Forty three days down. Nine to go. I am ready – but glad to have these last nine days to consolidate what I’ve learned, set up support at home, invent a new life for myself, and gain the confidence to know it’s not only possible for me to recover – or even probable – but I have to believe I will recover.
I am returning – bit by bit – to my slightly abandoned writing course (there was only so much I could do in here with limited access to computer, internet, and my charger). Today there was a quote – one I’ve seen and heard before:
What you believe, you become
So I’m here to say (for my benefit and conviction), I believe I will be fully recovered. I believe I am recovering. I believe I am a writer. I believe I am enough.
That last one is hard to write. It is hard to believe. It goes against the very essence of everything I have ever been taught. When those who believed I wasn’t good enough were gone from my life, I attracted other people who taught me the same message. When they were gone – or changed – I told myself the same message. I became what I believed – not good enough. To become good enough (and goodness only knows what that even means) I have to believe I am. That’s not to say perfect – I hate perfection and the expectation of it. I strive for it in myself, but have always taught my students we learn nothing from those things we already know and can do. We only learn and grow from those things we perceive as mistakes, failures, unfinished, unlearned – imperfect.
So if I can welcome imperfection into my life (and I have that in abundance) then I can accept, and believe, that I am good enough. I need to keep repeating it until it is imprinted on my spirit. A year ago I could not have written those words, so I declare that progress.
Today there are three new girls in the eating disorder program. I see the same look of shock and fear, the sense of solitariness and feeling overwhelmed, the hopelessness, despair, self loathing and shame, that I had when I first walked through those doors 43 days ago. I want to give every girl a hug and say, It’s okay. We understand. We’ve all been where you are and shed a thousand tears. But offering hugs and consolation is banned, and forming friendships discouraged. So I say nothing and feel guilty. If nobody is looking, I quietly introduce myself or ask, Are you okay? I know caring for these broken souls is not my job but it feels cold. Despite me trying to break no rules by befriending or hugging anyone, another of the new girls who arrived last week made me a beautiful birthday card. I was so incredibly touched – I barely know her. I tried to be helpful and appropriate and I’m always very open in group situations. But otherwise we don’t “socialise”. She wrote:
Dear Simone, Happy Birthday! I really hope you’ve enjoyed your day out and given yourself the things you deserve. I think you’re a very talented and strong woman and have been blessed to see that in you and benefit from it over the past week. Wishing you peace and happiness for the year ahead.
How beautiful is that?! I was moved to tears but obviously couldn’t give her a hug to say thank you. There are days when I feel this program is so militaristic it becomes cold, uncaring, unempathetic. But then I receive a card like that and realise despite the harsh rules, we still collectively bond – because we are all in this struggle together, and sharing our pain and experience, our hopes and our strengths, in supervised group settings, is healing not only for individuals, but for the group as a whole.
While I feel I’ve almost learned as much as I can from this inpatient stay, and I’m definitely ready to go home, I am going to miss the camaraderie of shared experiences and instant understanding. I also know staying here too long will keep me in an eating disordered mindset. I need to be surrounded by normal to become normal. Whatever “normal” is…
Today I have crashed emotionally. I’m not sure if it’s fear starting to raise its ugly head as I get closer to the discharge date, or there are other things going on, but let’s just say it’s a good thing I didn’t take leave from the clinic today, as leaping in front of a train would have seemed an attractive option. I don’t believe I would do that – but it was a nice daydream.
I’m feeling overly tired today and did sleep a lot in between meals and groups – to the point where the nice trainee nurse had to come and let me know I was late for every meal. So definitely very flat and I’ve taken all my meds early tonight so I can hopefully fall asleep early and get past my little pity party.
I’m finding it difficult with all the new girls on the unit and their level of distress. I’m not generally feeling compelled to do anything – the nurses sit with them and talk through stuff (plus it’s none of my business) – but I feel emotions so strongly. Even other people’s. It’s like a change in the air I’m breathing and I’m taking in all their emotions and distress. I can’t not do it, because I have to breathe the air. When I say I feel other people’s emotions it’s not a figure of speech – it’s tangible. I feel it.
So today was hard. As is my way, I downloaded a playlist of miserable songs to feed the misery. Sometimes I feel I need to soak it all in, accept it, feel it, then write about it, go to sleep and awake to a new day. I’m hoping that is what will happen. I haven’t felt this low in here for a number of weeks.
I think I’m still doing well and gaining confidence with the eating side of things. Going home will be scary, but that’s par for the course. The only way through, is through. So Wednesday next week I’ll pack up all my hospital life and head back to real life – hoping for the best.
I feel as though I let people down when I don’t continuously move forward. Feeling sad and dreary and defaulting to the I want outa here mentality is not what others want to hear from me. But then nor do they want me to lie and pretend. Sometimes I really struggle to know exactly what people want from me, and I know I can’t please all the people all the time – even though I want to. If there is one thing I can promise everyone though, it is that I will be brutally honest in my journaling. I’m tired of pretending. If you feel me smiling, trust me – it’s because I’m happy 🙂
Short and sweet. Had two days headache free. Migraine back with a vengeance.
Now starting to wonder if migraines are actually related to stress and anxiety? It has never occurred to me before but one of the doctors (or nurses?) suggested that was the case. Yesterday I was highly anxious and stressed and very low. Today I have a migraine. Previous migraine commenced the day after the highly emotional session with the family therapist and the tearful goodbye to my husband. So I’m going to see if future migraines are preceded by extreme emotions.
That’s all I can manage today. The lights are hurting my eyes and the meds haven’t worked yet…
Woke with no migraine. What a blessing. Still no sign of it tonight so that’s a relief.
I received an unexpected Facebook memory when I logged in this morning. I’m sure I will treasure this memory in future years. But today it shocked me and threw me for a six. It was a video of Linda singing Happy Birthday to me in 2016. And finishes with Luv Ya! Linda died on Tuesday – very unexpectedly. And for this video to show up today was a shock. I found it really upsetting and really beautiful at the same time.
It brings back all the other losses – mum, my sister, grandma, grandpa Maurice, both my inlaws, my father’s twin brother, and the numerous other aunts, uncles and cousins my husband and I have lost since 2009. It is too many people and every loss piles on top of the others, leaving me so fearful of who’s next?
My overly anxious brain starts rifling through all the possibilities of how my dad, husband, kids, brother, niece & nephews, friends and family are going to die. I imagine graphic details and graphic grief and the snowball effect of one after the other dying. And then I feel overwhelmed and want to check out before the next round of grief hits me.
There is a rational part of me that knows I’m catastrophising and I need to treasure those I have now and be grateful for the time spent with those I’ve lost. But rational mind is hard to dig out when anxious mind is in full swing.
I ended up listening to my pity party of misery music and flicking through photos of my mum and sister – bringing back all the grief. I had a good long cry and I’m sure it will be very cathartic. When I wake tomorrow perspective will return and I’ll be so glad for the beautiful memory of Linda – full of life and energy and sending birthday love from afar. And from beyond the grave.
Movement therapy again. I kind of like it – didn’t think I would. But the way it’s facilitated makes for a very safe and expressive place for repressed feelings. As we were all holding the large fabric donut circle, the song over the rainbow began – just an instrumental version. I must be holding onto so much grief at the moment as it was instant tears for me. When my beautiful young men were beautiful young boys – babes in arms and toddlers – I would routinely sing over the rainbow to them at bedtime as I tucked them in and kissed them goodnight. I would do it three times over – once for each child. And often sang when somebody loved me as well. They were such happy times. I adored being mum to babes and I will miss it forever. It grieves me no end that those close nurturing days are forever gone. Did I appreciate them enough? Why on earth did I wish them away? I would go back in a heartbeat. I’m just consumed with grief on many levels at the moment. Music – such a powerful evoker of memories – people, places, feelings.
Ugh… And for the second half of today I’ve really fucked up. It’s leaving me very nervous about going home because I spent half a day behaving exactly the way I did before I came in.
Our afternoon group was support therapy where we can bring up anything we’re sitting with that’s uncomfortable or we’d like to talk about. I should have kept my big mouth shut. I was going to… Two other girls had talked through their worries and emotions and then there was twenty minutes left and the psychologist asked if anyone else had anything they’d like to talk through. Nobody came forward so I shared how I’d been struggling with grief this week and how every loss brings back all the others and raises my anxieties because I fear a roller coaster of catastrophes and I know it’s irrational so I write about it and talk about it in group and that helps to soften the blow and brings perspective.
But then I also talked about how each slump into grief brings back all those suicidal thoughts almost instantaneously and while I’m not really afraid I’m so low I would act on them at the moment, it frustrates me that my reaction is so dramatic and automatic. When I lose someone, or a part of my identity (which feels just as grief laden) I just feel tired and want to check out. We talked it through and everything was okay. We acknowledged how I should deal with the thoughts and how to stay safe.
Then I noticed one of the girls in the group had her head in her hands and was clearly upset. I asked if she was okay and she said she felt really triggered but refused to talk about it – either with the group or to stay behind with the psychologist. I caught up to her after group and said I was so sorry I’d upset her. But now I feel so stupid and irrational for having said things that obviously crossed a line and triggered her really badly. I know the psychologist will let the nurses know so they’ll follow up and keep an eye on her. But it feels like a strong reminder that I often don’t know where the boundaries are and when to shut up. I feel so guilty and so stupid.
I went out for the afternoon because I couldn’t stand being here. All the eating disorder and self harm thoughts just swirling through my head at a million miles an hour. I caught a tram to the cinema and watched the next available movie so I could stay distracted and stay safe. (In case you’re wondering, the film Ladybird is pretty boring). After the film it was dinner time and I was in a food court. I wandered round and round trying to decide what path to take. I couldn’t tell who was talking to me – the voice of reason or insanity. I bought a rice paper roll, a vegan chocolate/nut slice, and a sugar/dairy free salted caramel smoothie. I’m sure I knew the rice paper roll and slice would get stuck. Very stuck. Despite having an empty lap band, there is still restriction. I ate the food and half the smoothie before racing to the public toilet to purge the lot. There is nothing more shameful and disordered than sitting in a public toilet, finishing the remains of a smoothie, after having purged a whole meal. Feels gross and like failure made mortal.
I hightailed it back to the clinic before I made any more stupid decisions and I realise everyone will tell me, It’s just one slip. Don’t be hard on yourself. And that is excellent advice. I’ve chatted to my nurse here – I try to be brutally honest all the time. But I think the reason it feels like such a big failure is that it’s the first time in seven weeks I have deliberately eaten in a way that would make me purge. I just had an overwhelming urge to punish myself. I still do. All the other times here, I desperately tried not to purge. It feels like a big step backwards. And I have five days left to put on my big girl pants and learn to deal with it. To come up with alternative solutions to feeling shitty and guilty and anxious – because let’s face it, those feelings will be there again. Probably sooner rather than later. I’m still toying with what my alternatives were. The safest option would have been to return to the clinic having had no dinner – explained why – and they’d have given me a supplement. But I didn’t do that.
I know what is done cannot be undone. Tomorrow is a new day. Recovery is not linear. Are there more slogans? This too shall pass? None the less, I am disappointed in myself and afraid for my time alone on the weekend. The only thing I can think at this stage is to plan the meals out long in advance of the mealtime, so the eating disorder voice is not left shouting at the eleventh hour. And given how journaling is always such a powerful tool for me, perhaps I’ll lug my journal and pen with me all day as well. We’ll see…
I don’t even know what to think, say or write. I planned my day (Saturday) as carefully as possible to keep myself safe – safe from eating disorder behaviors, suicidal thoughts and self harm opportunities. And for the most part I did really well.
I had my legs waxed and a manicure and pedicure at 10am (these are luxury experiences I never do at home – so I’m calling it self care and a way to fill in two hours with no harmful thoughts whatsoever). I had morning tea on the way to the appointment and then went straight to a cafe I know really well for lunch. All good. Felt safe. Ate well. Went straight back to the clinic until dinner time.
Did nothing but play a mindless word game on my phone all afternoon (to distract thoughts) and napped. Went out for dinner, reassuring my nurse I would walk straight to the restaurant I know really well (easy to eat “safe” food) and then walk straight back. She double checked and said, are you sure you’re safe? I answered I thought I’d be fine – walk there, eat, walk back. I chatted to a friend on the phone all the way there. Too easy. Ate a delicious, nutritious, well-portioned meal with no problems. But…
I spied a knife on the table that came with my meal and couldn’t resist. It wasn’t a sharp knife so not a huge amount of damage done. It’s just the compulsive thoughts I can’t stop. I left as soon as possible and walked straight back to the clinic. Found a piece of broken glass on the ground that I scratched away with for the 15 minute walk. Again, not much damage (not sharp glass – very thick) but if I’d had the option to carve my arms up properly, I know I would have. I was desperate to.
I’ve chatted to the nurse and she’s put a bandage over my arm – it’s a bit weepy. Now I have to sit out in the common area, supervised because I can’t in all honesty guarantee I won’t look for something else (there’s always an option). I don’t know why these overwhelming urges are back again. I hadn’t self-harmed since October. And that was a single incident after a couple of months. When I first came in I scratched my hands a heap, so they upped my medications. The anxiety is the biggest issue. As a lot of the meds are benzodiazepines they’re now starting to wean me off as I go home in four sleeps. I’m not sure what’s worse – self harm or eating disorder – if I have to choose between the two… Which is how it always feels. I know that’s not the answer, but it seems as I become more accepting of letting the eating disorder go, and making plans for continuing recovery at home, the urge to self harm is escalating. I’m just transferring…
I don’t know the answer. And I know I won’t see a doctor or registrar until Monday. I have my leave cancelled completely until I’ve seen a doctor which is not enormously convenient but completely understandable. It’s just tomorrow. My cousin is visiting in the morning – to collect her lovely quilt cover and blanket – and my husband arrives after lunch. They’ll have to meet me at the clinic instead of going out.
I’m enormously disappointed and frustrated at what feels like a really backward step just as I’m ready to discharge. I’m struggling to turn it around. The only solution feels like ensuring I am never left alone. Which is not a realistic long term strategy. Hopefully this too shall pass. And that I can find some pharmaceutical solutions that are viable and effective long term.
It’s now post-supper and I’ve returned to my room, but I’ve decided to leave my door wide open with the lights on so I can stay safe. And if the urges become overwhelming I’ll go back to the common room. Which is noisy and I don’t like it… But it’s better than being unsafe. I really am trying hard. Though it may not seem like it…
Three sleeps to go.
For those following the sorry saga of the past few days, I’m pleased to share that today was a good day. No angst. No white knuckling. No issues. I did feel a bit like a cat in a crate so took it upon myself to do a few corridor and stairwell laps. I mapped out a nice little course that takes 235 steps. So four laps, plus to and from my bedroom, equals a thousand steps. If I did 40 laps I’d get my ten thousand steps per day in. But given that all exercise is banned here – including using the stairwell – I figured I shouldn’t push it too far or I’d get caught. I reckon I did 3000 steps with my little circuit though. I’m going a bit stir crazy being trapped in a tiny little room…
Had a lovely visit from my cousin today, and she had her brother and his wife with her visiting from the US. So I spent a lovely hour catching up on family news and they even brought me a proper coffee so that was lovely.
Then this afternoon my husband arrived – bearing roses – and while I wasn’t allowed to leave the building, we did spend a lovely couple of hours curled up on my bed chatting and snoozing. He has a couple of odd heart conditions, so it’s always quite fascinating to lie on his chest and listen to the weird erratic patterns. Apparently normal for him – hasn’t killed him in the past 56 years so fingers crossed it doesn’t any time soon.
I’ll be seeing my psychiatrist in the morning and will beg to be allowed to go back on leave. Escorted leave is fine. I just don’t want to spend my last days here couped up in a tiny room. Plus we need to buy another suitcase and I don’t trust my husband to buy the right one if I’m not there.
Over the next two days we will both have appointments with the dietitian and the family therapist to work out plans and supports that need to be in place when I get home. A list of do’s and don’ts. Some really clear structures and boundaries. He will do anything he can to help me, but he is not instinctive – he needs instructions. And I’m not the right person to set the guidelines.
I’m feeling fairly positive and hopeful today about managing the eating disorder recovery when I get home. But I’m worried about the transference to self harm desires. I have not got on top of the anxiety and this needs to become a priority. I feel I will need pharmacological support until I master other strategies and then wean off the drugs. The urges were very mild today – but I was nicely medicated, was stuck in the clinic all day, and had company most of the day. I’m also temporarily playing a mindless word game on my phone as it’s a numbing distraction that seems less harmful than eating disorder behaviour or self harm. But it obviously isn’t dealing with the key issue. I guess it will be something to work on with my psychologist at home – I like to keep her on her toes 🙂