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Sunday, 4 May 2014

A heck of a lot of time in a very short space

I should have realised by now that the longer I leave my blog, the more difficult I find it when I decide I want to start posting again. In some ways it has been unavoidable though.

At the end of October last year I went into primary inpatient treatment for my eating disorder. At the time I was living a "pseudo-recovery". I kidded myself that I was recovering and technically I was eating enough nutrients to keep my body going but I was still denying myself a huge amount of things, being very rigid in my eating and very dictated by my eating disorder. I was counting calories, weighing myself several times a day, eating very low-fat, health-conscious foods, not allowing myself any treats or anything that might possibly be classified as remotely unhealthy. I may have been gaining weight and eating but my eating disorder was still ruling my mind. I was under my NHS team but as they are so overcome with patients they could only give me half an hour with a nurse each week along with a weigh-in, checking my vitals and taking my bloods. I was alive physically, but emotionally I was still dying. This rigidity and emotional deprivation started leading to me bingeing on food and hating myself more than I could have ever imagined. My mood was slipping lower and lower. I was becoming more and more anxious and was unwilling to leave the house and everyone around me was powerless to help. I told my parents that I wanted to get some inpatient help and it started from there.

I was in my first inpatient centre, Life Works, for 6 weeks and there my eating was stabilised and my diet became far more varied meaning my body and mind weren't deprived. I also attended different therapy groups every day, saw a counsellor and was introduced to the 12-Step method of recovery (originally used in Alcoholics Annonymous). My mood also stabilised and I started thinking more clearly and understanding my reactions and problems more. Before I left I had to think about what I was going to do when I was discharged. My team thought that, although I had made great progress, I would really benefit from doing secondary treatment. I had to think about it for a long time as it meant going out to Montrose Manor in Cape Town for 3 months. Eventually I realised that 3 months is very little to give if it means I have the chance of enjoying the rest of my life. I had an assessment and was scheduled to be admitted on January 7th.

I was discharged as an inpatient from Life Works just before Christmas and between then and flying out to South Africa, I did 3 days a week at Life Works which was brilliant as it kept me on track when I found things hard and helped me to stay focused on recovery.

I flew out to South Africa by myself and arrived early in the morning on the 7th. I was terrified. I don't think I've ever been that scared in my life. I'm not sure where to start with talking about Montrose Manor except to say that they have given me a second chance at life. It was not easy by any means. I had to question every part of my character and change so many things. I learnt things I didn't like and didn't want to hear but it was something I needed to do if I was to have a hope of beating this illness. The counsellors and nurses were brilliant, tough when they needed to be but unconditionally supportive and caring. I began to grow into a young adult, taking responsibility for my actions and my well being. I made friends I will never forget. They supported me through some of my most difficult battles, made me see sense when I couldn't and laughed at me whilst I was kidnapped by a pirate (that's a story for another day!) A strong community is so important for recovery because you are surrounded by people who know the war that is going on inside your head and know what might help set you free from that. Whether it was playing bananagrams, talking it through, singing loudly to a song or whacking out some swingball and ping pong, together we rode out all the problems. We also just had a lot of light-hearted fun...in the pool, on the beach, in town, at the V&A Waterfront. Everyone there was unique but I loved each and every one for their individuality. They are really what got me through treatment and what spurred me on and drove me forwards when I really just wanted to curl up and be invisible.

I got home in April and since then have been busy, busy, busy. It's been harder than I expected to put the things I learnt into practice but slowly and surely I am. I am seeing a new therapist and dietitian here now and so far things have been going great with them. A couple of things had slipped but we have started jumping right back on them and also addressing issues which are coming up now. One of the most important things that I learnt in treatment was that if I hold onto any part of my eating disorder, it will grow and grow. The illness is like a tumour, if I want to beat it fully I need to get rid of every single part of it. You may say, "why on earth wouldn't you want to get rid of every part of an illness that has taken away so much of your life?" Well truth be told, there are some parts that are very difficult to battle. My eating disorder has served me a purpose in some way or another. It has provided me with safety (in my own disordered mind) and it is terrifying to let go of that. However, the thought of being stuck in this cycle for the rest of my life is far, far worse. So each day I am fighting. Fighting by eating, fighting by looking after myself, fighting by telling myself that I'm ok and I'm good enough, fighting by doing things I don't feel like but know I need to, fighting by showing my struggles instead of hiding them, fighting by facing fears, fighting by getting back up when I've been knocked down. When people ask me what I've been up to I'm not too sure what to say. My days feel crammed and busy, but the actual activities people would want to hear about are fairly few. In reality, a large amount of my time is taken up with therapy appointments, dietitian appointments, 12-step meetings, going up to London to take part in a jewellery-making enterprise for women in recovery, relaxing (it's important for me), meditating, praying and sticking to my meal plan. For most people, feeding themselves is a simple task that doesn't require much thought. For me, if at the end of the day I've stuck to my meal plan, then, no matter what else happened, that day was a success. Anything else I do is a bonus.

Gradually those bonuses are increasing. I've started dancing again- I love to dance but stopped doing it for several reasons including body image, depriving myself of things I enjoy and general low mood and lack of energy- and singing in the rock choir at my old school. I've started doing yoga classes, helping at Brownies, singing. I got my guitar out for the first time in a year-again, I deprived myself of things I enjoyed- and I am rediscovering the things that I love.

Each day has its challenges for me but as I continue to face them and act in an attitude of recovery, I am starting to enjoy life again.