Friday, 10 May 2013

dusty fingertips of a recovering anorexic

Ok, so this is my first post, this is going to introduce me to you. There are some pretty big things in my life and so this blog will likely float around these topics, namely my battles with anorexia and depression, but will not be solely about these issues, and although I will be brutally honest (because that's the whole point) I do have a sense of humour and hopefully this will shine through. most importantly: THIS IS NOT JUST ANOTHER ANOREXIC BLOG!! I hope that this blog will continue and will chart my journey of discovery of who I am without anorexia, and I will be as intrigued to read it as I hope anyone else will be in the future.

Well I'm looking at my hands, my fingers and thinking 'nothing much decent (save a bit of knitting and biscuit bakes) has flourished from you in a while, so this could all go tits up too. But I've lived in a state of perpetual inertia, afraid of starting anything because I'm totally convinced it will all fail and make me feel even more of a turd than I already do. So this is somewhat of a revelation for me.

Why have I started blogging? because I love writing but am so ashamed of my lack of anything interesting or stimulating in my brain these days to even contemplate a book. I have started so many diaries that I have a mental block bordering on phobia of them. This is a nice half way house. No obligation of a book and less futility than a diary that ultimately no one is going to read.

So I suppose you're wondering about the anorexic bit? Well for the past five years my identity, label loving self has been able to comfortably sit below the banner of 'anorexic', looking up and thinking; 'yes, this is me, this is where I belong and what I am'. Now I am struggling every day with the fact that I don't really have a label any more. In my desperation to be something I suppose I am a 'recovering anorexic'. But that doesn't really do anything for me. Now to quote the 'reasonable mind' that countless therapists and professionals seem to love to exhort, 'it is not healthy to have the label of 'anorexic', you are more than anorexia' blah blah blah. well yes I am quite aware of what the reasonable bloody mind says but the problem is I am not reasonable and appealing to this side of me rarely gets me anywhere other than the familiar territory of FAILURE!

Anyway enough waffling and time for some hard facts that will hopefully give me some body. (anorexia is shouting: as if I need more of a body!(its a joke)) firstly, I am 20. I have a beautiful and wondrous mother who is my absolute rock, 4 much older sisters, and a vacant gap where a father should be before he got bored with that title and wandered off. Not forgetting my friends, like outfits; one for every occasion and mood pretty much. I don't know where I'd be without friends. I live in oh so wonderful (sense the tone!) Derby in the UK.

I did fine at school until I failed my first year of a levels except english and art, its easy to blame anorexia here, and maybe it really was, who knows. Anyway I decided to jump the sinking ship and enrolled at catering college (ironically a lot of earning grades there meant eating and the anorexic, by some miracle did just fine!) where I had an absolute ball and even got a qualification out of it with laughable ease. Finding getting turned down for jobs left right and centre demoralising I then hopped onto an Apprenticeship program as a Care Assistant in a nursing home. For a good month each day of my apprenticeship began with horrific anxiety and an exhausting drive to please, please, please. Please the managers, please the residents, please the workers, please everyone all the time.

Eventually, after what seemed like an age, I settled down. Contrary to what you'd assume, once the pressure was off a bit my eating disorder woke itself up. I've now fathomed it was probably because I was actually getting some satisfaction out of finally pleasing everyone that I didn't need food any more- I could feed of the approval of others, which is what I've spent most of my life hunting out. To cut a long story short this time around (I've had lots of bouts of anorexic cycles) I did it so completely I broke down and ended up in hospital for 5 months. I got fatter, they let me out, I bounded back to work, and did it all over again, except this time I got severely ill; jeopardized my job, the residents, my friends, my family, my heart, my life, everything my thin little fingers touched, before I was nearly sectioned and ended up in a hell hole in grimsby. I hated every second. I missed my mum, family and friends like I'd lost my limbs. My day was ruled to me by people who were sometimes one or two years older than myself which I found demoralising and wholly patronising. I wont talk too much now about what went on there, it's likely that in my future posts you'll get snippets of my experiences in each institution.

Somehow I managed to get a slightly earlier discharge date, as life there had become truly unbearable. It didn't come easy; me, my mother and my CPN in Derby fought for it tooth and nail. In march however, I was released. I was euphoric for a week or two then something horrible started happening. No big event occurred, I was following my diet plans, but some kind of mental crisis struck me. Being someone who has either been in full time education or working all her life, this sudden barren emptiness struck me hard. Feelings of pointlessness and a surge of despair at my worthlessness engulfed me. What was I now? I wasn't even 'the thin one' or the 'anorexic' any more. I crave an identity and anorexia had been it for years and years and now it was gone. I had no career so I couldn't define myself in that way. This depression and fear of failure had cramped me so much that I was doing none of my previous hobbies like drawing, baking or writing. I was nothing. I was doing what everyone had told me- eating and 'taking time out for recovery' and I felt like my brain was slowly shutting down. I cried a lot. I became severely dependant on others, my mother primarily, and I was terrified of being alone. These feelings escalated into what I would diagnose as GAD (generalised anxiety disorder).

My anxiety would rabbit hop from one thing to another. For example if I was worrying I was loosing contact with my friends, I would meet one of them, these feelings would abate, and instantly another worry would rush into the gap left. There was no escape, no rest from the worry. I was terrified of it and its consequences. I began to feel that it would never end, I would never get a job- I was doomed to fail at everything. Something very prominent was my (and still is to a degree) my conviction that I was destined to be alone and partnerless for ever. Moreover I felt incapable of even simple tasks. I felt inferior to pretty much everyone else in the world. Convinced I would never get better I began to long to die. I knew I wouldn't have the guts to kill myself, not yet anyway, but I longed for my life just to end. After all what reasonable force was keeping this shell alive anyway? What logic was there in my survival when I seemed to make no imprint on the earth? My sleep, once my haven from the horrible thought now became infiltrated too. This was the last straw. Panic would wake me up and consume me worse than in the day. I felt so alone at night, like there was no one else in the world. My only release from anxiety was my mother holding me extremely tightly or walking for hours, and at night I was robbed of these diversions. I began to wake earlier and earlier and whenever this occurred my panic grew because I just imagined a continuous escalation of this panic stricken state over which I appeared to have no control.

In the end my mother got in touch with the team who had care of me in the community and pushed for a meeting with the Consultant psychiatrist to address my medication which was clearly not doing anything. He prescribed me Sertraline to hopefully reduce the anxiety. After a few days of being on it I felt exhausted by the adrenaline that wouldn't let my mind rest and I went to the GPs. I saw a doctor who had no grasp of my desperation and gave me the usual spiel of 'give it a few weeks'. Right then I didn't quite see how I was going to survive days let alone weeks. It wasn't that I thought I'd top myself by then, more a feeling that surely I was going to implode or self combust with all this tension building up. By now I couldn't read, bake, draw, write. It seemed I couldn't even exist unless someone was by my side.

So what happened you may be wondering? (if I've not bored you to tears already!) Well, here's what happened, at first; nothing. I didn't implode, I didn't self combust. Then, slowly the spring I felt I was coiling more tightly with each day began, slowly, to give. I've spent a lot of time questioning what it was that gave me this release of pressure but in the end I think; does it matter? It could have been a number of things that in my depressed, anxiety ridden state I dismissed as absolutely irrelevant and hopeless elements. It could have been a number of things. I had started volunteering at a lunch club on friday mornings which ran into the afternoon. Not only did this eat up the time nicely, after I settled in I actually felt I was doing something meaningful, a small imprint on the world was made again, a small purpose crept into my week. Two of my sisters suddenly became my crutch, whereas I'd come to expect no support except from my mother. They actually understood that a release from hospital is not the end of mental trauma, in fact it is only the beginning. They both called me every morning when they knew mum was at work and I was therefore facing my biggest fear of being alone. Their phone calls made me remember that there were other people who knew me in the world and even loved me. By now enough time had elapsed to reasonably say it could have been the effects of Sertraline. But perhaps in my irrational mind I had lost perspective of time scale, and the time that had elapsed since discharge, which to me had seemed an age and by far long enough to have adapted, was perhaps not really a long time at all. In fact it could be judged as a tiny amount of time, and the stretch of anxiety ridden peril had seemed a heck of a lot longer because of the mental stress of it, perhaps finally this was adapting. Who knows, but it happened I my biggest fear is that it will reoccur. But they say live for the moment, so I will try to enjoy this relative freedom.

So for now that's where I'm coming from, slowly finding my feet in the world after some pretty riveting changes in my life, which has taken place in what is actually a very short space of time, which is probably why its messed me up so much. And that's the laborious bit over with, now I can start posting properly YAY!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry that I'm just getting to this now, I know you wrote it a few weeks ago but I only recently found your blog! You have a really compelling story but it sounds like things are starting to look up. Awesome job for everything you have accomplished—I think that pulling yourself out of a mental illness (with treatment and medication and family support, of course) must be one of the hardest, bravest things in the world. Congrats and best of luck, I'll be rooting for you!