In 12 hours, I’m heading off to the clinic. I think I know what to expect, but I also know I have no idea. Does that sound confusing? Of course it does. Life is confusing. Whatever preconceptions and expectations I’ve managed to construct for myself over the past few weeks, tomorrow will be the day where it all comes to pass and reality sets in.
People keep asking me how I feel about going.
I actually have no idea. This is the trouble with being the kind of person who feels a lot of things. All the time. Very deeply. If you really want to know how I feel about going into a psychiatric facility for the next six weeks to tackle five decades of ingrained disordered eating, the answer is Yes. Whatever word you want to put in my mouth – yes. I’m probably feeling it. (Unless that word is sexy. I’m not feeling that. Not even a little bit.)
I am concerned I’ve built up my expectations of the clinic. That somehow I’ll return home in six weeks magically cured and everything will be hunky dory. My life will just become perfect and I’ll be rich and young and beautiful and never grumpy again. You know – rainbows and unicorns and all that jazz.
I am concerned I’ll leave the clinic in six weeks’ time and I will not be one bit different than when I arrive tomorrow. I’ll have invested all that time and energy and money and hope into nothing, when at the end of the day the problem is inside, not outside me, and going away is just doing a geographical and searching for a solution when all I have to do is change – by myself.
I am concerned about leaving my husband and boys behind to fend for themselves. I’m completely aware they don’t need me at all to prepare food or clean the house – they pretty much do all that themselves now anyway (certainly nobody living in this house wants to rely on me for regular meals). But I’m not convinced they’ll speak to each other for the next 42 days. I’m the one who runs DOFF (the Department of Forced Fun). I’m the one who organises weekly family dinners. I’m the one who keeps everyone in contact and talking and behaving like a family. And I’m pretty damn confident that while I’m not here there won’t be much socialising happening. Which isn’t my problem and is probably just the way they like it. I feel guilty anyway.
I am concerned about being away from my job. I have a fantastic boss who is incredibly supportive (and doesn’t to the best of my knowledge read this blog, so I’m not being nice just for the sake of it). He is very encouraging of me prioritising my health and well being. But I’m also conscious he’s running a business not a charity and that I’m an employee who is taking great chunks of leave endlessly and there will come a time where I’m so useless they won’t want me there. Which is pretty much what I said to him in an email. I want the best for his business, and I no longer believe I am the best person for them. I suspect I am now unemployed – I just don’t know it yet.
I am concerned I won’t be able to keep up with all the writing I want to do – my writing masterclass, the book I’m trying to write, the new business I’m trying to get up and running (that seems to be gaining ground but needs a lot of work still), and the short stories I’ve suddenly started and I absolutely have to write. But writing takes time – without distraction – and I have no idea what the next six weeks will hold.
Most of all, I’m concerned about the firm slap of reality that’s about to hit me.
I can’t wear normal clothes (baggy pants and baggy tops and no excess skin showing and no shoes with laces and no wearing pyjamas during the day time).
There will be compulsory meals – six times a day – that have to be eaten within 20 minutes. And then I’m observed for an hour to ensure I don’t head off to the bathroom. I have a lap band… Eating fast guarantees I will need to head off to the bathroom.
I have to share a room for the first little while. Eventually we get a room each, but we start in a shared room. I might sound like a princess here, but I don’t want to share a room. It makes me incredibly anxious just thinking about it. I have a sleeping disorder! I won’t be able to sleep – I know that already. And I don’t want to be waking other people up. I’m hoping they’ll let me wander around in the corridors in the middle of the night, or curl up on a couch in the lounge room with my laptop. But there are no guarantees and this is a biggie for me. Even without sleep issues, the thought of sharing a room with a complete stranger freaks me out.
And what about bathrooms? I’m going into an eating disorder clinic as a bulimic – and the vast majority of inpatients there will be anorexic. So I doubt I’ll be allowed my own ensuite bathroom… I’ll have to have a shared bathroom as well. Which is not as bad as sharing the bedroom. But still – I’m feeling precious about this lack of privacy. I’m a loner. I need time alone. There will be no time alone. Not anywhere. Not even at night. And that is freaking me out.
And I won’t be able to exercise. We can’t use the stairs or pace the floor. I have to be sedentary. Just the sound of the word makes me feel slightly ill. I feel far too sedentary as it is, and taking away the option to at least pace for a short period of time is very distressing. I can’t sit still.
Everything is freaking me out tonight.
It’s fear of the unknown – and some of it is fear of the known. I keep trying to remind myself it is all for a good cause. I’m not going there for fun – it’s a hospital and hospitals are for sick people. Even if it’s not a physical malady, I still need the support and expertise they (hopefully) offer, and petty things like shared bedrooms and bathrooms shouldn’t matter. However many sleepless nights I have to endure, it will pass. I’m unlikely to have 42 consecutive sleepless nights – I suspect at some point they’d offer me some kind of pharmaceutical relief for a night or two if it all boiled down to it. So I just need to get through the first week and by then I should have some routine and a little more comfort. That’s the plan anyway.
So this is it. My last night at home before the big trip. I might come back a completely new person. I might come back exactly the same. I suspect reality will be somewhere between the two, but only time will tell. There is one thing that I do know with absolute certainty – I am going there by choice, and I am going to do everything I can to take on board the lessons I learn. I can stay at home and be a know-it-all for free – in the comfort of my own bed. If I’m going to endure the indignity of sleepless nights and forced feedings, I’ll damn well learn something while I’m there. Stay tuned.