whilst I had to grow up very quickly in some ways, in other ways I remain the twelve year old girl I was when this illness really took its grip and that’s hard. It’s hard to be in an adult world still feeling like a child and only with the life experiences of a child.
I have spent all my life being looked after. As a child I was looked after by my mum and dad and as an adult I have been looked after by nurses and support workers. I crumble with the slightest bit of responsibility that is given to me. For the past year I haven’t even showered or gone to the toilet alone. In fact when I was in the secure unit I wasn’t even trusted to hold the toilet paper myself and was handed it one square at a time.
I’ve experienced trauma and pain and my illnesses have been very distressing and quite frankly horrible. In many ways I have been through more than most adults and yet those very things are what have kept me a child in an adults body.
I still long for my mother, for her hugs and kisses and hand holding. My dad manages my finances because I cannot. I kiss and cuddle and coo my dog. I have teddies on my bed and sleep with the light on. I wear children’s clothes because that’s all that will fit me. I have to ask permission to do anything and I am often told ‘no’. The slightest thing upsets me and throws me into complete and utter turmoil. Tears run down my face, sobs escape my mouth and arms and legs flail. Yet I am old enough to be married with children and have a mortgage and that’s hard. I feel like society puts expectations on me that I cannot meet and my illnesses and situation keep me from growing up even when I’m meant to be a grown up. It’s hard and confusing, scary and shameful to admit but whilst I may be in my twenties, mentally I am still twelve.
A month today I will be transferring from the hospital I’m currently in to my new unit, Cygnet in Coventry. I know pretty much nothing about the place which terrifies me. I have no idea about routine, about whether I’ll be allowed my iPad/internet or what the deal is with visitors. I will be going to a place I’ve never been to with people I’ve never met and will be expected to stay there for a long time.
I’m dreading my last night in this hospital, I doubt I’ll sleep knowing what will happen the next day and I will be very sad to say goodbye to the staff here. I’m scared to leave, I’m used to the staff, the routine, everything. I know where I am and what is happening. I don’t want to leave that.
I’m dreading the car journey down there despite it being with staff I’m very close to. Those two hours will be full of anxiety and fear. It’ll be like a very long goodbye and goodbyes are never nice.
I can’t even begin to imagine how alone and scared I’ll feel tucked into my new bed on my first night there, so many miles away from everything and everyone I know.
My only hope is that I win my appeal at my mental health tribunal later this month otherwise a month today this will be the reality I face.
Last night when I had my final feed for the day the nurse who was with me helped me to use imagery to get through it. We both did ballet and both love ballet so she got me to close my eyes and imagine I was in ballet class. In my mind I walked to the corner, watched the four dancers before me then did my preparation and off I went with my arms in second position spinning and spotting, spinning and spotting until I reached the end of the room. Then I watched the three other dancers that were after me before walking to the corner and repeating. I repeated this over and over again in my mind until my feed was finished and that’s how I got through it. Total imagery taking me away from a reality that feels unbearable.
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.
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.
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.