Today I am afraid of recovery. I’ve been in this place before – where I’ve felt the beginnings of change and then become overwhelmed with the fear of that change and what it might herald. so I rush back to the safe and familiar. I ate all my meals today but struggled (mentally) a little more with each one. As if I’m not deserving of recovery. Girls who’ve been here for longer than me are still struggling so much more. At dinner I stared at my plate of food and didn’t want it. I feel so fat even though I’m assured my weight is stable. I got through the meal – slightly overtime – but got it down nonetheless. Despite the band being empty there is still sufficient restriction that food goes down very slowly and could potentially get stuck. After two hours I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to purge. I could easily have done it – nobody would know. Except me. It is the strongest urge I’ve had since I came in. I knew I could also easily get the food to go down if I sat up, paced a little, and had a hot cup of tea. I briefly considered my options then boiled the kettle and found my favourite nurse. I’ve now finished my cup of tea and we’ve had a chat and the urge is diminishing. I could still purge now but more food has passed through the band – I can feel it gurgling down. In 20 minutes it will be supper time and my safest option will be a drink – which is permissible. I will have to face that choice shortly. But tonight the ED voice is yelling loudly and wanting to rid my body of this fearful food. I just can’t bear the thought of getting fat again. Nor can I bear the thought of going backwards and letting down all my friends and family who so desperately want me to overcome this diseased thinking that permeates every aspect of my life. Today I am bone tired – which is hard to acknowledge when all I ever do is eat, rest and write in journals. It’s not exactly physically taxing. I desperately miss exercising and would love nothing better than to put on my gym gear and run down to the park right now. Not allowed. I have to allow my body to find it’s natural equilibrium without any exercise at all. I am more sedentary than a dying lady in a nursing home. I’ll need to check my butt for bedsores soon. Anyway – supper awaits. I haven’t purged. I had a cup of tea, a debrief with a nurse, and I journaled. These things help. The urge is strong but I’m trying to be stronger…
I’m in one of those non-linear periods of recovery. Last week began quite desolate and things improved and I finished the week with a sense of positivity and optimism. Today has been a shit day and I’ve cried so much I must be getting dehydrated. One of the girls I’ve befriended has had some other issues and needs to go to hospital. I’d been in chatting with her early this morning then went in later to giver her a big hug. I was called over shortly after and told not to involve myself with other patients – it’s inappropriate. Now I totally understand why these rules are in place and the nurse wasn’t mean about it, but it triggered a huge reaction in me – harking back to my childhood where I always tried to do the right thing by everybody and always ended up doing the wrong thing by somebody. The old “no matter what I do it’s never good enough” feeling. And it is so reminiscent of the every day life of the 17 years I spent with my mother. So I’ve spent the day in tears and feeling highly anxious. While at the same time feeling completely idiotic as it was such a minor reprimand and a normal person would just get on with their day. I’m not normal, it just left me feel like an utter failure in a lose-lose situation, and I started questioning why am I here. Do I even belong? Will they kick me out? Am I sick enough? Am I just a big fat drama queen seeking attention and validation? The anxiety wouldn’t abate – even with a clonazepam prior to lunch and dinner. And for the first time in ten days I had to purge my dinner. An overwhelming, bitterly disappointing result. I very naughtily paced around for 30 minutes – up and down corridors and stairwells. I tried flushing it down with hot tea and a glass of water. No go. It all came back. Big fail. The gorgeous student nurse popped in to see me earlier on so I told her all about it and how anxious I feel. And sad. And bitterly disappointed. She checked my self harm and suicidal urges to determine if I’m safe. Yes. I’m safe. Sad and disappointed – but safe. I just want today to be over so I can start afresh tomorrow. What’s done cannot be undone. I am surprised at the level of restriction that remains in an empty lap band and might try to get another appointment with the surgeon to discuss it. I’d also like to take him up on his offer to write a letter for the staff here explaining some of the physical realities of a lap band – and how every time I say “it’s stuck” doesn’t mean it’s an eating disorder thought. It means my food is actually stuck and putting more food and liquid on top of it just leads me one step closer to vomiting. Over all today I’ve felt this sense of hopelessness and exhaustion and why am I here? And I know this recovery business is very much an up and down affair – and I’m even prepared to acknowledge I’ve made some progress – but the downs are hard to take. I’m going to try and take an early sleeping pill, and have an early night and try to wake up tomorrow with a fresh attitude and a fresh start. If this journey was easy everyone would do it.
I’m still struggling. I know I was making progress for a while, but now I’m not so sure. I guess it’s the cha cha cha of recovery. I had a migraine last night so was quite drugged with a migraine ‘hangover’ this morning. That doesn’t help. Then our first group today was music therapy and I just completely fell apart. The therapist had a basket of percussion instruments – all the kinds of things we’d give to the kids in band back when I was teaching – claves, maracas, clackers, tambourines etc. I just became completely overwhelmed with grief. Which feels ridiculous given that I chose to walk away from music in 2016 and I still think it was the right decision. I’d done it so long and I was so tired and performing was becoming too physically taxing on my body. I’d done my time – I gave it away. But at the same time it was the one and only thing I ever wanted to do and I never fully realised those dreams. And they certainly won’t be realised now. I was so upset I had to leave the class, they gave me a clonazepam and put me to bed. I had a good sob and I’m hoping I can finally put that grief behind me. Thank heavens music therapy is only once a fortnight. I felt really flat for the rest of the day – I also have bad hay-fever from all the building works and up until tonight I was only permitted one antihistamine per day. I’m finally allowed two so that’s a relief. I had another meltdown at dinner which is just so humiliating. When I saw how huge the meal was, and how unappetizing, and knowing how much difficulty I’ve been having getting food to go through the lap band even though it’s empty. So I sat and stared and the lovely gentle nurse kept encouraging me but I couldn’t do it. I left it all. Had to have the supplement instead. This too shall pass…. I’m hoping after the past few days of struggling I can get my shit together and pull my socks up and just get on with this recovery business. I don’t know how to effectively deal with the anxiety and I think that will have to become an integral part of this process. I believe the staff can see that even when I’m struggling and I can’t eat a meal, I’m here and I’m trying really hard. I’m a hundred per cent honest all the time and trying to commit to everything to the best of my ability. I find the discouragement of forming friendships with other patients to be extremely disturbing and very difficult. It goes against the very essence of my being to see someone struggling and upset and not react or respond in some capacity. I understand the logic, but I hate it.
I have quite a few things to look forward to over the next week. My husband will be here with me Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I’ve been moved to phase two so I can take leave over a mealtime – so we can leave here at 10:45 and don’t need to be back until 3:15 on both weekend days. Monday we have an appointment with the family therapist so he can give him information on how best to support me at home. Then on Wednesday one of my close friends from home will be able to visit in the afternoon. I think we can go out from 2-5:45 pm so that will be exciting. And then the weekend another close friend is visiting from home and I should have two opportunities to spend lots of time with her. So that’s all quite exciting and makes me feel very loved. I’m looking forward to all my visitors and to getting out into the fresh air. I’ve even bought pretty new dresses to wear as I’m sick of slopping around in track pants. So despite my miserable few days I’m trying to stay positive and focus on the good things that are to come over the next week or two. I wish I knew how long I was going to be here. I have a funny feeling it will be a lot more than six weeks.
Something is wrong. My lap band is causing me so much trouble despite being emptied. The x-ray last week showed it hasn’t slipped, but I’m sure I should not be having this much trouble with an empty band. I am so determined to keep food down – I really have NO desire to purge – or even spontaneously – vomit. I want to recover. I want to be healthy and well. I want to be normal. My breakfast and morning tea were absolutely fine, but lunch was a living hell. I did keep it down but it took 3.5 hours of rocking back and forth and curling up in a ball and doing deep breathing and pacing and staying away from fluids. It finally went down. I don’t know if it all went down – but enough that the pain and the pressure eased. Ninety minutes later I had to stare at dinner. I knew it would be a struggle but I figured I got lunch down eventually so maybe dinner would be the same. Nope. Same pain. Same pressure. I curled and rocked for an hour. Then did a big pacing circuit up and down stairs for 45 minutes. Curled and rocked some more. Drank some water then purged everything – including the remains of lunch – just before we had to have supper. I just don’t believe an empty lap band should be giving me this much grief. But it’s Friday night so not much I can do until next week. I’m contemplating asking if the registrar is in over the weekend (sometimes they come in) and requesting I just have supplements for lunch and dinner until I can see the lap band surgeon. Trouble is, I’m confident they’ll say no. Lunch over the weekend I’ll be eating out with my husband so I can choose soups and/or smoothies. I do have the option to just stare at dinner each night and refuse to eat it – then they’ll give me a supplement anyway.
It’s frustrating me so much because I’d really thought having it drained would be a big deal (mentally) and would make a huge difference (physically) and now I feel no freer, and just as fearful of food, as I did before. And then the questions is, if nothing is wrong with the band it means I can’t comply with the program so there’s no point being here. And if there is something wrong, the solution is likely to be surgical, and does that mean it would be removed? I know I’m starting to ruminate on a whole ton of what-ifs and maybes, and anxiety won’t help the situation at all. Somehow I just have to figure out how to manage it until I see the surgeon. Aside from my fears regarding the lap band, I feel okay. Very excited about having visitors to look forward to over the next week. It will break the monotony and remind me about the life I’ve left behind. My mood has been dismally low this week so I’m hoping seeing loved ones will help lift my mood. I’m tired of feeling dreary. I’ve received no indication from my psychiatrist how long I’m likely to be here, but I think my original assumption of six weeks was possibly very optimistic. I’ve been here nearly four weeks and there’s still a long way to go. I have to say, aside from being forced to have good nutrition six times a day, the most useful part of the program is the almost daily one-on-one chats with the psych nurses. Most of them are fabulous and it’s really helpful to chat with them about all my anxieties and fears. The group sessions vary – some are great, some are ordinary, and occasionally some distress the living hell out of me. I am grateful to be doing this program though – its is definitely what I need. I just wish it was a faster fix.
I have learned today that my mother was right about one thing – absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. I have now been incarcerated for four weeks and yesterday was the first time I’ve seen my husband since I arrived. We’ve had two whole days together and will have a family therapy session together tomorrow before he needs to fly home. We have never been apart for four weeks before and it really is quite a stretch of time. Particularly as I’m in an unfamiliar, difficult place, and I know he struggles emotionally when I’m not there. As I am now elevated to a phase two patient, I can go out over one meal time, twice per week. Se we were able to leave the clinic together from 10:15-3:15 yesterday and today. Five whole hours of normality. He was given instructions on when and how much I should eat and post meal supervision rules, then we headed back to his hotel and tried to forget all about the separation and just enjoy time together. After the obligatory conjugal relations were done and dusted we ordered room service ($60 for a small amount of mediocre food) and then indulged in my most favourite, and anticipated, activity of the weekend. He dyed my hair 😀 My hairdresser had shipped over a little box with half a dozen tubes of colour and some hydrogen peroxide, plus a mixing bowl and comb/brush. My husband had packed scales and then he meticulously measured out 10 grams of this and 20 grams of that until the perfect paste was formed. We followed all the hairdresser instructions and about an hour later – leaving a bit of a blood bath in the hotel bathroom – my hair was back to its proper colour, with no regrowth shining through. I am slightly regretful of the dye accidentally left on one of the pristine white hotel towels, but I’m beyond happy now that my hair looks less scrappy. I have no doubt my husband considered this intimate time to be the highlight of his weekend as well 😉 Today we repeated the obligatory conjugal visit (hey – I feel bad about being away from home for so long!) then headed out for a lovely lunch, a beautiful stroll along the riverside, and then quite by happy accident, discovered a shopping mall. I have made a mental note of its exact location for future return visits. The rest of the day we spent together at the clinic, mostly snuggled up and snoozing as I’m still so damn tired all the time. It was just lovely to spend so much time together. Which is not a sentence I have said out loud – or even thought – for a very long time. I will be really sad to farewell him tomorrow. I should see my psychiatrist tomorrow and there are two important things I want to flag with him. Firstly, I want to see the bariatric surgeon asap for reassurance the band is okay. Or if it isn’t, what to do about it. And secondly, I want to suggest a discharge date of 14 March (four more weeks) as I have a camping trip with a good friend from 15-19 March that we are both really excited about, and for a number of reasons, it can’t be rescheduled. So I’d like to aim for 14 March discharge and then take home information and resources and meal plans to be supported by my own dietitian, psychologist, psychiatrist, GP, and friends and family at home. I truly hope this is a workable plan as I’m not keen to discharge and then be readmitted. However if that were necessary, I would be prepared to do so. While I find myself feeling wobbly from time to time I still do find myself totally committed to recovery. Which looks to be a combination of creating new habits – and sticking with them long enough they are comfortable and familiar – and learning to effectively manage depression and anxiety. Plus somehow (and this is the big unknown) finding a way to accept my body and value myself. And it has to come from me. I believe this will be the biggest obstacle. But I also know I can only climb one mountain at a time. All in all I’m feeling good after a weekend with more normality, and I’m excited about the two visitors from home who are flying over to see me this week. I hope it is a good week 🙂