I feel as though I need to start writing about all the amazing progress I’m making and how awesome I feel and how I’ve turned a corner and the future is looking rosy. But it would all be a big fat lie.
Nobody wants to hear about how miserable I feel and the sense of defeat that threatens to overwhelm me at any given moment.
Nobody gives a fuck about that – it’s in my head and I’m making the choice to be miserable. But the truth is, that’s how I still feel. I’ve been here two full weeks. I’ve missed eight gym classes. Two family dinners. Two Saturday morning obligatory liaisons with my husband. I’ve missed a thousand snuggles with my cat and countless coffees and walks with my friends. I’ve missed going back to work and having egg sandwiches with my dad. I’ve missed all the worries and stresses that my friends are experiencing. I’ve missed every aspect of my life. For what? I’ve cried a gazillion tears and given up trying to make the nurses understand how the lap band is restricting me because it’s “all in my head”. Despite having my pristiq doubled I feel like I’m still more depressed than I’ve been for so long. Desperate and desolate and misunderstood. I feel so alone. I’ve reached out and started talking to the girls here. I’m afraid to get too close though as I have no strength for anyone else’s burdens right now. My anxiety is not great but I’ve stopped scratching. My bunny is very helpful. He keeps my hands busy. If I look like a 52 year old toddler I don’t really care – my Hope bunny is calming and grounding and right now that is a good thing. My nurse came and found me this afternoon to ask how I was doing and anything I wanted to talk about. Naturally I cried. This always surprises me because at home I never cry. I suck it up. I distract myself. I numb myself. Here I have none of those things so instead I feel and I cry. I’ve cried so much I’ve stopped feeling embarrassed about it. Plus I’ve run out of tissues. I talked to the nurse about how desperately I want the lap band sorted as it’s hindering any other progress I can make. Can’t sort the lap band until I see the psychiatrist. Apparently psychiatrists are deities and work as they please with no care for how desperately we might be craving their attention. I talked to the nurse about how I am completely adamant I will never, ever purge again. She said that is progress. It doesn’t feel like it – because nothing has changed inside my head – but I’ll take what I can get for now. I talked to the art therapist today about how much I hate art therapy – because I absolutely suck at art. She was very nice about it and very surprised, as I’ve been very compliant and participated fully to the best of my ability. But I did point out that if I don’t commit to participating fully and being uncomfortable, there’s no point being here at all. She liked me attitude. I suspect she’s had to work with a lot of petulant teenagers. Lastly – I’m wanting to reduce these mind numbing drugs as they numb my mind and make it too hard to work and write. But when I don’t take them my anxiety becomes unbearable. So it’s that old rock and a hard place conundrum. I’m toying with the idea of emailing my boss and resigning from work completely now – as I could be here for months not weeks. Need to talk to the psychiatrist first though. It all comes back to him…
Things are improving. Not perfect by any means, but I have much less sense of utter despair. I think there are a few reasons for this – firstly I’ve been here two weeks and unsettling as it is to admit this, I’m settling in. When you arrive here there’s no information on how things work and what to expect. Simple things like, take a cup of water to the table with every meal. Go to the toilet before every meal because it will be locked for the next 90 minutes. Where’s the laundry? What times can we access cupboards with our locked possessions? I know all this information now but I had to learn it myself – they could benefit from offering us all a welcome pack. So from a practical point of view, I’m settling – I know the routines, the locations and the rules. I’m feeling very institutionalised. But there is a far more significant reason that my mood is lifting today. I’ve been in contact with my psychiatrist and an appointment has been made for me to see a bariatric surgeon at 2pm tomorrow. TOMORROW!! Gosh things can move quickly when specialists talk to specialists. My surgeon at home has been contacted and my history sent to the new guy. I can go in and be guided by him as to how much adjustment the band needs. I am completely open to doing as suggested by the specialists.
I’m tired of fighting and I’m ready to be guided.
I also freely confess that having an eating disorder is the reason I required a lap band in the first place – my binge eating was out of control – and with the band loosened, I can work on the original issues. I have no idea how, but there are a lot of people here who have the know-how. I’m willing to stay as long as it takes. I’ve also decided to resign from my job completely – the uncertainty was not helpful and I don’t feel I can return to it. I don’t know what this will mean in the long term for my earning capacity – which is currently zero – but if I’m honest and determined to overcome this eating disorder then that is my priority. In 2018 I heal. Healing comes ahead of all else. Lastly, I am feeling better as I’m facetiming friends and family on a daily basis. This connects me to real life and I love it. I can’t always find good times to catch people, but I do get hold of one or two people at least every day. I even had the opportunity to facetime an old friend tonight and we haven’t caught up in nearly a year. It was so beautiful to see her face and see how well she looks. To catch up on all the news. I loved it and I’m so grateful. So while today did still bring some inevitable tears, they didn’t overwhelm me and I had plenty of positives to focus on. The special leave I’m being granted for the lap band loosening is making me beyond happy. It gives me hope. Without hope there is nothing else…
Wow. What a day. Some corner turning happening here. If I’m not careful I might get dizzy… Firstly and most importantly, my baby turns 19 today. 19 years old. He’s not a baby any more – he considers himself a young man. But he’ll always be my baby. He sent me a photo of himself with his new (very expensive) coffee machine, saying “Thank you mumma”. I’m sad I’m not there to celebrate but I’m super proud of the gorgeous young man he’s growing up to be. Almost as exciting as my baby’s birthday was my visit to the bariatric surgeon. My lap band has now been drained of all fluid. I am a free woman. Even an empty band offers a certain amount of restriction and deeply reduces hunger signals, but I will certainly be in a much better position to eat all the foods I’m presented with. Dinner went down quite easily – I still did feel enormously full with a serving size that is deemed to be small (doesn’t look small to me). But as long as I didn’t rush there was no sensation of feeling stuck at all. I can’t even begin to express how much of a relief that is. Now that the brick wall of the lap band is out of the way, I feel I can focus more on the origins of the eating disorder. The team here believe it is completely possible for me to find full recovery – I simply need to commit to the program – the good the bad and the ugly. I’m not here to feel comfortable, make friends, or stick to things I’m good at. I’m doing art therapy (blergh) where I’m exploring hidden emotions and connections without even realising it. I attend DBT sessions where all the old tools are presented in new and refreshing ways. I’ve started to connect with the other girls – and guy – and to share a little of our lives without sharing too much of our stories – as that is not permissible.
The biggest thing today though? I haven’t cried.
That is the first time in my 17 days. I’ve had some dodgy moments and when I was out on special leave to see the bariatric surgeon there is always the temptation to go to the pharmacy and self destruct. But I’m getting better at shifting those thoughts and moving forward. Finding hope and purpose and future happiness. I received the most precious letter from a complete stranger today. She reads my blog and for whatever reason felt the need to reach out and thank me for my words – to say that my little story has had an impact on her own journey. It was the most beautiful, touching letter and I’m still trying to construct a reply that does justice to her kindness. It is knowing that my own struggles, that I’ve learned to share so openly and willingly, have had a positive impact on another person, going through so many similar struggles that makes me keep writing, and to keep seeking recovery – regardless of all the setbacks. I continue to feel, in my heart of hearts, that no matter how tough it is here, I am finally in the right place at the right time. And I owe a mountain of thanks to all those people who supported and encouraged me to make this seemingly impossible decision. Freedom awaits.
Well what a day. Highs and lows. Forwards and backwards. Pros and cons.
Firstly, the draining of the lap band – while originally something I refused to even consider – has been an excellent decision. There is still a small amount of restriction even with an empty band, but now there is so much less fear and anxiety associated with the sight of every ounce of food. I can follow sensible menu plans and follow the program. As my psychiatrist said this morning, now the real work begins. I saw the psychiatrist and his registrar early this morning – that is three days in a row he’s made time to see me. Makes me feel valid and special. He dug around deep in my childhood though – the origins of body image issues, bingeing, self-worth. How they were all perpetuated endlessly by my mother, father, grandmother, sister and society in general. If I wasn’t pretty and skinny I was nothing. And I have never been pretty or skinny. Somehow my job is to validate my worth outside of those facile one-dimensional qualities, that should hold no meaning.
I had two beautiful visitors today. A friend came this afternoon and delivered all my February challenges for the masterclass, so I can stay on top of things. It’s incredibly important to me that I complete this draft. Where I go with it is unimportant. I just need to complete it. I fell behind with my goals in January but given the disruptions of this months’ hospitalization, I’m going to practice this month’s task of self-compassion by forgiving myself and accepting the inevitability of limitations. I also met one of my fellow drafters today and we connected instantly, and it was wonderful. I think I may have talked the poor woman under the table but she was an empathetic and understanding person and it was so great to share the experience of doing the masterclass with a real live person.
I’ve been put onto antibiotics for the spreading infection where I scratched my ankle. Hopefully they work their magic quickly and I can learn to stop picking and scratching. Had a very stressful experience at dinner tonight where I again scratched at my fingers – not badly, but the habit dies hard. There was a patient who was upset by the meal choice and wanted to argue at the table which isn’t allowed. His upset was palpable to me, and the firm way the nurse stood her ground was frightening to me.
I have no capacity for handling conflict at all – whether or not it has anything to do with me.
And I can’t detach from the emotions he was going through. It was like a tangible string I could feel stimulating my own emotions. I was so anxious I started on a borderline panic attack. The nurse was great and kept me calm and when I finished my meal said she was really proud of me. But I find this hypersensitivity to emotions utterly exhausting, and fear inducing, and I don’t know how to deal with it. I did squeeze the life out of poor old Hope, the anxiety bunny, and practiced grounding techniques I’d learnt by pressing my feet hard into the floor and gripping my knife and fork as if my life depended on it. Which to be honest, it felt like it did. I’m hoping over the course of my stay here, I can learn to temper my extreme emotional responses.
Yet another day where my fear of conflict became highlighted. It’s like this pathological terror comes over me when there’s conflict around – regardless of whether or not it’s got anything to do with me. In fact I find it easier to deal with conflict that is directly involving me, as I feel I have some control over the resolution. I still hate it and become terrified, but I feel less powerless. So today’s conflict – that had nothing to do with me and was well managed by a team of staff – left me sobbing on my bed in terror, unable to even comprehend why I felt so afraid. The high anxiety lasted for hours and I couldn’t get through my lunch so had to have yet another supplement. I was still shaky and teary three hours later.
I can’t explain or comprehend this abject fear of conflict.
I was not exposed to violence as a child. Although I was also not exposed to conflict as my mother seemed to have the same kinds of fears. I know that conflict is inevitable in life and I have found myself once again resigning from a place of employment as I don’t want to return to a place that will inevitably have conflict. For the most part my job was great and my employers incredibly supportive of my personal issues. But when times got stressful and tensions ran high, there would be volatile conflict situations and I know now I can no longer subject myself to those situations. So I’m going to accept this year as a year of psychological healing, and physical travel – I have a lot of travel plans in place for later in the year. And it is also the year where I will hone my craft of writing and try to work out how to use this skill base to generate an income in the future. I feel at this point if I can’t fully heal from this eating disorder, my future is looking very dismal. So I am here to give it everything I’ve got and to dig deep into those damaging lessons I was inadvertently taught from a very young age. When I first met my psychiatrist I felt that I wouldn’t be able to connect with him, but I’m finding more and more that he knows just where to dig, how far to go, and to validate my feelings while offering an alternate strategy. My history is unusual and complex, but eating disorders have a lot of commonality. I am not alone here. I am well supported. The program is strict, almost military like and rules are to be followed at all times. There is very little flexibility. And the staff are well versed in hearing eating disordered thoughts and voices calling out for exceptions to the rules. There are no exceptions. This program is for people who are ready to accept the severity of their disease, their powerlessness over the progression, and are willing to commit one hundred per cent to every aspect of the program. Despite knowing how much I loathe art therapy, I committed totally to the process. Consequently I learned a lot and explored a lot of emotional realities I would otherwise never have noticed. I feel so ready to do this. And I am starting to feel hopeful that with an extended period of time here, under the very structured program, I can emerge as a conqueror. And then my life can begin anew.
It’s taken almost three weeks, but I’ve had an unashamedly good day. No ifs or buts. A good day. All my meals were manageable – I hesitate to even say, enjoyable at times. Very little angst over the food. While I have had disordered eating thoughts between times, they weren’t overwhelming and I didn’t have to fight hard to stay away from urges. My mood has been pretty good. I feel fairly positive with moments of hope that recovery is actually not only possible, but it is going to happen. I have ongoing anxiety issues but I have come to the realization I am a highly anxious person and always have been, but I’ve just been excellent at hiding, numbing, ignoring and covering up the anxiety. In here that isn’t possible – I have to face emotions without using destructive coping mechanisms. I treated myself to a leg wax – the full kit and kaboodle – and I came away feeling special and treated. And bought some self tanning lotion on the way home. So I can feel comfortable in a skirt or a dress. And while I was there I booked myself an appointment to have my fingernails and toenails done tomorrow. So it feels like a weekend of self care. I’ve slept a lot of the day – I have a lot of exhaustion, mental and physical, that I’d like to heal. And I have the opportunity to do it here.
I’ve chatted to lots of the girls here today and felt really connected.
I’ve had lots of one on ones’ with the nurses to debrief on my over reactions to the conflict that had been here recently. So all in all a day where I achieved so little as far as writing and reading and doing productive things, but a day where I have felt a lot of emotional healing and recognition of long standing issues. I sent an email to my employers today, telling them I’m resigning. I don’t anticipate they’ll bother writing back but I feel very peaceful with this decision. I have no idea what my future holds but I know my future needs to hold more self care and to allow me to follow dreams and passions, not just force work into my life because I feel guilty. So today was a great day. My feeling is that progress is starting and the road ahead is long and bumpy for today I’m grateful for a really nice day.
Another lovely day. It’s hard to write those words when I’m (voluntarily) incarcerated for an extended period of time in a psychiatric facility. But today was a good day. Yesterday I had my legs waxed and bought some self tanning lotion so my pasty legs don’t look so horrid. It felt good to be pampered. Today I continued the theme and had my fingernails and toenails done. I feel pampered. And normal. And financially wasteful. I did also purchase another dress I don’t need that saved me $245 and it matches my favourite shoes so it’s well worth it and it makes me happy. Had yet another great chat one on one with the nurse today. They really are fantastic. I’ve finally acknowledged that I have (and have always had) really high anxiety. And that is probably a core issue behind me developing eating disorder behaviours and other numbing techniques. There are other contributors as well, but anxiety is a biggie.
I’ve spent a lifetime as a highly anxious person pretending it wasn’t so and secretly not coping.
Nobody knew. I hid it. Very well. Now I don’t want to. I want to accept and manage it instead. It won’t solve all my problems but it will be a good start. I have no idea how to manage it… But I’m discussing with staff and I’m guessing a psychiatric facility is a good place to practice these skills. I had been wanting to go off the clonazepam as I’m not keen to be drugging my problems away. But after chatting with my nurse today I’ve accepted it’s okay for now. That for an interim period of time pharmaceutical support is not the worst thing in the world. I have found myself managing all six of my daily meals really well the past few days. Very little anxiety over the food, less stress about “good” food vs “bad” food, and easily finishing on time. The meals still feel big and I’m overfull, but due to the draining of the lap band I’m not getting stuck and stressed. One thing I’ve noticed, is I wake up and feel hungry – despite all the food we eat. And the other thing I’ve noticed is that despite the fact I have no idea what my weight is, I’m fairly confident I’m not gaining weight. Something I was very fearful would happen, but also something multiple people said would not happen if I just eat regular nutritious meals. Part of me knew they were right, but it is interesting – and comforting – to know they were correct. So far. It’s three weeks since I arrived and I’m conscious I’ve done no exercises. I’m sure my strength and fitness and whatever muscle mass I’d managed to accrue has fast fled my body. It will be back to square one when I get home. That’s gonna hurt. Overall though, I’m feeling a sense of progress and positivity and that perhaps this last ditch attempt at recovery is going to bring me hope, healing and a sense of accomplishment. I am no longer quite so desolate for my future.