Category Archives: Uncategorized

Heat

I’ve been waiting for summer for a very long time but, now it’s here, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

On a head level, I’ve been longing for summer. For a sky that’s so blue it hurts your eyes and takes you back to the summers of childhood. For the tingle of sun on my skin, chasing away the bone-chilling cold. For the smell of fresh mornings and the still heat of hot evenings. Everything about it really, but mostly the light. The fact that everything stops being grey. Living is just easier.

On a body level I hate everything about summer. I didn’t think it was possible, but I’m even more aware of the body. It could be the lack of layers making me feel more exposed. Or the slightly too hot and swollen feeling that seems pretty constant.

I’m definitely massively more self conscious in lighter clothing Self conscious, too, about wearing cover-all layers when it seems as though everyone else is wearing practically nothing. I envy people who look comfortable in summer clothes.

This year I’m finding it so much harder because I’m at a higher weight. Not quite the weight I was when I left hospital – but a higher weight. As I move in thinner clothes they catch on this unwanted extra-ness. I fill clothes that last year were flapping. It’s a miserable feeling, constantly gnawing away at me like toothache.

And the scars don’t help. Now they cover my forearms there’s so much I can’t wear in the heat. All my careful three-quarter sleeve tops just aren’t careful enough. I’m practicing with the camouflage cream, but have only tried it out in public once, and spent the whole day with my heart in my mouth. I need to keep trying, but I don’t have the courage right now.

So I’m spending this glorious weather as though I’m trapped in a beaten-up fat suit. Fun times.

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Milestones

Last year I spent the summer in hospital. I went to what I thought was a regular GP appointment in the morning, and by the afternoon I was staring at four unfamiliar walls, under section. Looking back, I understand why it happened and agree that it was a good thing; this isn’t a rant about inappropriate treatment, by any means. No, what I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few days is what’s actually changed for me over the year.

Now if you’re worrying that this is going to turn out to be some sort of evangelical post about how my life has turned around, you clearly don’t know me very well. I’m not one of life’s little sunbeams. Stick with me.

Things have definitely changed — although I find that easy to forget, getting dragged down into the daily grind of getting up and doing what needs to be done. But I wonder if part of depression is being sucked into a mindset that can’t see the tiny bits of light that do filter through. And that perhaps that’s all there is — just the occasional moment of peace or enjoyment. Perhaps that’s all anyone gets.

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of happiness and joy, it seems too extreme for what I feel — too much to aim for. I prefer the idea of contentment. The warm body of a cat pressed against me. The smell of a vanilla latte and that first delicious sip. The moment I put my head on my own cool pillow in my own bed in my own house. Sitting on my bench in my garden in the sunshine under a blue sky, listening to the birds in the trees. The fizzing clink of a gin and tonic in my hand. An almost-too-hot-to-handle shower. The swoosh of freshly-dried hair. Holding my daughters in my arms. These are my tiny things.

Last year I couldn’t feel any of these things. So that’s progress.

Other things have changed, too. I’m eating enough calories to maintain a healthier weight. And I do that by actually eating, rarely having to turn to a fortisip supplement because solid food is too much. I’m not mainlining diazepam before every meal either. And I’m proud of having been clean of self harm for quite a few months now.

So that’s all good, right? I feel I should be content with this. That it should be enough to constitute a life.

It’s not though. So much hasn’t changed and I don’t think it ever will. I’m going through the motions through a thick fog most of the time. Everything’s an effort and I feel very alone. I wonder how long someone can sleepwalk before falling down a deep hole. I wonder if winter will bring more grimness than I can handle. And I wonder how long it’ll be before the need to stop eating wins.

I don’t want to go round the cycle again.

Maybe the trauma work I’ve got coming up will shift something. I haven’t tried it before; maybe it’ll make a change. Maybe.

But, for today, I’m content with not being in hospital. Not to be lying on my bed during that heatwave we had, staring at some lillies in a plastic jug, waiting for an opportunity to die. For today, that’s enough.


A good ending

Today I said goodbye to the food psych and left the eating disorders service.

I’ve been waiting for this day for some months now, ever since the food psych broke it to me that he was retiring. I decided fairly early on that it was time for me to go it alone. For such a long time I’d only seen the food psych and I just couldn’t imagine replicating that supportive relationship with anyone else from the service. And a massive part of me couldn’t imagine making the effort to form a new therapeutic relationship either. It takes such a long time and a lot of vulnerability to get to the point where I get anything from the relationship – just no; I don’t have the resources.

Plus, I’m pretty sure I’ve learnt everything there is to learn and had every conversation there is to have. In fact, I’m a bit of an expert on anorexia – the text book stuff anyway. I’m well aware that I know what I should be doing, I just struggle at times to do it. That’s what does my head in so much.

What’s always been so helpful about talking to the food psych is his ability to take my confusion, my stuckness, and to find the right words to get through to me. What he says could probably be said by someone else, but it couldn’t be said in the same way. And so enough is enough.

After ten years of amazing care it’s time to go.

I’ve been dreading the actual goodbye. Mainly, thinking about it, I was afraid of the emotion. Goodbyes are hard and I didn’t want to cry.

But, in reality, it was a good ending.

We met for a symbolic lunch – the first meal we’ve ever shared. Nothing fancy, just a sandwich on a bench near the unit, but a measure of how far I’ve come with his help. We ate together and talked at the same time about a huge range of things. It was a proper, personal conversation – the sort of talk you have during a long walk with a friend, and I appreciated that. It included looking back on my life over the past ten years with some gentle encouragement for the future from the food psych. And I got the opportunity to thank him for everything, including saving my life.

It got emotional and I did cry. He got choked up too. We ended up with a hug and then I walked away.

I’m no longer a patient of the eating disorders service which will take some time to sink in. It’s been quite a day.


Scarred

I have scars all over my arms. In the past, when I couldn’t stop the darkness any other way, I used pain to block out the thoughts. Pain caused through burns.

It’s a messy and inconvenient way to manage feelings, and I really don’t recommend it. Some of you might understand this in some way; others of you will be utterly repulsed. And I get that.

But this isn’t about the whys, it’s about the consequences – rivers of raw red and silvery white turning my arms into an ugly advertisement of distress.

I’m a little bit proud to say I’ve got these self-destructive urges under control. I think the temptation and danger will always be there but, for now, I’ve put it to sleep.

Today, I took the next step and learnt how to apply camouflage creams, so that the damage I’ve done won’t be so obvious. The creams can’t take away the raised areas of scarring, and it doesn’t stand up to close examination, but it does hide the worst. On a summer’s day, if my sleeve fell back, it wouldn’t attract attention. No one would stare and visibly revise their opinion of me.

And this is enough. I know I can’t turn back the clock. I’m not sure I’d want to. I just want to pass for normal and not wear the label ‘broken’.


All change?

Every time I go to see the food psych I have a knot in my stomach.

Partly this is about going back to the Eating Disorders Unit. It rakes up a range of emotions – fear, shame, embarrassment and so much more. And there’s a rush of sensory stuff, too, particularly the smell of the place – an evocative mix of school dinners and antiseptic.

But mainly it’s about the meeting itself. The conversation.

The things we talk about help give context to what’s going on in my head. They shape how I react and what I do. They change how I live.

There is something about a conversation with the food psych that clarifies and explains chaos.

Today we talked about motivation, or the lack of it. How I only respond to deadlines. How if there’s no reason to get out of bed, I don’t get out of bed. How I’m so much better, so much better, but I feel dead inside. Disconnected.

I’m trying hard to do all the right things. I pretty much manage my meal plan five days out of seven. It slips and I let it slip when I just can’t face any more food, but I pull it round because the lure of emptiness increases as the time goes on – and that’s dangerous. I do my best to do what’s expected of me in terms of parenting and work. I try to reawaken lost parts of me; I try to read, and keep in touch with people. I try to notice the tiny sparkly things.

It’s not making a difference.

Talking to the food psych holds things up to the light and brings some sort of sense. I don’t get this from anyone else.

But the food psych is retiring in May. Change is coming. I need to talk to him about what I’d hope for from the eating disorders service in the future. It may be time to walk away. Right now, I just don’t know.


Same old, same old.

I’ve been out of hospital for coming up to five weeks now and all I can say is “same old, same old”.

I have no inner spark to ignite feeling. I’m still a ghost and fading fast.

I didn’t want to say it, but I had a smidge of the dreaded ‘H’ word – hope. I thought it would take time. But I invested a little faith in professional judgement and I waited.

And waited.

Part of me is still waiting; but only part.

I’ve started back at work on a phased return. Three mornings in, and it’s going okay. Everyone’s welcoming and it seems I haven’t forgotten what to do. It’s still bloody freezing in there though, and I did think I’d feel it less, having put on weight.

I’m largely managing my meal plan and coping with the push-push-pushing of my dietician to widen what I eat. Although I’ve asked for a break for a couple of weeks because I was beginning to drown. I’ve lost my record of not missing a meal and eating enough is getting harder. It’s probably all in my head, (like most things are), but I quite often feel sick before eating and crippled by stomach pains after eating. God bless hot water bottles. But what I’m managing is not good enough.

I’m surviving in this alien body. I’m sitting with the disgust, but it’s not fading, just festering like a canker.

I see my girls when it suits their dad – usually when he’s going out. I’m not for one moment complaining: I’ll take any time I can get. My girls are the only thing that spark any emotion, make me wish things had been different – could be different. When they call my house home my heart sings a little. But then they have to go, and my house stops being a home.

My cats have stopped ignoring me. They’ve even started showing me approval and affection, so I’m once more covered in cat hair. They are often my only company and I value their attention. And sometimes they’re the only things that get me going on the little jobs that make this house their home.

With Herculean effort I’ve read a few books and folded some cranes to make mobiles as gifts, but my default is to sit, somewhat absent, staring at the tv.

The ‘H’ word was very much linked to the trauma work that’s coming up in therapy, when I’ve shown I’m ready. So I am resisting waves of desire to self harm and I’ve been open about the resurgence of the need to carry round enough pills to kill an elephant. I need to put my safety blankets down and keep a steady weight. And I’m doing that, too.

But, overall, nothing is changing. And the closer we get to the festive season, the harder it gets. Every year the fog of despair starts earlier and ends later; last year it didn’t end at all.

I never expected to be the poster girl for recovery, but I let myself wonder if there was more than this. My mistake.


Keeping busy.

So I’ve been back in the world for nearly two weeks now and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. 

The world includes housework and food shopping and putting the bins out. Plus frequently emptying the litter tray full of stinky offerings. It’s all mundane, but it has to be done and it sucks up energy that seems to be in short supply. 

When people ask me how I’m doing I say I’m “keeping busy”, and that’s turning out to require a massive effort. I’m not starting my phased return to work until the first full week of November, so all I have to do right now is get up each day and eat the appropriate meal at the appropriate time – but it’s draining. 

I’m tired. You name it; I’m tired of it. But I can’t say that because I’m out of hospital and this is a New Start. I’m supposed to have Turned My Life Around. Well all that turning, and fake-it-until-you-make-it turning, is tiring.

It’s taken me over a week just to put everything away that I brought back from the ward – including finding new homes for my 700 origami cranes. And that’s before I start any official Keeping Busy activities. You know, the things that are Relaxing and Creative and will Reconnect Me To My Surroundings. 

So I’ve gone hell for leather for making a Halloween tree (and if you don’t know what one of those is, you will in a year or two). And getting as much Winterval gift shopping done as possible, before the misery I see on every face as the commercial pressure ratchets up pushes me down that dark, dark hole again. I’ve definitely got my money’s worth out of Prime. 

I’ve done all the appointmenting, too, with my care coordinator, GP, therapist and dietician. I’ve seen the food psych. I’ve answered the questions and I’m trying to hide the lack of purpose. But I’ve not missed a meal, I’m taking all the right drugs at the right time, and I don’t have any fresh wounds, so that has to count for something. 

But the effort of keeping busy. Of reading a book. Or doing something creative. Of going out for a walk, or doing anything sociable. The effort that takes is beyond me most of the time. And I don’t know how or when or if that is ever going to change. 

I haven’t even folded a crane. Sad times.