Week Six

Day 36

Hmm… What to write today? The easier things become at the clinic, and the more confidence I develop in my ability to recover – and stay recovered – the less interesting things I have to share. And it’s not because I only focus on the negative – I promise! It’s because life in the clinic is fairly routine and dull, and unless I’m having some kind of emotional crisis, there’s nothing to share. And today I’ve had no emotional crisis. I have in fact had a great (but slightly dull) day.

I’ve now been taken off post meal supervision. Hooray! That is 5.5 hours per day that I can now do as I please. No longer do I have to stay in the common room listening to radio and television shows I’m not interested in. It’s also a big step towards getting me closer to a discharge date.

My keyworker for this week has asked me to come up with three goals. I really had to think on that as I feel I’ve accomplished quite a few things since I’ve been here. But in the end I thought:

  1. Keep down all meals – even if I have to take 40 minutes to eat it
  2. Use my extra 5.5 hours per day productively on future focused things (eg writing, business plan etc)
  3. Stop scratching my hands when anxious

So I’ll see how that goes. I’m starting to feel determined I need a discharge date, so I might push for that during ward round this week.

It is very interesting the number of people who have asked me how I went at church yesterday – I’d obviously shared my anxieties with more folks than I realised. When I said I wasn’t touched by God or miraculously healed, but it was an interesting experience and a lovely day out, they all seemed to think that was very reasonable. Nobody goes to church for the first time and feels like they’ve been struck by a bolt of lightning, said one person. But I’m not so sure about that. My friend has certainly described moments where she’s seen people very unexpectedly suddenly “feel” the presence of a God they didn’t previously believe in. So I guess for some people it can happen.

I may never become a convert to Christianity, but over the past couple of years I’ve developed more and more of an interest in spirituality. My friend sent me a beautiful video from Brene Brown today – a speaker I really admire – and in it she quotes her personal definition of spirituality:

The deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to each other by something greater than us, and something that is rooted in love and compassion. I call that God. Some people call it Fishing. People call it different things.

Gosh I love that! It’s something I have often felt and wondered. When one person calls something intuition, another calls it God. In so many ways we are all fundamentally the same, but sometimes language can divide us. The older I get the more value I place on having an open mind, and to never say never. Be it God, Higher Power, Buddha, Fishing, Allah, Intuition, or a Big Yellow Bus, there does come a time for all of us when we need to trust in something (not someone) outside ourselves.

Day 37

Today I shed a thousand tears. And when they dried I shed a thousand more. I woke to the news this morning that a friend of 22 years, died suddenly in her sleep.

Our friendship is hard to quantify and explain – Linda lived in Florida in the US, and I live in Tasmania in Australia. Far, far away from each other. And yet for 22 years I have communicated with her – and a group of around 40 women – virtually daily. Our initial common bond was through pregnancy, with a due date in August 1996. But before long we discussed everything – birth and death, love and loss, sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Friendships are not formed merely in close proximity, but through mutual love, respect and understanding.

Today Linda’s three sons begin a life with no living parent. While she is now reunited with her soulmate, three young men are left reeling with an unexpected and tragic loss.

In 2010 I had the great privilege of meeting Linda and a dozen of the other mums. I felt an instant kinship with her, as we shared the highs and lows of raising three boys with high intelligence and wills of iron. We laughed and cried and hugged and an amazing friendship from afar was consolidated in the flesh.

I am shocked beyond words that such a vibrant, passionate woman has gone so quickly and far too soon. I will miss her comments on my blog. I will miss her wisdom in our group. I will mourn that I only ever met her once in “real life”.

To add insult to injury, when I returned from a few hours leave this afternoon – still feeling shocked and trying to process yet another death in my world – I discovered the powers that be had been through my room at the clinic and confiscated my bag of dirty underwear. I’m still shocked. But getting more pissed off by the minute.

It’s a cloth, drawstring bag, and I can only assume they felt the drawstring aspect was a safety issue (this is a psychiatric hospital after all). I wouldn’t have a problem with that if someone had said something in the past five weeks. But that bag has hung there – in plain view – for 37 days. I’ve had weekly room inspections for items of risk. Why today – of all days – would they confiscate the bag and take all my dirty underwear? I only have one clean pair of knickers left…

I have since managed to retrieve all the underwear so I can do my washing tomorrow, but I’m really cranky about it.

In my ward round tomorrow, I’m going to practice the assertive communication style we discussed in our group session today. I want to go home – I’m ready – and I want a set date – prior to Wednesday 14 March.

Today is the first day I’ve ever experienced grief and loss, and not been permitted to be hugged or consoled by anyone. I could have done with a hug. And today is the first time I’ve ever had to wonder if stranger’s have rifled through my dirty underwear.

I want to go home. I want to go home now.

Day 38

Today is the beginning of the end. And this auspicious ending, will soon lead to the end of the beginning.

I had my ward round today and it was promptly suggested I might like to move onto the pre-discharge phase. Yes please! This means I have leave seven days per week. Monday-Friday 2-8pm and weekends 8:30am-7:30pm. This is an adjustment phase where I can start to experience a bit of real life. Most patients live close by so can go home during these times – I’ll have to go shopping, or to the theater 🙂 And it allows me to see how I cope when I’m left in charge of myself for long periods of time. I’m not so worried about eliminating thoughts – I just want to feel confident that I’ll have no compulsive urges for disordered behaviours. Only time will tell. But at this point I’m starting to feel more confident. This is the new me.

I also have a discharge date – Wednesday 07 March, which is two weeks from today. Two weeks to hone my newly learned behaviours and work through any issues or obstacles that arise. I have my flight booked to go home. My husband will fly over the Sunday before I leave so he’ll have an opportunity on the Monday and Tuesday to meet with the family therapist and the dietitian and go home with as much information as possible to support me as I’m adjusting back to “real life”. I’ve also made appointments with my dietitian and psychologist for the 27th of March, and my GP has agreed to write a referral to my psychiatrist at home, just as soon as she gets some information from the ED psychiatrist here at the clinic.

So today has been a day of wins and I’m feeling quite positive. I still fear a relapse into binging behaviours, but I doubt this fear will ever subside completely. I just have to practice having – and accepting – a new normal.

I will also want to discuss a tweaking of my menu plan before I’m discharged. I can’t change things here as the program is for all of us – not just me and my unique set of issues. But the dietitian has agreed to talk with me about modifying the plan I use at home. First, I want to drop to five meals per day – not six – as eating every two hours is grossly inconvenient. But every three seems reasonable – 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm. Or thereabouts. I also want a smaller dinner, but slightly larger snacks, to make meals more enjoyable and so I don’t have to force feed food when I’m overly full. I feel that will work for me and I’m hoping the dietitian will help me put together a good, balanced, nutritious, sensible plan. Which I can then continue to work on with my dietitian at home.

She did mention this morning that while she rarely mentions weight to any of her patients, as I’m still banging on about needing to lose 5kg, she wanted me to know that ever since I arrived – despite eating six times a day (including chocolates, ice cream and crackers), I have been consistently losing weight. Just a small amount I would suggest – but definitely no gains. While part of me is sure that weight loss is a conversion of muscle to flab, I am definitely heartened by the fact that eating regularly has not made me fat. I know binging regularly (or even periodically) makes me fat. But feeding myself a very consistent diet at regular times and with carefully considered nutritional outcomes, has done exactly what logic has always said it would – let my body settle into its’ set point weight.

When I return home I’ll be getting straight back to gym, so while increasing muscle may do me no favours on the scales, I’m hoping it will help with some overall slimming down (as measured by my clothes and my rings) and some toning of my flabby bits. Not expecting miracles… but a little more toned would be a pleasant start.

So all in all today was good news day. Headache still hovering but I now anticipate it will hang around until I get home and get a few decent massages. I might try and track the GP down here tomorrow and see what other pain relief is on offer. Aside from that – no other complaints today 🙂

Day 39

Today is the first day I’ve used my pre-discharge leave. I want to use it as much as possible before I go home, so I can practice eating out – under my own volition – and try to become as normal as possible. At this stage, while my thought processes do flit through a ton of unhelpful possibilities, for the most part I have a strong desire to adhere to my menu plan – the right types of food, in appropriate portions, at approximately the same time as the clinic schedule.

I went in to the city for five hours today. Afternoon tea went well – a latte and a red velvet slice. I shopped up a storm (one new dress and four new bras thank you very much) and then I purchased what looked to be a perfect option for dinner. It was a “naked” burrito bowl – quinoa and rice with black beans and salsa and and smashed avocado and peas with pulled pork. And a ton of baby spinach. It was an enormous serving so I gave myself permission not to eat it all, but ensured I was partaking of all food groups. Unfortunately I was also stressed about getting back to the clinic on time and not entirely sure where and when to catch which tram, so I panicked a bit and ate too fast. The food got stuck. I tried valiantly to keep it down but by the time I’d walked four or five blocks I knew it was a lost cause and I could either purge some of the food, or wait a little longer and spontaneously vomit in the middle of the street. I went for the first option.

I feel so disappointed in myself. I genuinely wanted to eat dinner out and prove to myself – and the team – that I’ve got this nailed. I’m ready to go home. But I’ve still got some learning to do. And always eat slowly is at the top of that list. I think for future dinners I’ll also catch the tram first, so I’m close to the clinic, then eat somewhere that’s a ten minute walking distance. I’ll feel less stressed then. I know I can do this. I just didn’t want to get off to such a shaky start.

On the up side, I’ve purchased matinee tickets for two musicals over the weekend – Dream Lover (the story of Bobby Darin) on Saturday, and Beautiful (the story of Carole King) on Sunday. So I’m really looking forward to both of those. Plus I get to practice eating four meals out each day. And this time I’m gonna nail it. It is my birthday after all. I can accomplish anything I put my mind to 🙂

Day 40

We had movement therapy today. A brand new experience – something I’ve never done before – which is a reflection on a lot of things I’m learning here. New. Self conscious. Uncomfortable. As music plays we walk around the room together – any old how. I am compulsed and driven to walk with the beat – which is very slow. It brings back memories of gym and zumba. And a thousand years ago going out clubbing and dancing with friends. Just trying to let my body absorb the music and go with it. Movement feels good. We’re so often seated and laying down here. Moving to music feels doubly good. It’s not exercise – but it’s a connection to music through my body.

Working with the fabric – a donut shaped parachute – offering a sense of community. Feeling supported – physically and emotionally by the group, through the tactile sensations of the fabric. A commune of women surrounded by burgundy and blue, silk and cotton. Fully supported with the fabric against my back feeling like the group has my back. And knowing when I go home there is another group of people to support me – through highs and lows. Today felt like a really safe space – no judgment, just compassion. The only judgment coming from me, to me. And before long I was able to let that go. It was very empowering to feel my body move and stretch after such a long period of inactivity. After my initial hesitation with the concept of movement therapy, today became a safe, expressive place.

Aside from movement therapy, today has been a very – v.e.r.y – sleepy day. Today is day 11 of an unrelenting headache. For the first four days it was very migrainesque – ie visual sensitivity and disturbances, nausea, as well as the pain being centered behind my left eye, and exclusively on the left hand side. By last weekend the nausea pretty much dissipated and the visual disturbances went, but the pain remains the same. Without drugs between 5-7 on that good old pain scale. With drugs, down to a one or two. I have to confess, I’m sick of it now. I contacted the doctor again today and he believes it’s still a cluster headache, most likely anxiety related. But he’s now charted extra meds for me as I’ve been sticking to my migraine tablet, a triple dose of aspirin, and some clonazepam. Which did the trick for a while. Now I’m charted for paracetamol four times per day and ibuprofen twice a day. And if they don’t cut it, I can still take all the other things. So I had a lot of meds at lunchtime and was very sleepy all afternoon. Pain is now at a one. So that’s good. I do look forward to the day when I wake with no pain and the nurse can record a big fat zero on my daily obs chart.

I’m looking forward to the weekend – and I don’t want to be zombied out – as I’ve bought the matinee tickets for a musical both days and I’m just going to casually potter and practice eating like a normal person before and after the shows. It is only nine sleeps until my husband comes over and 12 sleeps until I go home. The end is nigh 🙂

Day 41

A lovely – but very long – day. It’s Saturday, and as I’m now on pre-discharge, it means I can leave the clinic any time after breakfast (8:30am) and stay out until supper (8pm). So that’s a lot of freedom. And a lot of credit card temptation. My most important goal is to stick as closely as possible to the menu plan routine while I’m out on leave – otherwise this entire period of voluntary incarceration has been a complete waste of time.

I left the clinic around 9:30am (no need to rush these things) and headed off to the Arts Center so I could collect my tickets for the Bobby Darin musical, Dream Lover. I had a couple of hours to fill in before the matinee so I popped into the art gallery next door. I’m not generally a big fan of art galleries – I’m just not that sophisticated – but it was free, just a hundred yards away, and has a really lovely tea room. I ordered devonshire tea for my morning tea. Because I can. It was outrageously expensive for a bit of flour with butter rubbed in, but the hibiscus jam was utterly divine and the scones cooked to perfection so I forgave the horrid price tag. I filled in my time looking at art and sculpture, old and new, grabbing some happy snaps of the weird and wonderful, then went back to the art center for lunch before going to see the show.

Lunch was ordinary. The show extraordinary. Full of the glitz and glam of traditional Hollywood musicals – plenty of feathers and sequins, flashing lights and an onstage big band (wish they’d use proper flute players – my eternal bugbear). The story was beautiful, the costuming eye catching and David Campbell is divine. I loved it.

Rather than risk rushing dinner and losing it like I did on Thursday, I caught the tram straight back then went to dinner at a pub I’ve been to a couple of times. I know where it is and I know they do good food. This time I felt no panic and could enjoy the food – and surprise, surprise, it stayed down. Easily.

I struggle to know how much I should eat – I guess this is a question for the dietitian. Even at the clinic I eternally feel really full and bloated. And I did again with dinner tonight – even though I only ate half. I just don’t have the hang of how full I’m supposed to be. Extremely uncomfortable doesn’t seem ideal, but at the clinic it seems to be the norm. I did at least ensure I had a balance of protein, carbs and lots of veggies. I think she’d be happy about that. And the trouble with being overfull at dinner, is I only have an hour to get it digested before supper time. It’s all very counterintuitive.

I realise I’m trying to rewrite a lifetime of screwed up thinking and metabolism, but when on my own, I’m going to struggle with figuring out correct portions. My stomach feels so bloated I look six months pregnant. But I won’t be birthing anything even vaguely adorable…

Day 42

Today is the 42nd day of my incarceration. And my 52nd birthday.

Six weeks ago, when it dawned on me I would be spending my birthday in a psychiatric hospital, I felt really dreary about it. I celebrate so few of my birthdays and this year I had it in my head I was going to get together with some of my wonderful friends and celebrate it properly. Instead I celebrated alone.

I had the most wonderful day.

The girls in the clinic sang happy birthday at breakfast time (not something I’m generally comfortable with). I headed out about 9:30 and waited for Koko Black to open so I could have morning tea at one of my most favourite places in Melbourne. A chocolate shop. Ironically I wasn’t in the mood for chocolate so had the house-made crumpets with fresh butter and raspberry jam with cacao nibs. Delicious.

I pottered around in Myer until lunchtime – buying myself a much needed rash vest for the next time I go kayaking. Then went back to Koko Black for lunch. It seems they now do toasted sandwiches as well as the usual chocolate delights – goats cheese and caramelised onion. Perfect. I purchased some chocolates to have later in the day for my afternoon tea, then headed up to the theater to watch the Carole King musical, Beautiful. It was absolutely sublime – trumped yesterday’s Dream Lover show. And I was very glad to be only four rows from the front. I could see and hear perfectly.

The show was done by 3:30 so I had just enough time to drop into the cinema and watch I, Tonya. What an amazing film! Margot Robbie just fabulous. I remember most of the kerfuffle from the early 90’s but I didn’t remember the details. A very tragic life but a very good film.

Then my husband sent me a message telling me to FaceTime him ASAP. Of course I immediately panicked, but it turned out he had all four boys plus my dad – and my cat – over for dinner, so I got to chat to them all while they wished me a happy birthday.

I headed back towards the clinic, grabbing a quick caesar salad for dinner first. No problems eating at all today. Kept everything down. Don’t feel overly full and bloated today. And got back with three minutes to spare.

While technically I celebrated my birthday alone, I did lots of things I love, and felt very loved by the messages and FaceTime call I received. I’ve decided turning 52 is not all that bad. While I’m a lot older than I used to be, it’s fair to say, I’m a lot younger than I’m going to be. It was a great day today and for that I am very thankful.

2 Replies to “Week Six”

  1. What an awesome birthday weekend! The shows sound totally awesome. Good on you re Koko Black…it’s been your favourite for soooo long! Sending birthday hugs and cheers xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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